Indigo plants at Okan Arts in early Summer 2022

indigo 2022 report

By Patricia Belyea

WAUCONDA WA  Growing indigo in the Okanogan Highlands is almost an oxymoron. There are two opposing forces at work — a tropical plant desiring warmth and sunshine, and growing conditions that won’t cooperate.

In April I started 70 seeds—1/3 as many as last year. With less plants, my big plan was to harvest twice in 2022—in early August and early September.

Soaking indigo seeds at Okan Arts

This year I bought a greenhouse for my fledgling seedlings. It worked but the cheap plastic structure did require some attention. I had to add an electric greenhouse heater for the cold Spring nights. And if the sun ever shone, I had to remember to open the flaps before the internal temperature got too hot.

Cheap plastic greenhouse at Okan Arts for starting indigo plantsIndigo starts inside the greenhouse at Okan Arts

I changed my approach in the field. Instead of raised rows, I chose to flatten my field, cover the ground with a black geotextile, and burn holes in the woven groundcloth for the seedlings.

Planting indigo starts at Okan Arts in 2022

Another innovation was adding tunnels to warm the soil.

Growing indigo starts under tunnels at Okan Arts in Spring 2022Growing indigo starts under tunnels at Okan Arts in Spring 2022

Is it working? Are my plants thriving?

My steadfast plants have been stymied. Nature skipped Spring in our valley this year. Instead of sunshine and blue skies, we were pummeled with rain, hail, and snow from an unending gray sky. Our first warm day was June 21.

The tunnels are now off the rows of indigo. The happy plants are madly soaking up the sunshine, and adding new branches and leaves. 

All the same, they are petite indigo plants. So I expect I’ll have only one harvest this year—in early September.

I’ll report back at the end of the season on the harvest and the extraction of dye from my beloved indigo.

Indigo plants at Okan Arts in early Summer 2022