GROWING GREAT LAVENDER!!
Lavender (Lavandula) is such a romantic flower that every gardener sooner or later succumbs to the urge to grow it. Some of us go a little overboard but that's another discussion entirely!!
Undeterred by the fact that it is a native of the Mediterranean and a lover of dry, sunny, rocky habitats, we decided to give it a try anyway, hoping it would adapt to our Ohio farm and winters. After all, England can hardly be considered dry or particularly sunny, yet English gardeners are renowned for their lavender plants. This perennial grows well in a sunny border with other herbs and flowers.
To determine the lavender variety that is best, drop by the best garden center in your area and ask their plant specialist which varieties do best in your climate. If you have hard winters, make them promise the plants are winter-hardy. Many lavenders are hardy down to -10 below freezing but you have to get the right varieties and too many places will sell you a plant that is pretty when you buy it but won't be there in a year! If you don't have winter to worry about, the sky's the lavender limit!! Most of our lavender plants are propagated and field-grown on the farm. Some of our favorites include 'Grosso', 'Provence', 'Royal Purple', 'Purple Velvet,' 'Hidcote' and ‘Munstead.'
THE BEST SOIL FOR LAVENDER
It is said that "Lavender doesn't like wet feet." So, it's dampness, more than cold, that kills lavender plants by rotting its superfine root system. Dampness can come in the form of wet roots during the winter months or high humidity in the summer. If humidity is a problem, make sure you have plenty of space between your plants for airflow and always plant in a sunny location. Areas where the ground routinely freezes and thaws throughout the winter will benefit from a layer of mulch applied after the ground initially freezes. Also protect your lavender plants from harsh winter winds. Planting next to a stone or brick wall will provide additional heat and protection.
When planting, place plants in a sunny location with well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (6.0 to 8.0). Add a little lime if the soil is too acidic. We prefer ground oyster shells often sold in the form of chicken grit. Inexpensive and slow release!! Sandy loam is an ideal soil. We add a little bone meal when planting and rarely if ever fertilize the plants. Keep your lavender weed free to ensure healthy plants!
Now, if you have clay soil, you have two choices: containers or raised beds. You can amend clay soil forever and it won't grow lavender. And that's that. There's no secret ... lavender won't grow in clay soil!
The best time to plant your lavender is in the spring. That way it has all summer to set down a great root system. When first starting your lavender plants, don't be afraid to give them a handful of compost – or fish emulsion watering -- in the planting hole and to keep them regularly watered during their first growing season. Yes, lavender is a drought-tolerant plant, however good irrigation or adequate rainfall is important for new plants and good flower production. Do not over water as too much water will stress lavender and promote mold.
LAVENDER IN POTS: CONTAINER LAVENDERING!!
Place about an inch of loose gravel and grit at the bottom to guarantee good drainage. Root rot is one of the few problems experienced by lavender plants. Use a mix of 1/3 sand, 1/3 seed starter and 1/3 loose, soilless mix for planting and remember that container grown lavender will require more water than garden grown plants. How much more depends on the environment and the type of pot. Terra cotta or other ceramic pots take up to _ the water you put in the plant. I always make sure my terra cotta containers have 2 inch deep faux-terra cotta (plastic!) saucers that can hold a good dose of water. Water when the soil, not the plant, appears dry and water at the base of the plant to limit dampness on the foliage.
TO MULCH OR NOT TO MULCH
If you live in an area where lavender suffers some winter die-back, don't decide anything is dead until after Mother's Day.
LAVENDER GROWING KNOWLEDGE
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