Crops

What you need to know about growing lavender

Besides its fragrance and beauty, lavender is an effective fly and mosquito repellent, an ancient medicinal plant, household freshener and cleaning agent and a culinary flavoring. This drought tolerant plant is easy to grow, if you follow a few guidelines:

  • Ensure the plants have at least 6 hours of full sun every day
  • Water sparingly
  • Grow in well-drained soil or raised beds
  • Don’t mulch or use any topping that will bring moisture to the plants
  • Don’t fertilize; it’s not necessary
  • Plant lavender with other drought-tolerant plants.
  • Don’t use a sprinkler
  • Don’t forget to prune

Preparing the soil

Lavender prefers alkaline soil with a pH of 6.5 or higher. You can use simple soil test to measure the pH. The soil has to be well draining or you can use raised beds.

Create 45 – 60 cm mounds with well cultivated soil.  In the holes where you’ll plant your lavender, you can add a blend of equal parts of bone meal, lime and well composted manure. The lime helps improve the pH, whereas bone meal and compost are for a healthy start.

Planting

You can plant lavender from seed. However, you have to be patient because germination can take over four weeks. So, propagate lavender instead by cuttings, which provide a mature plant a lot earlier and also ensures that it will be identical to the parent plant. You can also buy seedlings.

The root system for lavender is much larger than the actual plant. So, ensure you dig deep enough and wide enough to contain the roots when you spread them out. Plant about 30 to 45 cm apart in an open area with full sun and good air circulation.

Caring for your plant

Because lavender is a low-maintenance plant, you don’t need to fertilize it. But if you do, then only fertilize once a year. You can also add some compost in August.

As already mentioned, don’t over water. Too much water kills the plant faster than a drought. In fact, your plants won’t grow when the soil is always damp.  So, ensure the soil is dry(the plant shouldn’t dehydrate) before watering and then deeply water every six to eight days after planting.

You have to prune about 1/3 – 1/2 of your lavender plant at least once a year, preferably around August before the new growth begins. You can use pruning shears or hedge trimmer and try not to over-prune your lavender as this can kill new growth. Pruning your lavender encourages new growth and stops the the plant from breaking open and sprawling.

Harvesting lavender flowers

When you see the bottom flowers of each stem start to open, then you know it’s time to harvest. It’s at this time that the lavender is very vibrant and fragrant. If most of the blooms have opened, then it is too late to harvest for herbal purposes. You ‘ll be able to dry them instead.

You don’t pull out the whole plant because it has a lifespan of 12-15 years in the ground. So, cut the flowers near the foliage, at the base of the stems.

To dry lavender, you have to tie about a hundred of the flowers together with a rubber band and hang in a warm, dark and dry place, suspended upside down for approximately 10 to 14 days.

So, what do you do with once you’ve harvested your lavender? Click here to find out.

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