Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I have learned that with indigo, you must have patience. Or perhaps it is about flowing with the seasons?  I really don't think our western culture encourages that. We want it now--right now! I have had two large jars of leaves fermenting since September. The indigo looks to be settling in them now.  I am going to go ahead and process one of the jars next week to see if it is indeed ready. If not, I have my backup jar.  Pics and info on that next week.

In the meantime, I have started composting my dried leaves. I had two varieties of indigo growing. Polygonum tinctorum from Companion Plants and seedlings from Rowland Ricketts IndiGrowingBlue project. Had I been planning better, I would have composted these separately to test out the colors. The dried indigo leaves were different in color and texture. The plants I grew from seed produced a dried leaf that was both more grey in color and crumbled finer. The plants from Rowland (which were started with his seed from Japan) stayed bluer and crumbled in bigger pieces and was more leathery instead of dusty.  The smell of the crumbled dried indigo is very earthy.

To compost the indigo I am using a styrofoam cooler. My small amount of indigo (three gallon size bags) just fits inside the cooler. Hopefully as the indigo starts to break down, the styrofoam will help it maintain the heat needed for composting. I have placed it in a sunny window in my school room with the lid weighted down.
I sprinkled in layers of the dried indigo and misted it with hot water from a spray bottle in between layers.  After a few layers I stirred it up with my hands and then repeated the process until I had used all of the dried indigo. The compost was covered with a few layers of muslin to help hold in the moisture. Every few days it is checked for moisture and turned. Water is added as needed.  I am hoping as our weather gets warmer and there is more sun, the process will speed up.

The first layer of dried indigo!

Adding water and mixing after yet another layer was added.

The top layers consisted of the indigo I started from seed. It is grayer in color and the texture is finer. 

More mixing!  The smell was fabulous--so earthy and kind of pungent.
A few layers of muslin help hold the moisture in.


  1. I am so excited to find your blog on composting indigo in a cooler! I had read about it on the IndiGrowing Blue Facebook page, and was looking for more information. I have been growing indigo a few years, and have dyed with fresh, and last year left the liquid in jars through the winter, and used it this year.
    I know no one here who knows much about the process, and I have questions you may be able to help me with, or direct me to someone who can. Would it be possible for you to email me so we could make arrangements to talk? My email is
    You may be interested to know my daughter, who recently graduated in Art Education, when our family spent a year in Sendai, Japan, was privileged to learn shibori from a very skillful sensei, and it was through her sensei that I was able to grow some indigo and became interested in doing this in the US.
    Actually, my main interest is that I love farming ;-) and am trying to perfect making blue cold-process soap with my home-grown indigo, something I find almost no information about. The first time I tried making indigo soap with fresh leaves, my soap mixture went through the color stages to a beautiful blue, then in reverse, to a beautiful white! But when I used the fresh leaves, before the reduction stage, and when I used the liquid that had been sitting all winter, I could get blue soap. I would love to find someone who could explain this to me.
    Thank you, again for your wonderful blog. Nancy