Sequim, Washington is the self-proclaimed Lavender Capitol of North America. Its mild, dry climate makes it the perfect spot to grow hundreds of varieties of this fragrant and colorful perennial. Small growers are taking advantage of the upsurge in popularity of lavender to establish successful market gardens.
Planting and Growing Lavender
Lavender grows best in well-drained sandy loam, but it can grow in less fertile gravelly ground. Your plants need excellent drainage in order avoid root rot. You will, however, need to water young plants at least until they establish themselves
Except in cold climates (where spring planting is better), it’s best to plant lavender in the fall, which gives the plants time to establish good root systems before the hot summer. The spacing between plants depends on the varieties and how the crop will be used–typically from one to three feet apart.
Lavender is not a heavy feeder, so it may not require any more nutrients than a good soil will provide. The only way to know for sure if extra nutrients are needed, particularly nitrogen, is to do a soil test. Too much fertilizer will reduce both the yield and quality of the crop.
Mulching helps control weeds, but if it’s too deep it could keep the soil too wet and promote root rot. Sequim growers use oyster shells, which control weeds and reflect light up to the plants, encouraging growth.
Lavender plants need pruning, starting soon after they are planted. Remove the flower stems and topmost buds for the first year or two after planting. After that, cut back about one-third of the gray leaf stems every year after flowering. Use clean and sharp cutting tools to help prevent the spread of disease.
Lavender Pests and Diseases
Spread by aphids, Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV) is a common lavender disease. It won’t kill the plants, but it will reduce yields. Bright yellow patches appear on leaves and shoots, which may become twisted. The best way to limit AMV is to remove infested plants and burn them immediately.
As mentioned earlier, root rot can damage lavender grown in wet soils. Planting in well-drained soils is the best way to prevent root rot.
Start harvesting lavender when the flowers become vivid in color. Harvest early in the morning after the dew has dried. Harvested lavender has many uses; you can make fresh or dried arrangements or wreaths, or process it to use in soaps, candles, and cosmetics.
Propagation by cuttings results in uniform plants, and is the most common commercial method.
Want to Learn More About Lavender?
Lavender is such a delightful and useful plant, there’s a lot more to say about it. Here are three interesting websites you might enjoy.
Colorado State has great information about Growing Lavender in Containers.
Don’t forget to check the Sequim Lavender Growers Association.
Here’s a great PDF file if you’re interested in Growing and Marketing Lavender commercially.