Growing Lavender

Latest Update 25th July 2016.

Lavender
  • I grow lavender because its a beautiful plant with masses of fragrant purple flowers, and it attracts predatory insects keeping pests under control on the plant and helps control them in the nearby vegetable beds. 
  • Lavender prospers in Melbourne's hot dry summers, and It hums with busy insects when its sunny, especially the bees
  • Its one of the easiest of plants to propagate from cuttings, and I regularly renew them when they get too big and cumbersome.
  • The picture above taken in mid winter is one of my French Lavender plants.  It flowers all year round and grows more vigorously than my English Lavender
Details.
  • Variety:                                                  English and French.
  • Family Group:                                         Lamiaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                     Drip line irrigation.
  • Recommended Soil pH.                           6.5 - 7.5.
  • Minimum Sun per Day:                            3 hours.
  • Plant Spacings (centres):                        500mm (English).    800mm (French).
  • Climate:                                                  Warm Temperate. 
  • Geography:                                             Southern Hemisphere. 
Growing Conditions:
  • They prefer sandy soil but grow well in most soils. 
  • They grow well in hot dry conditions.
  • Lavenders need well drained soil and full sun.
  • If they are grown in shade they will grow out towards the sunlight. 
Soil Preparation. 
  • In Spring, clear a space for Lavender by removing old mulch, dead leaves and unwanted organic material.  Choose a place where it has not been grown for several years.
  • Apply a 60mm thick top dressing of home made compost. Cover with organic straw mulch.
Growing Instructions. 
  • Lavender is a perennial plant, and I propogate it from softwood cuttings.
  • Most people advise taking cuttings as new growth begins to appear in spring, but my propagator will grow new cuttings most times of the year, and I usually take cuttings in late autumn so I can plant them out in spring.
  • Choose your strongest most vigorous plant as a source of cuttings.
  • Take cuttings from new shoots about 100mm long in spring.  Cut the shoot just below a node and remove the lower leaves leaving one pair of full size leaves and the new shoot in place.  Plant the cuttings about 60mm deep in a propagator.
  • The propagator's microbial activity and constant soil moisture stimulates root growth, so I don't use rooting powder.
  • Once the plant starts to grow vigorously, relocate it in the prepared soil in your herb bed.
  • Water it in and apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks.
  • If left to its own devices a Lavender plant will become woody after a couple of years, however, to prevent this you should prune the plant regularly in spring before new growth starts and again in late summer after flowers dry out.  A well maintained lavender plant will last at least 5 years before it needs to be replaced.  See demo.
Harvesting and Storage.
  • I grow lavender for their attractive foliage and flowers as bedding plants in the garden.  I don't usually harvest the flowers, but they make beautiful fragrant cut flowers either in bloom or after they have gone to seed.
Organic Pest Control. 
  • Slugs and snails.
    • I grow my herbs in a drip irrigated raised bed, and run copper tape around it 100mm off the ground.
    • Copper tape is a very effective barrier as the slugs and snails get a small electric shock when they come into contact with it, and they retreat to less hostile surroundings.
    • Occasionally I get one or two juvenile snails in my raised beds.  I believe they get into the bed as eggs though the compost heap.  When this happens, I use a few iron chelate snail baits to round them up.  These bates are approved for use in organic gardens, but I only use the bare minimum to do the job. 
  • Greenhouse whitefly.  
    • Aerated compost tea improves the plants resistance to whitefly damage.
    • Control any infestations by spray your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil.
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
  • Aphids (greenfly).
    • Use the same methods described above for whitefly.
  • General.
    • Repeated foliar sprays of aerated compost tea should deter most airborne pests and diseases.
    • Proper soil preparation and regular applications of home made compost should control soil borne pests.