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Planting Lavender



Annie shows how to successfully
plant lavender.

 





Lavender being planted in mounds.


Hidcote lavender in the fall.


Harvested lavender in the drying stages.


 

Our native clay soil and humid conditions are a challenge for lavender. Select a garden location with full sun and take the following steps to help you successfully grow this delightful herb.

Plants

There are many lavender varieties that grow well in our area. Typically the ones offered in garden centers and nurseries will thrive if planted and cared for properly. Just look at the tag to make sure the lavender you have chosen is hardy in your Zone. The lavindins are good choices Grosso and Provence. So are Dutch, Hidcote and some Spanish lavenders. If in doubt, ask your favorite nursery which varieties grow well for them. (sunshine lavender farm  is in Zone 7.)

Soil

Requires well-drained soils. Raised beds and containers work well too.

Sandy, sandy/loam or gravelly.

Low fertility.

Soil pH 6.5 7.5

If lavender is grown in a container, the temperature will be 15 degrees colder than if it is planted in the ground. With this in mind, winter protection is needed. It will be best outdoors by burying the pot, covering the pot with burlap, straw or some other protective covering. Locate the potted lavender on the southwestern side of a structure to capture maximum sun and warmth during the coldest months. Tucked close to a building will allow it to stay warm. A corner is a good spot so that it is protected from winter winds. Lavender does not enjoy being an indoor plant since it can rarely get enough sun to satisfy it. If you do not have a spot as described and need to bring it in during the winter, just be sure to locate it in a sunny, warm window. You may take it outdoors on those gifts of days when it is sunny with balmy temperatures. By the time spring arrives, it should green up and do just fine.

Soil Preparation

Create an 18-24" mound with well cultivated soil.

Using a trowel, dig a hole just deep enough for the plant.

Place 2 heaping handfuls of 1" round stone, cup total of equal parts of bone meal, lime and well composted manure in the bottom of hole and mix well. The stone will allow the soil drain well, the lime improve the pH, bone meal and compost for a healthy start.

Planting

Water your lavender well in its nursery pot and let it sit for an hour or more before planting.

Prune the top of the plant to ensure a nice bushy, productive plant.

Remove all planting material from root, so plant will be placed in the ground bare root.

Place plant just above the blend of stone/lime/bone meal/compost, not allowing the roots to touch the blend and gather soil around base of plant.

Space plants 36" for good air circulation since they will grow quickly and fill in the space.

Trim first year buds.

Lavender blooms at its peak in its third year producing about 1000 stems.

Care

Herbs thrive on neglect once established. Care for young lavender as you would any new perennial. When well rooted, lavender is tolerant of heat and dry spells. Water if there is a drought. Over watering leads to root rot which will cause lavender to die.

Prevent weeds by mulching with a light colored mulch like coarse sand, gravel or oyster shells. The sun will reflect light, keeping the plants dry and help deter disease and enhance bloom and oil production.

Prune 1/3 of lavender plant each fall, 2-3 weeks before hard frost. Pruning will help the plant grow full and rounded and deter sprawling which can cause the main stems to split and break.

Toss a handful of bone meal/lime/compost blend around base of plant in the fall just before rain or water afterwards.

The lavender varieties that grow well in our area will bloom from about Memorial Day to July 4th. So, look forward to summer and when your lavender blooms, sit back, breathe in its fresh delightful scent and enjoy!

Harvest
Sometimes lavender will bloom a second time in the fall. Now, this will not be as abundant a show as in June. In our field, it is oftentimes the varieties that bloom the earliest, like Hidcote, that give us the fall show. If the plant is harvested at peak bloom, when the first flowers begin to open, and the foliage is sheared back some at the same time, in September, there is a colorful and fragrant surprise.

To harvest lavender, when the bottom flowers are just opening, the lavender is at its peak for color and fragrance, cut the stems down to the foliage. Gather about 100 stems and rubberband them together. You may turn them up-side-down, suspended from a nail, string or wire in a hot, dark, dry location for drying, like an attic, storage area or closet. Allow the lavender to dry for about 10-14 days, depending on the conditions. If you enjoy fresh lavender in the house, cut it when it blooms and do not place it in water. The water just accelerates the florets falling off the stems and the stems get very mushy, messy and yes, smelly. So, just cut them, place them in a vase, bottle, basket -- whatever! -- and enjoy. They will dry on their own. Grosso and Hidcote dry very nicely this way and the florets stay on the stem quite well. Place the fresh flowers away from direct sunlight for best dried color. Provence naturally dries to a light lavender/greyish color and tends to fall right off the stem once dried, so gather up those flowers for your potpourri and don't get frustrated. Remember, the hotter and darker, the better lavender color and fragrance!
 

 

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