Growing lavender can be very challenging and extremely rewarding. Lavender is prized for its wonderful aroma, essential oil production, and culinary purposes. Many lavender farms also participate in "agritourism," a fairly new industry which focuses on increasing interest in agriculture by making it attractive and accessible to visitors. This guide covers the basics of starting your lavender farm.
Do some research. According to Katherine L. Adam, NCAT Agriculture Specialist, "Successful lavender producers typically invest considerable time (at least a year) just doing research, travelling to conferences, and talking with established farmers before setting up operations. Many travel to France to view first-hand the lavender industry in Provence." Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Get in touch with existing, successful farmers to get a good start.
Prepare your soil. Lavender thrives in well-drained, sandy, gravelly soil. Work the soil down at least 18 to 24 inches. Also consider raising the bed at least 6 inches. Patty Crawford of Lavender Earth, Inc. recommends using a mixture of 1/3 sand, 1/3 clay and 1/3 loam for this.
Start your plants from softwood cuttings or order them from a nursery. Many of the lavender hybrid species produce sterile seeds so never try to grow your lavender from seed. If you choose to start your plants from cuttings, view the resource link regarding growing herbs from cuttings. If you plan to plant several acres of lavender for your farm, this process could prove tedious and frustrating; you will most likely want to order the plants from a nursery.
Space the plants 2 1/2 feet apart, with 4 feet between rows.This should give you room for approximately 4,000 plants per acre. Surround each plant with landscape fabric and mulch between plants and rows to discourage weeds. Surround the base of each plant with a ring of lightly coloured medium such as marble chips, sand or light-coloured gravel. This reflects the sunlight back into the plant, keeping it dry and preventing the moisture related problems to which lavender is prone.
Irrigate. Dr. Curtis Beus of Washington State University Extension recommends drip tape irrigation for lavender fields. Too much moisture on lavender can cause a wide variety of problems. Overhead irrigation has been know to cause plants to split down the middle. Lavender is also prone to root rot if the soil remains too moist. Please see the resource link "Introduction to Drip Irrigation" for more information on how to use this method.
Plan. While you wait for your lavender plants to get established, begin planning the other aspects of your business. Are you interested in agritourism or will you simply harvest and sell or use your lavender? View the link below about Entertainment Farming and Agritourism to see if it is for you. Again, talk to other farmers who have experience in this area. They have learnt valuable lessons through experience and can give you some interesting insights as well.
Enjoy your fields of this beautiful, fragrant, romantic herb, and all the lovely things you make from it.