Grow Your Own Lavender

Category Garden Published 9th March 2017

Grow Your Own Lavender

Create beautiful aromas and stunning visual displays with our easy-to-grow lavender.

About Lavender

A mark of a true English cottage garden which can add a posh touch to any bed or terrace.

Growing up to 80cm tall, their silver leaves come stuffed with a heady scent and the purple flowers will look gorgeous in summer. But they're useful, too, whether decorating or perfuming inside a house, or attracting bees and insects that'll pollinate your whole garden.

Perfect for beginners, it's an easy and low-maintenance way to improve the look of your garden.

Lavender (Latin name Lavandula) thrives in a sunny border, container, herb or gravel gardens, especially in summer, facing between South to West. However, it looks good all year round.

Once it's got a foothold, lavender will remain throughout droughts and even does well by the coast or in gravel gardens.

Location

Try planting it around beds, borders or paths, to divide up parts of your garden.

To make an eye-catching display, space plants 30cm apart in a focus area.

Choose a, bright well-lit place in your garden. Lavender is a Mediterranean herb, so it likes being in hot, sunny locations. Choose a spot in your garden where the plant will receive as much sun as possible for at least eight hours a day. The spot should also be as sheltered as possible, to protect the plant from winter winds, as it doesn't like the cold either.

You can planting the lavender next to wall or other large object, as it'll provide extra heat and shelter.

Don't plant lavender under trees or any other larger plant.

Pruning

Lavender plants will need to be pruned every year to prevent them becoming too sparse and woody.

Clip the branches after the flowers have faded or been picked: cut back by a few inches, but not so far that the stems are bare of live foliage/leaves.

Pruning in late summer, rather than Autumn will mean the lavender produces new shoots that will make the bushes look tidier throughout Winter.

Prune again in early spring, removing about 2.5cm, or to about half an inch above hard wood before the new growth begins.

Use pruning shears or hedge trimmers to achieve your preferred look.

Dead head throughout the summer as this will encourage a long flowering season.

It is important to leave some of the current growth on each stem as Lavender tends to be slow to regrow from old wood.

Neglected, overly woody plants are best replaced with new ones completely as they struggle for new growth once they get too set in their ways.

Soil

Make sure your soil has enough drainage. Being from the med, Lavender hates the damp and wet: it rots quickly and doesn't thrive as well in wet conditions.

Your most important factor should be drainage: light, fluffy and very well-aerated. Mix in a little builder's sand before planting.

Lavender grows best in slightly alkaline conditions, with an ideal soil pH level of between 6.7 to 7.3. If necessary, you can increase the alkalinity of your soil by adding a little lime. You should add about 50g of lime for every cubic foot of soil.

Prepare the soil by adding a couple of handfuls of stones, well composted manure and fertiliser into the hole. Mix well. Cover this mix with a light layer of soil.

It might seem counter-intuitive but poorer the soil the better.

Planting

Dig a hole just big enough for the roots using a trowel. Lavender actually grows best in slightly cramped conditions. If you're planting the lavender in a pot or container, choose one that's just large enough to contain the roots, with an inch to spare on each side.

First, water the lavender plant in the pot you bought it in, at least an hour before planting. This will ensure that the roots are hydrated, but not damp, before going into the soil.

Lightly prune your lavender before planting. This will ensure good air circulation and stop the centre becoming too woody.

Then gently shake the plant to remove any excess soil from the roots and plant with bare roots to ensure quick adaptation to the environment.

If you're planting more than one lavender plant, leave about 35 inches (90 cm) between each plant. This will guarantee good air circulation and allow the lavender space to grow.

Lavender is best planted between April and May as the soil is warming up.

Fertilising

Lavender is fairly low maintenance and will only need fertiliser once a year. Use a light top dressing of mixed compost and fertiliser, sometime in early spring.

Watering

Water sparingly. As mentioned before, dampness is the enemy of lavender and if the roots of the plant become excessively damp, it will kill the plant quicker than any drought or freezing temperatures. In fact, over-watering new lavender plants in spring is the main cause of growth failure. To achieve the proper level of watering, make sure that the soil becomes completely dry between each watering. However the plant itself should not be allowed to become dehydrated.

Once planted in the ground, you should water your lavender plant for the first couple of weeks until it is established. After then, there should be no need to water your lavender as they are very drought tolerant.

If you have a lavender in a pot then you will need to water them frequently during the summer months. During winter, the lavender plant will need very little water. Wait until the compost is very dry and then water directly onto the compost, do not water over the leaves.

Problems

You can prevent weeds from growing around the base of your lavender plant by covering the soil with a thin layer of mulch, such as coarse sand, gravel or oyster shells. Mulch will also help to protect the plant's roots from winter frosts.

Lavender is easy to grow but does suffer from root rot when grown in wet conditions. This can often be avoided by improving the soil prior to planting.

One of the major pests of Lavender is the Rosemary Beetle. This is shiny metallic looking beetle is quite striking in its appearance, but will quickly decimate the foliage of the plant. Most of the damage occurs between late summer and spring, leaving the plants looking threadbare. Rosemary Beetle is best controlled by removing the beetles and grubs by hand. Pesticides can be effective, but these should be avoided if you intend to use the lavender for making edible products. Avoid spraying when the plants are in flower as this will kill beneficial pollinating insects too.

Lavender usually needs to be replaced every few years but they can be replaced relatively cheaply or propagated from semi-ripe shoot tip cuttings three or four inches long in midsummer. Root them in sandy compost in a small propagator.

Harvest

The best time to harvest your lavender is when the bottom flowers of each stem are just beginning to open. This is when the lavender is at its most vibrant and fragrant. Cut the flowers at the base of the stems, near the foliage. To dry the lavender, bundle about a hundred of the flowers together, tie with a rubber band and hang indoors in a warm, dark and dry location, suspended upside down from a nail, for about 10 to 14 days.

If you want to decorate your house with lavender, place the flowers in a vase, but do not put the roots in water. This just causes the flowers to fall off faster and makes the stems mushy.

In the kitchen, Lavender makes an interesting flavouring for cakes and other recipes. You can even make delicious lavender sugar for adding to biscuits, sorbets, jams or jellies. Add Lavender flowers to vegetable stock and create a tasty sauce for duck, chicken or lamb dishes. If you are a keen Bee keeper then lavender is well worth growing for making lavender honey.

Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties and can be used to make home-made soaps and bath oils that will help you unwind for a good night’s sleep.

If you've grown some amazing lavender why not let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages?

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