Lavender Growing and Harvest Information
|For growth||65-75 F|
|Soil and Water|
|Space between plants|
|Space between rows||3-4'|
|Companion||Thyme, also helps vegetables stay healthy and produce more flavor.|
|Harvest flowers as soon as they bloom.|
Lavender is among the most evocative of all fragrances. A favorite bath additive of both the ancient Greeks and Romans, lavender takes its name from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash. Aromatic flowers are great for potpourri, it also has many culinary and medicinal uses.
Where to Grow Lavender
Zones 5-9. Lavender is a fast growing plant, that requires full sun. Lavender loves dry, sunny and rocky habitats and is native to the Mediterranean. Think of Los Angeles and San Francisco as areas in the United States representative of their native climate. They can easily be grown elsewhere; England could hardly be considered dry, or sunny, yet English gardeners are well known for their lavender plants. While you can grow lavender in zone 5, it is unlikely that you will ever have a lavender hedge. Lavender is a tough plant, and is extremely drought resistant, once established. It is dampness, more so than cold that is responsible for killing most plants. Dampness comes in the form of wet roots in the winter, or humidity in the summer. Give your plants plenty of room to breath in the summer if it is humid in your area, and use mulch to minimize the effect of the ground freezing and thawing repeatedly. It will need to be removed after winter is over. Planting next to a brick wall, or similar will set up a suitable micro-climate for the plants, protecting them from harsh winter winds, as well as re-radiating some of the absorbed heat from the sun to help keep them warm.
Soil for Lavender
Average well-drained soil, with a pH of ideally 7.1. A high humus content and rather low fertility produces best results, as does excellent drainage. As with many herbs, less than ideal conditions improve its fragrance. Very fertile soil will produce beautiful plants but decrease the production of the aromatic oils on which the plant's fragrance depends.
Seeds are typically sown indoors. Cuttings in spring, summer, or early autumn can also be used to propagate the species. Cuttings taken in the spring and fall will do the best. Cut a 2-3 inch piece from the main stem, and strip off the lower leaves. Dip the bottom into a rooting compound, and place in a sterilized potting soil with damp pearlite and sand (50/50) to start. Place in a well protected, warm, sun-filled room, and keep moist. Once rooted, move outside a few hours at a time to gradually harden them off. Once the cuttings have reached about 9-12", they are ready to be planted outdoors. The best time to plant is either in the spring or fall.
Lavender is a perennial, growing 18-36" tall. It is a bushy to sprawling plant with small, lance-shaped, greenish-gray leaves. Spikes of lavender blossoms can be found in the following colors: purple, pink, and white. Tender varieties are grown as annuals.
Cultivation of Lavender
Remove faded flowers. Trim to maintain size and shape, and to remove old dead wood in early spring before new growth starts or late fall, after flowering. DO NOT prune old wood; it will not re-grow. Taller varieties should be cut back by approximately 1/3. If your plants are affected by a particularly cold winter, wait to see how they do in the spring before attempting any rigorous pruning. If you don't prune lavender, it will develop a woody center and new growth will stop at the central core, it will only flower along the outer edges of the plant.
Harvest flowers just as they open, preserve by drying. Wrap several flower stems together with rubber bands and hang upside down, they should dry in ~2 weeks depending on the humidity level. Harvest should generally begin 10-14 weeks after planting vegetative cuttings in the soil, or 18-23 weeks from seed.