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Lavender growth was once prevalent only in the coastal and southern regions, but today this ornamental and medicinal plant is growing even in the continental regions, so whole plantations can be found. Lavender is a genus of annual and perennial shrubs and grassy plants that are widespread throughout the Mediterranean, but also in the southeastern parts of India and Africa.
In addition to real lavender, hybrid lavender is most commonly grown. Real lavender (Lat. Lavandula augustifolia) is a perennial herb that grows in the form of a small shrub with a semi-elongated shape. Real lavender shrubs can be 15 to 25 inches high and 30 to 50 inches wide. It has a woody and branched root that penetrates deep into the soil and a thick, woody and short stem that begins to branch from the root neck.
Simple flower branches can be up to 15 inches long. The leaves are narrow, gray-green in color, with entire margins and covered with hairs on the reverse. Lavender flowers are blue or purple in color, and the fruit is a sprout containing four egg-shaped seeds.
Hybrid lavender is a compact, sterile shrub whose fruits are not usable. It can be between 30 and 40 inches high and over 60 inches wide. It has branched flower stalks that can be 25 to 35 inches long and opposite, slightly hairy green leaves. The flower looks just like a real lavender.
In addition to true and hybrid, there is also broadleaved lavender, and all three species are characterized by a distinctive, strong odor derived from essential oil. Cultivation of true lavender is possible in areas up to 5500 feet above sea level, the hybrid can be grown in locations from 2300 to 3300 feet above sea level, and broad-leaved lavender up to 2300.
Planting and propagating lavender
Hybrid lavender is propagated by cloning or laying cuttings in well-prepared soil, while true lavender can also be propagated by seed. Propagation by cloning involves rooting lavender flakes in cold sheets protected by foil.
The clones are harvested from shrubs at least three years old in April or August. After cutting, they are placed in sand, in rows between which there should be at least 2 inches of space, while between plants there should be about 0.8 inches of space. As for planting depth, 1.5 to 2 inches is optimal. Cuttings should be watered extensively, and when rooted, they are transplanted into the open in late May.
If the clones are to be planted outdoors, then in October or March the prunes are cut from 4 to 8 inches long and laid in prepared soil, in trenches about 8 inches deep, which need to be well watered beforehand. The rows should be 14 inches apart, while the switches should be 1 to 2 inches apart. They are laid so deep that after the burial of the ditch, the ground remains about 3 inches long above the surface.
Real lavender can be grown from seed. Seeds are sown in November or early spring, in seedlings in a sheltered position and in soil previously disinfected with methyl bromide. Seeds can be sown by hand or machine, in rows with a row spacing of 8 to 15 inches and a depth of 0.4 to 0.6 inches. When young plants develop about 4 straight leaves, they are dotted in open leaves and left until they reach a height of about 8 inches.
While true lavender does not have any special requirements when it comes to soil and can grow on poor, shallow soil and on the karst, deep and fertile soil with good water regime is required to grow hybrid lavender. This species may also grow on less quality soils, but in that case, the yield will be lower. Neither species tolerate sandy, cold or poorly permeable soil.
If lavender is to be planted in plantation, the soil should be prepared a year earlier with deep autumn plowing. Since lavender is best planted during October, legumes are the best preculture because they are removed from the soil by September. Lavender can be planted on the same land for up to 15 years, but it is important to avoid planting on plots where corn has been previously grown, or at least wait for 2 to 3 years because young lavender plants are quite susceptible to herbicides applied to corn plantations.
Immediately after the removal of the pre-crops, it is necessary to plow the soil to a depth of 8 inches and perform basic fertilization. The surface layer of soil at depths up to 6 inches should be of a slight structure and should be shrugged by the time of planting.
Seedlings of real lavender are planted with a row spacing of 60 inches, while between the plants within the rows should be about 15 inches gap. When it comes to hybrid lavender, its seedlings are planted at a row spacing of 180 to 200 cm, while the plants should be 70 to 80 inches apart.
Growing and maintaining lavender
In the next few days after planting, it is mandatory to water the lavender, and when the plants reach a height of 6 to 8 inches, they should be cut to a height of 3 to 4 inches to encourage the growth of lateral shoots. The shrubs are then pruned in the second year of cultivation, to a height of 6 to 7 inches, and after that, it is no longer necessary to form a canopy.
This plant loves high temperatures and lots of sunlight during the growing season. It is suitable for warm windproof places, but when it is at rest it can withstand temperatures up to -4 °F. However, if it starts vegetation early, it can be harmed by frost. Except in the initial phase, lavender can tolerate drought well, while rainy and cold periods in the flowering phase reduce the proportion of essential oil by as much as 50%.
In order for the lavender to be successfully cut by machine, it is necessary to have a uniform crop, and this is achieved by supplementing the plant with stronger seedlings at the end of the first year of cultivation. Maintaining lavender planting also involves regular row cultivation of the soil to maintain aeration and planting.
Growing lavender in the garden
When it comes to growing in the garden, we can plant lavender as a stand-alone shrub, in groups or to form a decorative hedge. Since it likes sunny positions, planting in the immediate vicinity of trees or larger shrubs should be avoided. It is an excellent choice for large stones and combines well with flowering plants and perennials of stronger colors. It looks beautiful planted in large clay jars or in combination with roses.
If you want to form a lavender hedge, the seedlings are planted at a distance of 15 to 30 inches. Stronger spring pruning is required to achieve a more beautiful and lasting form, as this ensures the emergence of numerous new shoots that will bloom in the summer.
Soils with a slight slope are ideal for growing lavender in the garden. The soil before planting should be deeply dug, soft and sufficiently dried. To achieve better initial lavender growth, it is a good idea to add soil to sharp sand or withered compost.
If you have at least eight hours of sunshine a day on the balcony or terrace, you can also grow lavender in jars or jardins. It is planted in larger jars or jardines, the bottom of which should be several inches of drainage material. For planting, a mixture of high-quality soil, peat, and compost is used, with the addition of long-acting fertilizers.
Smaller lavender varieties such as Hidcote Blue and Dwarf Blue should be selected for growing in jars as they can last longer. Larger varieties grow faster and are lush so they can be kept in jars for about three years. Lavender planted in a jar should be watered frequently, exclusively with soil. Every year after flowering, all flower stems should be cut.
Lavender diseases and pests
Lavender has a specific and strong odor that repels many pests, so there are no major problems with them. Since its odor does not repel all pests, some of the insects can appear on the lavender, and you can get rid of them by flushing with a slightly stronger jet of water.
In wetter areas, fungal diseases can occur on lavender crops. To prevent this, plants should be planted at greater distances and in places where the air is well circulated. So the plants will be dry and the chance of developing some of the fungal diseases will be less.
Harvesting and drying lavender
The harvest time depends on the cultivar being grown. If lavender is harvested for flower, the best time to do so is when the bees stop collecting around the plants. This is a sign that the flowers have closed and the flowering is over. Harvesting is done in sunny weather, so if it has been raining for a few days, it is necessary to wait with the harvest because the rain causes moisture to accumulate in the plants, in which case the oil is of lower quality.
Harvesting can be done manually or by machine. It is hand-harvested with sharp sickles so that the bundles are covered by the hand and cut below the first leaves on the flower stalks. Manual harvesting is cost-effective on smaller plantations that have about 2000 lavender seedlings, and on larger areas is done by single-row or three-row modern pickers. The pickers function by transferring the cropped lavender flowers into the inlet bin, and from the pneumatic hoist, they are lifted into the air and pumped into tractor-trailers. A one-acre picker can be harvested in one acre in three hours, and a three-acre area in one hour.
Prices for such machines range from 10 to more than 20 thousand dollars. This is why smaller lavender manufacturers are turning to adjusting existing machinery. For example, old single-row grain and corn single-row pickers can be adjusted for lavender harvesting by adjusting the height of the shear blades.
Real lavender is cut to a length of 10 inches and hybrid to a length of 20 inches. Flowers should not stand for long after harvesting as the essential oil evaporates. It is also not recommended to keep pickled lavender in plastic materials or collected in large piles as it can “ignite” over a long period of time, which in turn leads to poor oil quality.
If you choose to dry, lavender flowers should be shaded, in an airy, dry place. The flower stalks connect into smaller bundles and the droughts are turned upside down. In order to keep the fragrance and beautiful color as long as possible, dried and clean lavender flowers should be kept in sealed containers.
Growing seedlings of lavender seeds
The seedlings should be prepared in a sheltered location and disinfected with methyl bromide. Sowing is done before winter, in November or early in spring, in March. For spring sowing, the seeds must undergo a vernalization process, 36 hours at 3 °F. Sowing is done by hand or machine, at intervals of 8 – 16 inches, at a depth of 0.2 – 0.6 inches, in early May. When the plants form 4-5 straight leaves, they are blossomed into 15×2 inches open flowerpots and left until fall with regular watering. 7 – 8 inches tall seedlings are pruned to 3 – 4 inches high to develop a branch.
Lavender in jars
Lavender seedlings in jars can be successfully grown if you have a good sunny position with at least eight hours of sunshine. More frequent watering, good drainage, and nutrition are required. Due to the strong roots and possible freezing in winter, lavender should be planted in really large jars, which should be placed at the bottom of a few inches of drainage material. A good mix of soil, compost, and peat should be used for planting, and a prolonged-fertilizer should be added.
It is better to plant smaller varieties of true lavender such as “Dwarf Blue” or “Hidcote Blue” as they can last longer in jars. Larger varieties of lavender, for faster and lusher growth, can stay in the jar for 3 years. They should be watered more often, best on the soil, and cut every year after flowering so that all the flower stems with a portion of the leaves are cut.
Good protection is the “planting in two jars” so that the jar with lavender planted is placed in a larger decorative jar. We have obtained isolation that protects the roots from cold temperatures in winter as well as high in summer. In extremely cold conditions, the jar can be placed in a protected but not heated area.
The timing of the flower harvest depends on the purpose of the lavender. If you want beautiful bouquets, we pick lavender in the first half of the bloom after opening half of the flower buds. The bundles are dried down in a warm and airy place. The flower for filling the scent bags is harvested in the second half of flowering when all the flower buds open.
Application of lavender
Lavender flowers are often used to make bouquets, and dried flowers are used in culinary and cosmetics.
Lavender essential oil and flowers are used in medicine and in the production of alcoholic beverages and perfumes. The lavender essential oil has become extremely popular in modern aromatherapy in recent years thanks to R.M. Gatefosse who accidentally discovered that lavender oil helps relieve pain and burns.
Further scientific research has found that, unlike other essential oils, the lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin without the risk of allergic reactions and promotes epithelialization and faster healing of burn wounds. In addition, it helps relieve headaches and itching after insect bites and is considered a good antiseptic.
Lavender essential oil is also used in the production of soaps, air fresheners, detergents, softeners, shampoos, etc. In the culinary field, this plant is used to flavor fish and roast meat, and some are used in the preparation of ice cream. In addition, it can flavor vinegar and sugar and can be used in the preparation of biscuits and other sweets.
The dried lavender flowers are packaged in bags and kept in wardrobes as they drive the moths and the clothes give a pleasant scent. Lavender can be used in numerous ways, so you can add a few drops of lavender oil to a cotton ball and insert it into your pillowcase to help you fall asleep. In addition to insomnia, lavender will also drive away mosquitoes as well as other annoying insects. If you have mold and fungus problems at home, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your air conditioning filter.
History of lavender
True lavender is a native species that has been transmitted from the wild and its subspecies have created other subspecies and hybrids. Although it has a calming effect, lavender has long been a symbol of distrust, as snakes are often hidden beneath its shrubs.
The name lavender is derived from the Latin word lavara, which means bathing, and it explains the basic purpose of dried flower and lavender, an essential oil.
It is considered one of the best honey bringing plants. In favorable weather conditions, it is possible to achieve total yields of 110 pounds per hive. The honey is translucent, clear and light yellow in color. It has a distinct but pleasant aroma and a strong lavender taste, so it does not suit everyone. It is considered quality honey and crystallization occur after 60 days.