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Planting lavender, growing lavender, pruning lavender & winter protection.

What is Lavender?

Lavender is a perennial and has been known to survive up to 15 years in home gardens. Longevity can be increase through many methods of lavender growing. Soil preparation, soil amendments, drainage, pruning, winter protection and proper harvesting can result in a life long lavender hedge.

Planting lavender in well drained soil with a Loamy mix of sand, clay soil & compost.

Well drained soil consist of a Loamy mix of sand, clay soil (south central Ohio) and composted horse manure or organic matter from a old wood lots will be beneficial.Add 2 hand fulls of limestone (a little dolomite lime if using rock instead of limestone) and a good base Nitrogen starter fertilizer during planting.  Container planting will not require any weed protection. It's recommended to use a weed guard material such as polypropylene or other natural woven weed quard. Oyster shell mulch will also help reduce weeding. This summer of 2014 we added a new method to commercial lavender production by utilizing wood chips as a mulched bed weed cover, similar to conventional home gardening methods. New small lavender gardens need a dose of Nitrogen the first 2 years of growth. Then let the plant thrive on its own adding just a little lime every year to keep the PH up high, preferably 6.9 to 7.5. Using natural mulch materials like wood chips which break down will reduce the need to fertilize year after year. The biggest challenge is choosing a good Angustifolia planting variety that can withstand cold wet winters. The most hardy Angustafolia lavender variety plant would be Munstead or English which makes for a great addition to the garden with an elegant aroma pretty much year round, even in the rain!

When to plant lavender?

Peaceful Acres has played around with multiple seasons of planting. We have planted in middle of May, June, July, August, and September. Although spring planting has proved to establish a much hardier plant than the fall months all seasonal planting have survival comparable survival rates. The only downfall we have found is the reduced size, yield and second year growth from a lavender plant planted in the ladder part of the growing season. Smaller fall plantings experienced more soil wash around the plants base which resulted in uplifting of the root system.

Winter lavender plant protection

Severe Ice Storms will kill any lavender variety including Angustifolia lavender.Previous winter lavender damage from the year before.
Winter lavender protection is important for your Lavandula oil producers. Two well known varieties Peaceful Acres grows are 'Grosso' and 'Twickle Purple'. These plants may need a sheet covering the lavender bush during winter ice storms. Most damage occurs when ice coats stems, leaves, and base for several days.
Snow will insulate lavender plants only if no ice has accumulated before the snow fall. Excessive weight of snow will create a situation lavender farmers call 'snow pack burn'. This happens when you have several inches of snow covering your plants for longer than several days below freezing. The biggest concern is ICE! Once Ice has accumulated on the branches they will begin to freeze the oil within the stem and the branch will die back.

Pruning Lavender in spring & fall for the best results in the Midwest

Several years of trial and error research with growing experience the farm has developed a guide to growing lavender to help determine the best growing methods. Many questions are asked when to prune lavender. Pruning can fall during any season which may require continuous pruning lavender. It's best to plan a pruning routine to reduce maintenance and to harvest the best dried lavender bundles from your plants in a timely manner.  This reduces random pruning and lengthy, woody growth. We have established three methods for pruning lavender plants to achieve the prefect hedge. 

Pruning out winter damage is important to jump starting your lavender, this plant was pruned late May for examples.
Twickle Purple pruned late July to remove dead brush from winter Ice as an example you can prune any time.

Lavender pruning- When is the best time to prune lavender?

The first growing season of a newly planted lavender plant it's recommended to remove ALL bud shoots as soon as the little green buds start to form. Removing any signs of the flower bud process will keep the plant in a vegetative cycle which encourages a larger, hardy strong lavender plant. Having an established lavender plant is essential for surviving the first winter. Allowing your plants to flower the first year of planting greatly reduces the size of your lavender plant for over wintering. This also reduces the second and third year harvested yields and stunts overall plant growth.

Typically pruning should take place during the harvesting of lavender bundles. This method reduces loosing valuable buds and eliminates the need to return for another day of pruning your lavender plants. March through May, early spring is the best time to prune.  Remove any dead branches all the way down to the hedge bottom. (see image) Following a harsh winter season as seen during the winter of 2013-14 (see 2014 Winter Blog) you may want to prune the entire lavender bush down to the bare woody hedge. You can feel the  branches and notice if all the leaves are dry and falling off the branches. Pruning this early in spring with a dose of nitrogen will encourage vegetation to grow. Peaceful Acres trims off all lavender bud shoots as  we would establishing a new lavender plant so the energy is put into new growth fast. This is very important when re-generating a thought to be dead lavender plant. 

After the initial harvest sporadic buds will shoot up and form. Remove each additional lavender stem as ready. If you have tall stems where the buds have formed and flowered off you should prune these down below the first set of leaves before the bud stem starts. Deep pruning I recommend only during the early spring.

How to prune lavender plants? 

Where to prune lavender
Pruning & harvesting lavender (LEFT)has a specific method on where to cut to reduce stress on the plant. It is known and recommended to prune two leaf sets above the woody growth. This reduces stress on the plant by avoiding pruning into the woody growth which can lead to rot. Leaving two leaf sets encourages stable growth and a healthier thicker lavender plant. 
Pruning winter lavender death (BELOW) requires a more aggressive form of trimming where all woody branches are pruned down to the root hedge top as seen here in the images below. Initially the lavender plants look as if they would never recover in the middle of June. Fortunately we maintained our patience and allowed the plants to re-generate after pruning along with a normal dose of N-nitrogen.  Two months later in August and September we were harvesting bundles similar to a second year crop harvest. This reduced our loss from 90% of our crop to only losing 20% of our lavender fields. 
Hard pruning to revive dead lavender Hard pruning to revive dead lavender
             Hard Pruning to the Root Hedge                           Two months after hard pruning