Have you ever dreamt of starting your very own modest farm — more specifically a lavender farm? Truth be told, herbs are one of the most profitable harvests farmers can yield from their crops. The planting and cutting of lavender typically begin in autumn, thereafter germinating and thriving during summer in drier climates. While the reaping process is fairly simple, the nurturing process is more complicated. However, if equipped with the right knowledge and some helpful tips and tricks, you’ll become an expert farmer in no time.
The Beginning Stages
You don’t actually need a huge plot of land on a farm to begin your lavender farming journey. Instead, you could start out small in a small patch of your garden by planting cuttings or seeds.
For beginners, we’d recommend cuttings over seeds because germinating lavender seeds can get quite complex having to consider many different factors.
However, if you’d still prefer to undergo the complete lavender farming experience, here’s the breakdown between planting seeds and cuttings.
Seeds: They typically germinate between two to six weeks. During that time, lavender seeds can be sown anywhere with soil. However, just note that if you opt to grow them in a tray, they’ll need to be transported out into proper soil to ensure that their roots can grow well enough.
Cuttings: Lavenders are unique crops because they are able to grow from their shoots (10cm long). After you trim the lower leaves off, simply bury the seedling into damp soil. Ensure that the soil isn’t overly-saturated with water because that would lead to decomposition of the stem. Each shoot should also be kept at an ideal distance of roughly 30 to 90cm from each other during planting.
Why Lavender and Not Other Types of Crops?
Not only are lavenders one of the most beautifully eye-catching flowers with their distinct pastel purple hue, but they’re also one of the most commercially successful crops to be sold on the market. Moreover, they’re not too difficult to cultivate. Hardy in nature, they flourish in well-moistured soil and warm climates.
How exactly is lavender so marketable, you might ask? Well, lavender as a product comes in many various forms and functions. Firstly, as with all flowers, they’re important sources of food to our fast-dwindling population of honeybees which in turn produce nectar and honey for our consumption.
Secondly, they’re active ingredients in the production of essential oils; more specifically, lavender’s unique scent and flavor make their leaves highly sought after in aromatizing wine and vinegar.
Thirdly, lavender can be processed as medicine. These are just a few of the benefits that lavender provides to humans. In this sense, its versatility makes it an extremely attractive flower to many farmers. Just look at all the farms sprawled across the globe dedicated to the sole cultivation of lavenders such as Farm Tomita in Furano, Hokkaido or the lavender fields in Provence, France.
Favorable Conditions for Lavenders
A general rule of thumb for lavenders is that they thrive in a relatively dry climate, capable of withstanding a range of temperatures. However, as mentioned above, they do fare better in warmer temperatures — as long as it isn’t too humid or too cold. It’s all about balance.
Naturally, they’d require plenty of direct sunlight for at least six to eight hours daily. With that being said, if your farm is not geographically strategic to receive direct sunlight, semi-shade is acceptable too.
Additionally, ensure that your soil receives decent drainage in order to combat excessive humidity. If your soil is overly humid, this would trigger higher chances of fungal growth. Soil temperature is also advised to be maintained within 18°C to 30°C for maximum growth. If your soil gets too hot, overheating may occur and deteriorate the quality of the lavender sown.
Where to Find Lavender Farms
Lavender farms exist just about anywhere — from the USA to the UK, to Australia, and even Indonesia, the proliferation of lavenders across the world testifies to their hardiness and versatility. However, if we’re referring to the olden days of farming, lavender typically grew in the Canary Islands off Cape Verde.
Down to the nitty-gritty…
Step 1: The Perfect Soil
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s no corporate secret that laying a good foundation is fundamental to reaping a good harvest, both literally and figuratively. Thus, the quality of your lavender is directly dependent on the quality of your soil. This requires a lot of time, research and experience in order to discern the best combination to acquiring the perfect home for your lavenders’ roots.
For commercial farms, the recommended soil type is calcareous with a pH level ranging from 6.5 to 7.5.
Next, to create a well-drained soil environment, dig a hole of at least 18 to 24 inches deep. Remember to lift the stratum to at least six inches too. A rough gauge of your soil mixture should also be one-thirds of sand, clay, and loam.
Step 2: Planting Your Lavender — The Art of Soft Woodcutting
As a beginner farmer, never attempt to nurture your lavenders from seeds. It will make things unnecessarily challenging for yourself; use lavender cuttings instead. The best environment for these baby cuttings would be to plant them in nurseries.
While this might be a laborious process, do take note of the following:
- Your shoots should be roughly 2 ½ feet apart, with 4 feet distance between every row. If you abide by these dimensions, this should allow you to plant about 4000 plants per acre.
- Each shoot should be covered with garden cloth. Mulch them and their rows well to prevent weed growth.
- Use a lightly-colored hoop for each shoot base like marble, sand or gravel. These materials help to direct sunlight better onto your shoots.
- Keep the environment dry but well-moisturized.
When’s the Right Time?
The recommended period for sowing lavender seeds/shoots is the start of spring. This gives you ample time to cultivate the growth of your seeds/shoots and allows you to subsequently transplant them in autumn or winter. After this, you might decide to obtain a segment of these maturing lavender shoots to restart the process all over again in the future. However, before that, enjoy your lavender bloom by the end of summer.
Step 3: Lavender TLC
To ensure the best quality and quantity yield for your lavender harvest, here are some extra tips.
- Remove invasive plants like weeds. They compete for nutrients from your shoots.
- Prune your lavenders by removing old branches. Similar to haircuts for us, trimming dead branches help to rejuvenate the plant.
- Have a good drainage system to prevent puddles and oversaturation that might decompose roots. Opt for the drip irrigation method rather than aerial irrigation which might cause your shoots to split in half.
Also, be on the lookout for any unwanted pests. Use a considerable amount when necessary to ward them off from your precious garden. You can do this, in fact, by infusing the pesticide into your water when you irrigate your plants. This will hopefully raise their resistance (and future offsprings’) to these pests. Prevention is always better than cure.
Other possible pest-control measures include:
- Potting your lavenders
- Using basil and garlic to repel flies, insects and some fungi
- Remove dead plants immediately to prevent the spread of infection to other healthy shoots
Lastly, a good farmer is never seen without any of his trusty tools such as:
- Lavender sifter
- Mini plow
- Steel shank
- Kneeling pad and gloves
- Folding hand saw
With all that being said, you’re well on your way to becoming a top lavender farmer. Don’t be afraid to explore and incorporate different farming tactics into the advice given in this guide. Farming is all about experimentation and personal experience; no one farmer’s experience is the same. Thus, it always pays to share your experience with other farmers and learn from one another to grow towards retrieving better yields in future harvests.