A Passion for Purple: The Lavender Farm
DIY's The Dirt on Gardening visits The Lavender Farm, a family-run farm in central California dedicated to one famously fragrant flower.
When the Hertel family left the big city to start their own farm, and decided to plant a few lavender plants, they didn't realize that their decision would lead eventually to a consuming passion and a thriving business. Though it started as a hobby, today their farm is devoted exclusively to cultivating this one flower -- which actually comes in a large number of varieties and even colors. In point of fact, the Hertels' farm includes nearly 200 varieties of lavender spread over 12 acres. It comprises one of the largest collections of lavender on the West Coast.
Lavender is used as an herb and in making sachets, oils and soaps.
Not all varieties of lavender are "lavender." Some are white, green or pink.
Though beneficial bugs like honeybees and ladybugs love lavender, traditional pests tend to stay away from it. Deer, rabbits and slugs typically won't eat lavender.
The Three Rules for Growing Lavender:
- Lavender loves full sun. Plant it in a hot, dry and sunny area.
- It doesn't do well if over-watered.
- Frequent pruning helps.
Lavender Planting Tip: Leave space -- at least two feet -- between plants. This will give the blooming heads "room to breathe" and will help to prevent root rot.
If you try to grow your own lavender you really need to know the basics on how to prune it properly to maximize its beauty and its harvest.
When to Prune
The best time to prune is in the spring after the first flush of growth.
Prune in the early morning before the bees come out.
Never prune lavender, or other sub shrubs, in the winter.
How to Prune
Deadheading all of the flowers on lavender can be time consuming, so simply grab a handful of spent blooms and cut them all at once to save time.
If you want to shape your plant, or control the size, but three to five leaf nodes below each flower spike.
Don't cut lavender back to the ground. They don't initiate growth from the roots because you may end up killing your plant.
The best time to harvest lavender is just after the blossoms have started to open. In that way, the stems have not dried out and will be less likely to shatter. If you're making sachets, however, you can wait until the flowers have fully bloomed. Then it will be easy to shake the seed-heads free.