Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

A Sustainable Lifestyle Blog focusing on Zero Waste, Slow Living, and Ethical Fashion.

How to Start a Natural Dye Garden

Peonies for Conscious by Chloé

For the past couple of years, I've had gardens of various shaped and forms, whether it was raised beds in my backyard, a plot at the community garden, or metal barrels on the sidewalk.

Gardening is a thrilling activity, but it can be consuming. I've had a plot at the community garden 2 seasons in a row and decided to take a break while I waited for my visa to be renewed (I wasn't gonna start a garden without knowing whether I'd be here to reap the fruits of my labor!)

It can also be a little intimidating. I'm surrounded by amazing gardeners and farmers and can easily struggle with imposter syndrome. But I've come to realize that the gardening community is extremely generous, from sharing tips to seeds, starts, stories, fruit, veggies and so much more!

Like many, I have this fantasy of farming a piece of land, having a beautiful herb, flower, fruit and vegetable garden and living my best cottage core life. But let's be honest, this is more than a full-time job and the stress of having a planting and watering schedule would probably be the end of me.

So this year I've decided to follow my gut. After failing to attend and complete the Master Gardener program last year and taking a mini-gardening course this winter, I'm letting the pros do their thing, I will gladly shop my veggies at the farmers' market, and I'm going to focus on two small areas around my house to grow flowers and herbs.

1. Get in the mood / Get inspired

It's not that serious. I've been listening to Haley Heynderickx' Oom Sha La La non stop, screaming "I need to start a garden" at the top of my lungs for the past 2 months. If this song does not make you want to start your own, I don't know what will...

Gardeners, farmers, bakers, dyers are an endless source of inspiration (and envy, let's admit it). Here are a few of my favorites:




  • Loria Stern, a culinary artist, who really makes me want to grow edible flowers.
  • Jenna Rainey, a very talented watercolor artist. How cool would it be to be able to paint the flowers I grow as well as she does?! Fun fact: I took my first calligraphy course with Jenna years ago and she ended up taking over my studio when I left California!
  • Em Blood, who helped me get over my fear of using lye. I can't wait to use my own flowers to decorate my soaps!
  • Erin Lovell Verinder, who inspired me to learn more about the plants that surround me and their beneficial properties.

2. Learn the fundamentals

Ask your neighbor who has a beautiful garden, take an online course, become a Master Gardener, or volunteer at your local farm.

I took this free start flowers from seeds mini-course this winter to learn how to start flowers from seed, what supplies I’ll need for success, step-by-step instructions, special tips and tricks, and how to create a simple seed-starting area. I'm feeling rather confident now!

I also binge-watched Growing Floret, but you might not need to learn how to scale your flower farm just yet...

3. Gather your supplies

If you're lucky to have a tool library in your neighborhood, an active Buy Nothing group or a generous neighbor, you might be able to get your basic tools for free.

Otherwise, second-hand and resale stores, and local garden centers are great options.

Finally, this gardening list might come handy.

4. Choose a spot / Prepare your soil

Depending on where you live, your gardening area will range from a bucket to a backyard, I think that one of the most important takeaways from what you'll learn in any gardening course is: it all starts with good soil!

I've been dumping compost in my gardening area for the past year and I cannot wait to see how happy my seeds will be. Last year, squash spontaneoulsy grew on my compost pile!

Have I mentioned my passion for composting? I think I did... Also, worm are life!

5. Order your seeds

Now for the fun part (for me)!

I'm having the hardest time narrowing down my list considering how small my garden will be.

I asked my friends what their favorite flowers are and here's what my friend Sarah had to share: "marigolds, cornflower and nasturtium!! All edible!!"

I considered focusing on an herb garden, but then a whole new world opened itself to me when I considered edible flowers!

Coreopsis and cosmos are also on my list because I've used them before during my dyeing experiments.

My friends also shared their favorite seed sellers with me:

  • Grand Prismatic, happy, non-gmo, untreated, patent-free, and cutie-patootie certified seeds. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides (Kristin)
  • Adaptive Seeds
  • Uprising Seeds, a small family-run certified-organic seed farm in Bellingham, Washington (Maren)
  • Wild Garden Seed, an organic seed farm in Corvallis, Oregon. (Maren)
  • Deep Harvest Farm, 100% certified organic seed, produce and flowers from the Pacific Northwest (Sarah)
  • Floret, a family-run flower farm & seed company, specializing in unique, uncommon, and heirloom flowers (Maren)
  • Johnny's (budget- friendly, check out the organic section)

And Floret also has a list of their favorite specialty seed sources.

6. Have fun!

The stakes are low. Some experiments will succeed, and others will fail. My philosophy: enjoy the process and spend as much time outside as you can, especially at sunrise and sunset!

If you have less than you need, ask a friend. If you have more than you need, share with a friend!

What's your favorite flower to grow? Do you have gardening tips to share?

Picture by Daiga Ellaby

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase via one of my links, I may make a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!