Growing Lavender in your Home Garden
How to plant and culitivate lavender
Lavender is easy to grow and it is good for your garden since it attracts bees that will pollinate the rest of your plants and vegetables. Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean region and needs dry, sunny soil. It will actually adapt to just about any kind of soil and is somewhat shade tolerant. Make sure your plants do not stay wet all the time as they like to dry out before watering. It is drought resistant. If you live in a humid environment make sure to place your plants far enough apart to get good air circulation between them. They especially do well when placed next to a concrete or brick wall that will radiate heat.
It is best to purchase lavender plants from a nursery to get started. Starting plants from seed will take forever and seeds are often not viable. Take the plant from the nursery pot and spread its roots before placing in the hole. Lavender roots are often much larger underground than the plant is above the ground. You can put a little bone meal and chicken fertilizer in the hole before planting. Make sure you water your newly planted lavender well after planting and then everyday it may need a little water until the roots take hold.
The best varieties of lavender that will tolerate a new gardener are Hidcote and Munstead. These varieties do well where winters get very cold and snowy. Lavender is a perennial and will come back year after year. Make sure to mulch it over in the winter and it will come back a little bigger every year. I had one plant that I started in 1989 and by 2000 it had grown into a huge woody bush about 3 feet in diameter. It was probably coming to the end of its productivity by that time.
You can prune larger lavender bushes in spring to keep them compact and nice looking. If you live in a cold prone winter area there will be some branches that die back and those should be removed in the spring. But, wait until green starts to shoot out from the branches to make sure they are really dead.
Lavender can be grown easily in containers and it can be brought indoors in the winter. Make sure it has enough light or it will not survive.
Harvest lavender when flowers have formed but are not totally open. Just cut off near the main stem of the plant so you have a long stem below the flower buds. Place in clumps and tie with rubber bands and hang to dry in a dark dry area.
I will discuss the uses of lavender in future hubs.