Growing Commercial Lavender in the Midwest
Peaceful Acres Lavender Farm is located in growing Zone 5. From our experience growing lavender we have concluded 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. The average crop survives 2-3 years. Lavender is a perennial and has the potential to flourish up to the 8th year. In this detailed growing guide, you will learn more on how to grow the perfect lavender crop. We will also include information on our research to increase oil producing varieties here in the Midwest.
Lavender is a drought tolerant plant and thrives in dryer conditions and humidity. Ideal places to grow lavender would be Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Arizona and other dry states. To achieve good results in the Midwest, the idea is to keep lavender plants "High and Dry."
Plant stock is important when planting a commercial crop. Unfortunately not many lavender seed companies have an exact variety from seed. This makes sowing a risk that's not worth the time and hassle to test the theory. Make sure to choose from a reputable nursery and grower. There are nearly 8 different nurseries that supply many varieties of lavender from cuttings from a mother plant.
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 the fields. We do have some sporadic mixed stone in the fields. In our 2007 field we utilized 16 tons per 2550 feet of raised bed size 3' x 150' each. Six cubic feet of mulch and two heaping handfuls of 1/2" to 1" gravel directly into the planting area. The beds have a polypropylene ground cover for weed control. This makes care much easier than hand weeding or power weeding, damage is impossible to avoid without weed guard. This ground cover also helps deter rain water which is good for lavender.
The 2009 test beds also have soil amendments added with a different scenario planting scheme in amounts of sand and gravel. Ten beds at 3'x150' utilizing 16 tons on 1500' of beds with 1/2"-1" gravel, 16 tons of natural sand and 12 cubic foot of mulch tilled in and raised 18"H x 36"W beds, same as our 2007 plot. This time the gravel was tilled into the soil rather then applying to single planting holes. Weed control consist of the same polypropylene materials as previous description.
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.
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. These are also known as the hardest variety to grow in humid and seasonal cold climates.
So far our experience has proven to increase the longevity of our lavender crops. This year 2011, we will be researching better ways to grow lavender through soil amendments and hoop houses. You can read more on our project by following this link. 2011 SARE Lavender Grant Project.....