SunStarHerbs' NMSU Dye Project Narrative
Dye Garden Prep  

tansy delivery

In this project we were to grow 8 species of natural dye plants, 4 assigned and 4 from our own interest. We 
were assigned to grow Tansy, Weld, Hopi Black Dye Sunflower and Cota. We chose to try Marroon Correopsis, Marigold, Black Tepary and Safflower.tansy start planting

We placed this project in our newest Jujube plantings.

Both tansy and sunflower were already being grown here;  we supplied the other two growers with a total of 200 organic tansy starts and grew the remainder of our stock (154)
 in two 90’ rows.


We heavily manured with
goat in the spring.

Tansy grows well for us. It takes flooding well and is drought resistant. It loves goat manure and our silty ground.
water pump drainage

When it was abouthosing off the tansy 1 foot tall, July 1, the tansy was totally covered with floodwater from a storm.
The water stood for 18 hours before we pum
ped it out of that section of the garden.

tansy in full bloom

then hosed
off the m
ud and juniper litter 
from the plants 
and they never missed a beat.

tansy makes the cut

We harvested the flowers at the pea
ktansy harvest of their color as they matured in August and September.


After all the flowers were picked we cut the stems and tied them into 111 “sticks” (22#)NMSU crew which we are presently marketing at $5.00 each as a vermifuge for lice and flies on horses and goats. We are offering tansy flowers at  $3.00 per ounce and have  14# of flowers and 4.5# of leaf. Sticks are selling regularly. (Feb. 1,'07)


after the flood
The Weld was planted too late in the spring and refused or was unable to arise. We did reserve the row in hope of a fall start, and reseed it in November. We will see if anything comes up come spring.

photo of safflower after water by Charles Martin

The inundation spurred the sunflower to new heights, but we drowned the safflower.

We did not need 
to irrigate after July 1. It rained the rest of the summer.

Weld and half the sunflower seed was supplied by Charles and we seeded one row (90’) each.

We seeded the weld twice but none ever came up.

genetic diversity in sunflowers

Hopi Black Dye Sunflower was planted in two
90 foot rows representing two seed sources.


Both germinated close to 100% and we thinned one row to
1'             and the other    row to 1.5’.

They were single rows with no side competition and it did not seem to make anyHopi Black Dye Mud difference to the growth of the plant to be at 1 or 1.5 foot spacings.


Hulls from bird predation stained the ground after a rain.
genetic diversity sunflowers

It was an unusually wet summer for us(2006). 

We lost some plants to rabbits; we reseeded and saw no difference by harvest.

Some of the plants were topped by goats. These sunflowers produced multiple small seedheads. More than half ofwhite sunflower seed head the sunflower plants that we grew expecting large black seeds were anything but.

Most were
multiple, one was big and white.

threshing party
Neither of the seed sources was entirely satisfactory for the production of Single Big Heads.

We have selected seed which we will use to reseed this year and see if we can produce a crop of consistent large seed in single heads.hulling sunflowers

We seperated seed from the flower heads by rubbing the heads on a half inch grid of hardware cloth.

We produced 31# of seed in 180’ of row.

We purchased a grinder and used itthe grinding wheels for the sunflowers to successfully seperate kernal from hull in 1.86 pounds of seed producing 1 pound of hulls and .8 pound of sunflower nuts.

We will be marketing the shelled meats for $3.00 per ounce at our Santa Fe Farmers' Market venue.

The shells also will
hulled sunflowers be offered at $3.00 per ounce. 

Whole seeds will be marketed at 3.00 for 1.75 oz. ziplocks.

We will also offer card
board seed packets of select large black seeds for $2.00 per packet (50 seedssecond planting of cota).

Next year we will be selling the smaller multiheads as flowers at the market continuing to select for large black-purple seeds.


The cota  starts were supplied by Charles from his plantings in Alcalde.

Cota grows wild here but we believe the transplantgenetic diversity happened too late in the spring. We also wildcrafted cota in June but lost most of that also.

We have reseeded (in November) the cota from seed collected locally and are waiting to see if anything comes of it this spring.

We were trying for a maroon dye from the coreopsis but most of the organic maroon coreopsis seed sprouted yellow flowers.

We had started
genetic diversity correopsis some marigold and correopsis in the greenhouse. The remainder of the rows we seeded. Marigold and correopsis plants weathered the flooding but the seeds were covered with a thin layer of silt and did not survive. The tepary and safflower outright drowned in the July 1 run.

The correopsis
we will never do again. The picking is way too tedious.

correopsis drying


genetic diversity marigolds 

And the maroon correopsis being yellow petaled could be a much bigger problem than the sunflower not being true to type: you can not get maroon dye out of yellow flowers.

Chaundra picking marigold

The marigold we will grow again. It was easy and fast to harvest.  We did sell  a bag of 9oz. for $14 to be used at a wedding in place of rice.

mornings harvest of marigolds

drying correopsis

end product


surviving beans

tepary beans

harvesting tepary beans

safflower and sunflower

sunflower and safflower

The tepary and safflower, although having the distinction of being the only plants that have ever drown in our desert garden, we will grow again this year. On the sides of the birms, as recommended by Charles Martin. We will be able to plant rows above the water line from a flood event.


French Brocade Marigold and Maroon Correopsis and Mitla Black Tepary and Orange Heirloom Saffflower were all damaged by our May 14 flood. 

We had irrigated heavily the dayjujubes leaf out before an early monsoon brought the arroyo run which covered all the plantings in this garden with a couple feet of water.

is happened again the first of July, afterwhich we blocked this garden off from the arroyo flow.

jujube silk dye

Blocking this flow was not good for the gardens primary resident, newly planted jujubes. They thrive on the flood and dry routine. We watered them with a hose, expecting them to add to our fruit production in just a couple of years.

This project opened up a new line of plants forsnowjub us.


We have been propagating and producing culinary and medicinals for direct sales at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and dye plants have helped round out the inventory. And the sunflowers and tepary beans add to our food production areadye plot in january
as well. We intend to plant a much larger number of sunflowers in the 2007 season.