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.
Long Lavender Stems Drying
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.
 Lavender on the Barm Bridge
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!
 Phenomenal Lavender Stems
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
Lavender Propegated by Layering
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,
Ginna

 

Building a Lavender Garden from “Scratch”  

Gros_Bleu-StemsAre you dreaming of a purple haze of lavender in your backyard and lavender’s refreshing scent wafting through an open window on a sunny afternoon?  Almost everyone can make a mini-garden of lavender that can fulfill this dream and provide enough dried stems for your home and buds for sachets or potpourri.  A mini-bed can be created along the side of a building, in a circle, a knot garden, or in a straight line bed along sidewalk or driveway.  The garden featured in this post contains just 18 plants of the Gros Blue variety which is a cultivar of Grosso, a Lavandin.  We love it for its color, fragrance and stem length.

There are just a few things to consider:

  1. Chose the right location, full sun with good drainage
  2. Prepare your soil; a sandy, loamy soil is ideal, but you can amend any soil to work
  3. Chose the right variety for your garden and buy enough plants to space them with room for air to circulate
  4. Plant, Water, mulch, snip, and prune

Choosing the Timing and the Right Location

 Chose a location that receives the most sunlight in your yard.  South facing is helpful and so is a wind-break or a building or a stone wall nearby.  We have open field gardens that do well with a fence as a near-by wind-break, critical in Zone 5.

Plot out your garden first and decide how many plants to buy.  We plant in early June, after the danger of frost has past, but before the heat requires too much watering.  Fall planting is fine in some warmer areas of the country.  Make certain that you have good drainage with a natural slope where water from a heavy deluge of rain can quickly run off the garden.  Lavender likes rain, but does not like to have its feet “wet”…so no standing water in the lavender garden, ever. (standing water leads to root rot–a very sad occurrence).

Soil Preparation

 Lavender loves a sandy, loamy soil just like the Mediterranean soil it came from originally.  Our soil has a lot of clay in it, so we dig a hole 18″ deep and fill it with potting soil, pearlized limestone, and pea gravel.  This soil mix should crumble in your fingers and is “friable” which helps promote healthy root growth.  You can also add play sand, but we reserve the play sand for mulch.  Use a mini-soil tester to make sure the soil mix has a PH of 7.  A PH of 6 or below is too acidic for healthy growth.  Lavender likes “cheap” soil, so there is rarely a need to add fertilizer.

 Sequim, Washington has a gritty soil and Delaware a sandy soil which are both naturally hospitable soils for lavender, but the rest of us need to compensate.

Close-up of Gros Bleu Lavender

Choosing the right lavender plants for your garden

 There are now about 200 varieties of lavender available in the market place.  We suggest that you buy from a local nursery to get the plants that will do well in your growing zone.  In our case, we plant very winter hardy lavender like to true Angustifolia Munstead and Hidcote which survive our quirky winters in growing zone 5.  If you like long stems, consider the new variety “Phenomenal” which can withstand cold, rain and draught.  This is a cultivar of Grosso, a very sturdy Lavandin with long stems.   If you’re going for a sea of lavender, buy all of the same variety for each garden.

 If your gardens are full, consider adding a lavender plant as a fragrant purple accent in a mixed perennial garden. It pairs well with roses and many other favorites.

Gros_Bleu-WeedingPlant, water, weed, snip and prune

 Measure your garden and read the spacing requirements on the tag of your plants.  Lavenders come in many sizes from compact, 12″ spreads to huge 36″ mounded spreads.  Make sure to allow enough space between the plants so the air can circulate around them and you can move around the plants to harvest the lavender flowers and weed.

 Dig holes 12-18″ deep and 12″ wide and refill your hole with the amended soil.  Lavender roots extend 18″ deep, but a 1 year old plant has about 3″ of roots, so you need to mound up a little Pyramid inside your hole and gently spread the baby’s roots over the pyramid, so that the crown of the plant is even with the garden.  Water the plants when you have patted them down into the soil.

Pea_Gravel_ newspaper_mulch We add a top cover of pea gravel to our entire garden after planting for two reasons.  First, it’s light color reflects sunlight back into the plant and prevents fungus and second because it works its way into the soil and breaks down the clay, allowing the roots to “breathe”.

Garden side by side year one and two Don’t expect many stems in your first summer, but year two will yield more and year three should be spectacular.  It’s important to cut off spent stems, to encourage more growth.  English lavenders will give you a second cutting in September if you cut the stems in July.  If you experience a rainy summer with lots of cloud cover, consider adding a 1-2″ play sand mulch on top of the gravel all around the plant to bounce light back into the plant.  This little tip can spare you from root rot and promote healthy growth by tricking the plant into thinking it’s really back home in the Mediterranean.

Gros Blue garden in the fallWeeding is important because weeds can “choke” a young lavener plant and be the cause of an early demise.  We weed by hand because we are keeping our gardens organic and herbicide free. Prune in the fall after the plant has gone to sleep.  Lavandins can be pruned and shaped into a neat mound and the Angustifolia’s can at least be made neater, although they grow asymmetrically and always look a little “oppitity”.

 Your garden should give you color, fragrance  and pleasure from mid-June until mid- July plus or minus two weeks.  It may rest in August and flower again in September providing you with lavender enough for your home and gift-giving.

Enjoy!

Ginna Gemmell

Farm Tours

Lavender Green Farm Tours in Knox, Pa.

Experience lavender in all of its summer glory

Join us at Lavender Green for your own firsthand encounter with life on our lavender farm in Knox, Pa. Our farm, purchased in the civil war era and originally built in 1888, has beautiful spreading acreage and flowering lavender gardens.

Organic Lavender Farm Tour in Clarion County, PA

When you visit us at the Lavender Green Farm, you’ll get to:

  • Participate in our educational Garden Tour
  • See organic lavender cultivation and craft demonstrations
  • Sample lavender culinary delights
  • Shop for cottage crafted lavender products made with lavender grown on our farm.

Don’t Miss Our Summer Lavender Farm Tour Opportunities

Public Tours are held during the first and second lavender bloom in June and September

Our two-hour tours are 1-3 pm, Saturday afternoon on June 25 and Sunday afternoon September 25, 2016. Please email or call Lavender Green Farm to book your tour in advance. (See contact info below.)


Lavender Farm Tours at Lavender Green - Knox, Clarion County, PA Our 2016 schedule is:

  • June 25
  • September 25

Cost

Lavender Green Farm Tours cost $20.00 which includes tour, lavender refreshments, a free $5.00 coupon for our lavender farm shop and free parking. Tours will be held rain or shine.

All credit cards, checks and PayPal accepted.

Private Group Tours

Special packages are available for groups of 15 members or more. Call us to discuss your needs and to reserve your date.

Contact Info

Farm House Phone: 814-797-5117 (please leave a message)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lavendergreenco
Address: 564 Little Germany Road, Knox, PA 16232

– Contact Us For A Tour –