While we're no longer a farm - we have experience growing lavender. Stop by and visit our retail shop & manufacturing location in downtown Dundas at 105 King Street West.
1. Planting Lavender
Lots of sun, space, limited watering, and good drainage. You want a soil with a high pH. If you plop your plant in a clay based soil, do not expect it to be happy. If you have clay based soil, consider amending the soil with sand and rocks. Once your plant is established in the ground, you do not want to over-water the plant -- it is an excellent drought resistant plant. Give your plant space -- it hates being crowded. Also, it likes to avoid moisture -- with space the morning dew can more easily dry off. And sun -- it thrives in sunny spots.
2. Pruning Lavender Spring &/or Fall
The first trick is to wait for lavender wake up it is going to look dead initially. Lavender wants hot days in the spring to wake up. Sometimes it will take until end of May / even early June before it will wake up. If you are not sure, gently scratch the wood to see if you can detect a bit of green underneath. Sometimes plants will not survive. Once the lavender has woken up -- rule of thumb is 1/3 of the plant or 2 inches above the wood. Shape into a ball.
The same rule for pruning applies if you prune in the fall (before the first frost - late/Sept, early Oct).
Failure to prune at least once a year will result in your lavender becoming leggy. Below is a picture of a nicely shaped lavender plant.
Should you cover your lavender for winter? This is not an easy answer. If you cover your lavender, then you're protecting it against harsh winter winds. But if it is a warm winter then the covering encourages moisture which is not great for lavender. In Ontario, tests have suggested that in many instances covering lavender helps. If you choose to cover, it is recommended that you put on the cover by mid-October and then take away late March/early April (depends on Mother Nature though).
3. What are the best varieties of lavender to grow?
The regions where you live will affect what you can grow. Near Hamilton, Ontario, English lavenders (angustifolias) do quite well. French lavenders (intermedias) will do well but will be more sensitive to harsh winters. Spanish lavender (stoechas) are annuals only. It is easy to confuse what is called "French" lavender with what is grown in France! Both Angustifolias and Intermedias are grown in France.
The Angustifolias in Ontario will bloom in June and sometimes again in September. At maturity they are 1.5 feet high and wide.
Intermedias are 2.5 feet high and wide and bloom in July. Angustifolia varieties tend to range from white to pink to light purple to dark purple. Intermedias also come in a range of colours but it is generally more difficult to achieve a dark purple.
4. Should I fertilize my lavender?
The general rule is that fertilizer is not needed. When you initially put the lavender in the ground, a bit of fertilizer is good. After that you should not need it. Some folks, however, will use fertilizer once a year.
5. When is the best time to harvest my lavender?
If you are looking to enjoy the lavender for its flowers and bloom, then cut after it flowers and use as a fresh cut flower. If you want to use the lavender as buds (for sachets, cooking buds) or as dried stems, then you want to harvest the lavender after the buds are out but before it flowers.