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Growing Commercial Lavender in the Midwest

Soil Amendment application for test field #1 utilizing #8 crushed limestone.Peaceful Acres Lavender Farm is located in growing Zone 5. From our experience growing lavender we have found that many Angustifolia varieties do grow excellent here with little to NO soil amendments. Many larger lavender farms have experienced mass death in their fields from Tennessee to Ohio.

Lavender is a perennial and has the potential to flourish up to the 8th year and we have reports of plants living 15+ years with pruning lavender. Peaceful Acres has established a growing guide for other lavender farms could share and engage the lavender farm community you will learn more on how to grow the best possible lavender crop. 

Lavender is a drought tolerant plant and thrives in dryer conditions other than high humidity. Ideal places to grow lavender would be Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and other states. To achieve good results in the Midwest, the goal is to keep lavender plants "High and Dry" and free from any ice/snow accumulation.

Types of lavender Types of lavender Plant nursery stock is very important when planting a healthy commercial crop. Unfortunately not many lavender seed companies produce an exact variety from lavender seed. This has become an ongoing problem sowing and a added risk that's not worth the time and hassle. Planting from cuttings is a replicated method to grow lavender from an exact lavender plant. Choose from a reputable nursery and know your grower. There are nearly 8 reputable nurseries that supply many varieties of lavender cuttings from a mother plant for exact variety.

Preventive maintenance methods planting Lavender Plants with Soil Amendments benefit growth & comparing raised beds vs. non raised beds

Soil amendments are very successful in creating perfect rocky soil conditions for lavender. Peaceful Acres property is home to a heavy clay soil with 2% Organic matter. We have the occasional sandy scoop but not very likely throughout these fields. We do have some sporadic mixed stone in the fields. In our 2007 field we utilized 16 tons per 2550 square feet of raised beds sized 3' x 150' each. We applied six cubic feet of mulch and two heaping handfuls of 1/2" to 1" limestone gravel directly into the planting area. The bed application utilizes polypropylene ground cover for weed control. This makes lavender raised bed care much easier than hand weeding or power weeding, mechanical lavender plant damage is impossible to avoid without weed guard. This ground cover also helps deter rain water which is good for lavender. The downfall is it's black, ugly, and it's plastic. Still approved for use by the OMRI certification material list.

The 2009 we also applied soil amendment test beds utilizing different planting schemes in total amounts of sand and gravel applied to raised beds. Installed were ten beds at 3'x150' spreading 16 tons of 1/2"-1" gravel throughout 1500' of raised beds, 16 tons of natural sand and 12 cubic feet of wood lot mulch tilled. Beds were raised 18"H x 36"W beds, same as our 2007 plot. In this test field the gravel was tilled into the soil rather then applying to just single planting holes. Weed control consist of the same polypropylene materials as previous description from Dayton Bag & Burlap.

Tested Soil Amendments-Results

Raised bed soil amendments tilled into soil.

An application of 16 tons of natural sand & 32 tons of #57 Crushed Limestone applied on both raised & non-raised beds.

Non-Raised beds with soil amendments tilled into soil.
Composted Horse Manure (Has beneficial bacteria to help fight root rot which is a well known culprit for lavender root rot.)
Limestone Gravel (Benefits-provides drainage and lime to keep PH high and stable. Negatives-Limestone is porous and holds moisture. Pea gravel or small round rock would be a good alternative which requires more PH testing and liming.)

Natural Creak Sand (Mostly used in commercial applications. Sheds water and helps break up the clay soil. Not recomended to use washed sand typically used in masonry applications. This sand tends to grow together making your soil hard if not tilled year after year.)

Building Raised Beds (Tilled soil combined with composted horse manure, limestone gravel/rock, and natural creak sand mixed with native clay soil have proven to extend the longevity and increase lavender overall growth.)

Lavender bed Plant Spacing

Plant spacing differs in our 2007 field where we spaced the plants consistently 30" apart and four of the seventeen rows are spaced 16" apart. 2011 Oil producing planting
Smaller varieties of lavender were the reason for the closer relationship between plants. In 2009 the plants were all spaced 30" apart. Varieties spaced 16" include "Angustifolia" Nana and Lady. The others largest to smallest are "Lavandula" Grosso, our largest lavender genus and "Angustafolia x Intermedia" Twickle Purple, similar to Grosso which grows up to 4' in diameter and 3' high in our fields. 

You can read more on SARE-Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Grant.