A New Approach to Weeding

The bane of maintaining any garden is the unending encroachment of weeds into the space designed for our plantings.  The headache of weeding becomes even more intense for those of us who have elected the organic approach because little, short of conventional manual approaches, is possible.  Mulching, ground covers, weed matting and similar options produce varying degrees of success.  But, ultimately, in our experience the weeds eventually find an avenue to daylight.

Our primary lavender field garden is located in our South Meadow.  While not perfectly ideal because it is not exclusively south-facing, it benefits from full sunlight exposure while gently sloping from East to West.  However, the farm’s history was rooted in livestock and today’s lawns and meadows once provided grazing space for cattle, goats, guinea hens and burros.  The consequence for us is soil so rich that we had to integrate 10-tons of crushed limestone to achieve a PH factor suitable for lavender.

Initially, our lavender field garden was cultivated, disked and weed matted.  Twenty years ago plastic matting was the popular convention.  Its limitation, however, was that it quickly became brittle following prolonged exposure to the elements.  Despite being covered with a 4-inch layer of small, round sandstone pebbles the deteriorating plastic weed mat soon incurred holes and splits which provided opportunities for the century-old field grass lying dormant beneath to emerge.  Replacing the plastic weed mat with the aerated fabric matting that became all the rage thereafter proved, for us, to be only marginally better.  Nature is tireless in its effort to reclaim land to its former, natural state; and, within a year of replacing the plastic matting with the woven alternative, the weeds were back in full glory.

For nearly a quarter-century our assault on weeding the lavender field garden has been a shovel-and-shoulder enterprise.  Neglect it for a season and the following year would find the lavender plants choked by a sea of thistle, clover, field grass and dandelion.  Measuring 120 feet by 40 feet, the lavender garden formerly required 2 – 2 ½ months to fully restore.  Then, completely by chance, Ginna discovered a partly rusting tool hidden deep in the dark recesses of the Carriage House where our garden tools and supplies are stored.  It is called a Hula Hoe.  This tool features a simple square looped steel blade affixed to a shovel handle.  Its virtue is that when pushed forward and back through the weedy gravel it upends many of the invaders while clipping off others.  In a span of three weeks the entire lavender field was cleared; thereafter, requiring only several weekly maintenance passes through the garden.

Sadly, the tool suffered metal fatigue and failed at Summer’s end.  Fast-forward to Christmas when family members were peppering me for gift ideas, my research for a replacement Hula Hoe discovered what I can only describe as the single most efficient, effective weeding tool which should be de rigueur for every gardening arsenal.  It is made in the United States and, building on the design theory of the Hula Hoe, it features a triangular shaped cutting blade that, when placed flat on the ground, slices cleanly through soil and gravel at far less than half the effort required by the Hula Hoe.  I have just completed clearing the entire 4,800 sq. ft. lavender field garden of Spring and early Summer weeds.  The project consumed a grand total of 21 hours!  That is 82.5% faster than the Hula Hoe required and 2 ¼ months quicker than conventional shovel weeding.

At the heart of its design is a pointed arrow shaped blade.  The angled edges are serrated to facilitate side assault, as well.  I opted for the longer handle to reduce the bending angle of my back.  It is called the Basic Garden Tool by its creator and manufacturer, and can be used as a hoe, weed, shovel, edger, pitch fork and rake among other tasks.  It is available through www.basicgardentool.com  

With a lifetime guarantee it is certain to be the only weapon I will carry with me into gardening’s battle hereafter.

Organic Lavender Farm Tour in Clarion County, PAThanks for this post to Chris Gemmell Co-owner and Chief Weeder at Lavender Green farm.

Celebrating a Bountiful Harvest!

Like any plant, lavender experiences good years, poor years and bountiful years.  I’m thrilled to report that this summer has been one of those bountiful years as the first harvest completed with a brimming Carriage House full of drying bundles.
What contributes to a bountiful harvest?  Lavender likes air, space, light and sun which were plentiful here at the farm in the critical months of May, June and July.  We received just enough rainfall which meant that the plants didn’t get their “feet wet” or drown in puddles in the garden, which renders them more vulnerable.
Sunny and warm Summers also hold diseases at bay like Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV) and Phytophthora Nicotianae (Ppn) which plagued many lavender farms throughout America for the past two years. We’ve had our own tough seasons past  with “winter kill” from prolonged days of sub-zero Winter temperatures.
A few years ago we lost about half of our lavender plants from “winter kill”.  Many of those plants were 20+ years old and had been so well loved that we knew them by name.   We also lost every one of our long stemmed “Provence”and “Grosso” plants during the brutal Winter of 2013-14.  This was a heart break.
In trying to second guess the upcoming Winters we cautiously bet that there would be a return to “normal” which, for us, does not include months of sub-zero temperatures.  So, we began replanting gingerly.
We replaced the Provence and Grosso gardens with “Phenomenal” which flourished this year.  Phenomenal has stems as long as 2 feet; is very hardy in Growing Zone 5; and, offers a nice fragrance.  It has a mid-bluish/purple color and is a nice all around plant to include in your garden. All in all, an improvement!
We’ve planted a test garden of “Big Time Blue”, a new angustifolia with exceptional color, good fragrance and a long flower head for 10″ bouquets.   We found Big Time Blue at Burpee’s and I believe they have them in stock for Fall planting if you’d like to give this compact variety a try in your perennial garden.
Big time Blue Lavender

The Gros Bleu with it’s vivid color, longish stems (18″) and nice fragrance was such a hardy Winter survivor and star that we planted another garden of them.

A garden miracle also occurred with our twenty year-old  Munstead and Hidcote plants which produced “babies” through a natural layering process.  The aging Mother plant produced five baby plants, encircling her last summer.  While many of the rows are no longer “neat and orderly” the harvest from the year old babies has been surprisingly strong.   Mother nature works in mysterious ways
Even though we haven’t experienced Ppn at Lavender Green Farm, we’re taking precautions by sending one plant from each new flat from the nursery to the Clemson Problem Plant Clinic to be tested.  In the interim, the other newbies from the flat are quarantined until we get a disease free health report.  This may seem overly cautious but we don’t want to introduce fungus- like oomycete* into the gardens as they destroy plants with symptoms that look like root rot.  So far there have been no diseases present in nursery stock ordered this year.
A number of the gardeners who attended our tours last Summer reported that their plants died instantly after a rainfall, which is a another sign of Ppn.  If this happens to you, pull and burn or put the sick plant into the trash bag and remove the surrounding soil by digging out the ground around the spot in your garden.  If it was Ppn nothing will successfully grow there for an indeterminate number of years–it is that serious and it can spread through the soil infecting other plants.  You can also notify your local Dept. of Agriculture office to find out where to send the plant for diagnosis.
So much for reflection on what we have learned over the past few years. Given this year’s harvest, our new mantra is to optimistically look forward with eyes wide open–taking nothing for granted.
I hope your garden is flourishing this Summer, too.
Fragrant Lavender Wishes,


Our Lavender Farm

Love and Life on Our Lavender Farm

Lavender and romance – they just go together

Gina and Chris Gemmell of Lavender Green Farm

Chris and Gina Gemmell of Lavender Green Farm

We’re Chris and Ginna Gemmell and we’ve just celebrated our 44th  wedding anniversary on the same farm we were married on in 1969. Its our family farm — now called Lavender Green where we currently grow several varieties of English and French dried lavender flowers and buds.

Here, we craft lavender products that help bring the many benefits of lavender into the homes of people worldwide.

It seems as though Chris and I have been together for our entire lives and yet it feels as though we’ve just fallen in love. Our farm wedding was simple in ceremony and music and yet lush with 300 guests, great food cooked outdoors and lots of love!

There were flowers and fragrance everywhere.

Chris and Gina Gemmel farm wedding at Lavender Green Farm

Here we are at our farm wedding in 1969.

One of our many passions is growing lavender, which has historically represented love and fidelity. Chris and I love lavender and believe that everyone should have an affordable way to access the healing benefits of this wonderful, aromatic plant.

Small Beginnings with a Big Return

How a few lavender plants grew into a successful online business

Chris and I began with a few plants in 1988 before the benefits of lavender were well known in the U.S., and there were very few lavender farms.

After much trial and error, we settled on growing the variety Lavender Angustifolia (True English Lavender) because of its hardiness for our Zone 5 region, its many culinary uses and perfume quality fragrance.

From here we’ve added several other varieties and have used our lavender farm to grow a successful online business creating lavender products that highlight its scent, flavor and healing properties.

The History of Our Lavender Farm 

Keeping our family Civil War era farm sustainable
Lavender Green FarmMy great, great grandfather purchased our farmland before he headed off to the Civil War, but sadly he never returned. His daughters inherited the land when they married and my great grandmother, Mary Amelia, with her new husband, William, built our farm’s house, barn, summer kitchen and carriage house along with several other buildings in 1888.

My grandfather was born here and one hundred years after it was built, Chris and I purchased the farm from my grandfather’s estate to keep it in the family.

To us, family history and the farm’s legacy are important and we hope to keep it going strong for generations to come with sustainable land management practices.

Helping Young Women Grow on Our Lavender Farm

Employment and coaching for local high school kids  

Here's our crew that helps pick our organic lavender.Lavender Green has developed a unique business model where we work with high school students to manage the planting, tending, cutting and crafting of our lavender.

The young women self-select new team members each summer and hand the jobs down to younger kids as they move on from high school to college. Lavender Green helps support our youth with life coaching, giving them guidance and direction for their own life’s journey.

We also pay our young workers a fair wage, so that they can save funds for higher education. This model has worked for 25 years for Lavender Green because of the excellence of the youth involved.

Over the years, well over 150 kids have worked with Lavender Green!

Made in America

Promoting the cottage craft tradition

Most all of Lavender Green products are made in America. And many of our artisans, local to our Western Pa. region, come from a tradition of expert sewing and craftsmanship. Lavender Green proudly provides opportunities for local artisans to earn a fair percentage on retail sales for the products we sell.

Lavender Friends Gather Here

Join us!

At Lavender Green, we like to think of our customers as fellow “lavender lovers” and friends. We are always available by phone to answer your questions or to advise you about our products.

Friends gather on our lavender farm.We believe in protecting your privacy and won’t send spam e-mails or sell your addresses to anyone — ever.  Sign up for our Lavender Blog or Facebook Page to learn more about lavender and to stay in touch with what’s happening on the farm.

You’re also welcome to visit the Lavender Green Farm in our private or public tours. Local groups can also host meetings and celebrations here at the farm.

Lavender Green is a Charter member of the US Lavender Growers Association and we love to share our experiences with beginning lavender growers.



Lavender Gifts & Products

from the Garden

Lavender gifts, hand-crafted, delivered straight to your home from our organic farm 

Lavender Green - Organic Lavender Flowers, Lavender Essential Oils & Lavender Products

Lavender Green™, one of America’s oldest commercial organic lavender farms is located in the rolling foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Here we grow several thriving varieties of English and French dried lavender flowers and buds.

Our seven organic lavender gardens supply our culinary and dried lavender flowers. Five of our gardens feature several varieties of Lavandula Angustifolia (True English Lavender) which are: Munstead, Hidcote, Twickle Purple, and Royal Velvet.  And two of our gardens feature Lavandula X intermedia (Lavandin or French lavender) varieties which are GrosBleu and Phenomenal.

High school students from our Western Pennsylvania community engage in entrepreneurial training as they care for our sprawling Lavender Green™ gardens. During their season here on our lavender farm, they manage the planting, tending, cutting and crafting of the lavender. Talented local craftswomen also help to create our original lavender products and gifts.

Lavender Green™ rasied flowers and buds and are *organic, fair traded and never tested on animals. Here on our website, we’re proud to offer you our own extensive online shop of unique lavender aromatherapy products and gifts.

“Our vision is to bring the fragrant, healthful benefits of lavender into every American home.”

Lavender Gifts and Products 

Experience the many benefits of fragrant lavender  

Lavender pillows filled with fragrant lavender and natural kapok fiber

Gifts from our lavender garden are fashioned in the cottage craft tradition with the finest French and American fabrics. Our lavender pillows, sachets and closet fresheners are filled with fragrant English lavender and other natural fillings like buckwheat hulls, kapok, flax seed and millet hulls.

Our lavender Essential Oil Aromatherapy blends are pure and made from natural, organic or wild crafted essential oils. They are fragrant, complex and provide a soothing alternative for healing and wellness. And our lavender candles are made from true lavender essential oil and natural soy wax for pure aromatherapy benefits and generous burn time.

Lavender Green’s arrangements and bouquets contain artfully dried lavender flowers for lasting fragrance. And our organic culinary lavender seasonings and teas will both awaken your senses and soothe your stress-filled days.

We also offer exceptional lavender products from affiliate companies who share our commitment in using safe and natural ingredients like The Good Home Co., Aromafloria, Herban Essentials, Revolution Tea, and Harney & Sons.

Enjoy the healthful, fragrant benefits of lavender in all of our products and feel confident knowing that you’ve purchased them from a sustainable lavender farm. We are committed to the organic farming of lavender, the “flowers from Heaven”.

*LavenderGreen is presently exempt from USD 205.101A1 of the National Organic Program Regulation, eCFR.

Lavender Aromatherapy Products Renew your spirit and nourish your skin with pure Lavender essential oil bath and body care products. contoured spa wraps - filled with fragrant lavender