Everyone can see the brilliant color when they hear the word lavender and it is an amazing, unique and vibrant color...it is also an amazing plant. It can be used in sauces or marinades to teas and potpourri's and more but before it can ever be used, it must be properly grown and harvested.
Growing healthy, strong and beautiful lavender plants with their unmistakable look and perfume isn't the most difficult endeavor but there are things you need to know. The difference between not watering enough or watering too much can be a big mistake in getting the most out of your lavender plant.
To help you get the type of lavender that looks beautiful in your garden, fills your home with that distinct lavender scent and that your are hoping for there are some simple guidelines. Here is what you need to know to produce the healthiest, most vibrant and beautiful lavender plants possible...
You want to start the seeds early and can use a heat mat, seed tray or warm location to promote germination. It is best to use a fine vermiculite or light mix opposed to a traditional potting mix which will help with drainage. In approximately two weeks the seedlings will germinate. It will take some time for them to mature and begin to look like lavender.
When the plants have several sets of leaves they can be moved to their final location. Simply transplant the young plants by burying the roots and lightly patting the soil around the planting area. Before moving these baby lavenders, however, it is time to get our hands dirty - literally. Evaluating the soil and preparing the soil could arguably be the most vital step in determining the success of your lavender.
Planting and Soil Considerations
The primary consideration when planting lavender will be having and maintaining a dryer soil with less humid conditions. Most lavenders are very hardy and can be grown in many regions although these won't likely produce a lavender hedge or the optimum results. Warmer and dryer climates are where lavenders thrive and you can help to emulate that environment.
Seeds should be planted approximately 12 to 18 inches apart. The area should have good circulation and be availed to full sun. Using builder's sand to improve drainage can prove beneficial. Soil should be well drained and ideally be a slightly alkaline soil (pH 6.7 to 7.3). Like may plants grown for their essential oils, developing the right soil conditions will encourage a higher concentration of those essential oils.
Planting lavender in raised beds or small mounds can also help to assure good drainage. Typically (and renown in France) lavender can be used to line walls or found along slope tops. These areas are generally prone to good drainage and lavender's flower is a definitive aesthetic benefit.
The theme for growing lavender is no different than that of planting and soil preparation, good drainage and air circulation will guide your planting and growing efforts. That translates into practical applications like being careful to not over-water the plants. Being susceptible to fungus, any excess moisture with warmer temperatures can put lavender at-risk. To fight against fungus it is also helpful to use sand or to mulch with pebbles around the base of the plant.
With colder temperatures and seasons, using bone meal or other fertilizers that are phosphorus-rich will strengthen the plant. Sprinkling a little fertilizer around each plant during the autumn season will make for not only a winter hardy plant but a stronger yield come harvest.
Promote branching by lightly pruning, this is most important to do when the plants begin to show new growth in the spring. When cutting the blooms, do so in a way that will thin the plant thus promoting greater air circulation by opening it up.
Harvest and Storage Considerations
The harvesting of lavender stems can actually be done at any time. Simply remove the stems by cutting then from the plant. If there is any concern with harvesting lavender stems, it is with clipping an excessive amount of stems from any one plant, leaving it looking frail.
Flowers of the lavender plant are known for their aromatic and pleasant fragrance. They will retain their perfume longer (for months) if you harvest at the right time. In this case, the best time to harvest the flowers is just before they completely open.
Drying flowers should be done in a dark area protected from any natural light. Collect groups of stems, hang them upside down and give them plenty of ventilation. This will protect the stems from molding and most importantly help preserve their magnificent color.
Lavender can be grown in containers. The same guiding principles apply and using containers can be advantageous for maintaining good drainage. It will also, however, make it more vulnerable to colder temperatures.
Aside from those two notes of interest, there is no essential difference in the amount of sun, air circulation or drainage requirements between garden and container growing practices.
Those are the basics of growing lavender. It is also good to know that lavender is a tough plant, especially once it is established. Lavender is drought-tolerant and doesn't demand a great deal of attention. The most important factor to remember when it comes to lavender is that dampness is the greatest enemy.
A romantic and somehow alluring flower, lavender also is very useful in a variety of ways...
The Uses of Lavender
Some of the uses of lavender you are well aware of, others may be a little more surprising. Did you know that lavender is used in gardens as a repellent for animals like deer? That is one of many examples...
Lavender is edible and can be used in soups, salads or even as a seasoning. It is advised when using lavender as a food, however, to use it sparingly as it is a strong flavor.
Lavender oil is considered one of the most versatile oils available and offers and array of benefits for the mind and body. These are a few of those benefits:
- medical conditions (i.e. indigestion, heartburn)
Lavender is a tension reliever and rubbing a few drops of lavender oil on your temples can help you rest and find sleep.
Lavender is aromatic and therapeutic helping to calm nerves and help you relax. A lavender wreath or scented agent can promote a sense of ease.
It seems like the list of uses for lavender could go on forever. That may help to explain why there has been such a love affair between people and lavender for so long. In fact, this is a very old story.
The Longtime Love for Lavender
Our adoration for all things lavender isn't a new love, in fact our relationship with lavender dates centuries back as one story reported...
"The Romans used Lavender to scent their baths, beds, clothes and even hair. They also discovered its medicinal properties."
Growing this pretty, fragrant and useful plant won't require any great expertise but to get the best possible results, it can't ever hurt to ask. If you have any questions about your lavender plants, growing lavender or for any of your growing needs, contact us.