Walking around the farm is such a delight. Here are some pictures from this week (June 19-24, 2017)
Walking around the farm is such a delight. Here are some pictures from this week (June 19-24, 2017)
We are still waiting for the purple to get here, but it’s coming!
The Farm and the shop are open daily for the 2017 season from 10 am to 4 pm. Bring your guests, family, self! Have a picnic, or just gaze out over the awesome views.
See you here!
In 2009 I went to a Lavender conference in Cambridge, UK and got a chance to visit the amazing Downderry Nursery owned by Simon Charlesworth. He has created the best greenhouse system I’ve seen for propagating and growing lavender. On a scant 2 acres of land they produce about 400 cultivars of lavender for sale. It was inspiring!
The greenhouses were engineered to be perfectly level so they could easily water the starts from below which helps with disease problems from watering above.
They had a special greenhouse just for rooting the cuttings that was held at an even 70º F and the cuttings rooted quite quickly under their care.
Coming home to our greenhouse with its lack of power and electricity, and the lack of means to build what we had seen, we thought about other ways to propagate our lavender. Back in 2002 I had visited a lavender grower in Nyons, France, who taught me that lavender can be propagated right in the ground. While there are problems doing that if you are going to be selling lavender plants commercially because the dirt in your ground isn’t sterile, it’s a great way to propagate for your own uses.
Making the beds for outdoor propagating can be somewhat formal as these framed ones are, or you can build rows in your fields. Whatever you do, you will have to be prepared to weed them during the rooting time.
The beds need to have level soil so there won’t be puddling when you water them.
Sometimes you have to hunt around in the plant to find the right branches for cuttings. You’ll want to have a good attachment to the main stem, as well as a good leaf structure to sustain the cutting until it roots.
When you take off the branch you will see a “heel” from where you gently tore it off the main stem. This is good. Roots grow more easily from that heel.
You can see the leaves that are on the bottom part of the cutting, remove them up about 3/4 of an inch because you don’t want the leaves to be in the soil.
After removing the bottom leaves, you’ll pinch off the top part so the bud that will try to flower won’t be there. You want that cutting to put its energy into building roots not making flowers.
After you have prepared the cutting put it into the Willow Water* you have prepared.
When you have gotten all the cuttings you want you take the bucket of them and stick the into the soil you have prepared. We make holes in the soil with an old chopstick and then stick the cuttings in and pat the dirt around them. You can stick them fairly close to one another – it won’t hurt them at all. We do them about 1/2″ or so apart in a row and the rows are about 1 1/2″ apart.
About 2 to 3 months later… dig up your plants. The roots will be intertwined, but if you take small clumps at a time, they will stay moist enough to keep the roots viable while you gently pull them apart and pot them up.
Growing lavender is an exercise in patience. It takes 3 years or more for a lavender plant to reach full size, and that is after you’ve got a cutting that has roots. You’ll be taking cuttings in the late spring or early summer (because the soil temperatures are high enough so it will work) and harvesting the rooted plants in the late summer. Then you’ll have to grow them out in pots. If you don’t have a heated greenhouse you’re looking at the next spring before those plants are ready. You have to love this to do it!
by Sarah Richards
*Willow Water! You can use rooting hormone if you want. But, if you are certified organic or trying to be, then you can’t use those hormones, so what to do? Use willow water – We take twigs from our willow trees and put them in water, they stay in that water for the whole cutting season because those twigs will make roots. During that time we will use the water they sit in and replace it with fresh water. You pour off the water in the willow’s bucket, and then put fresh water back in. Take the poured off water and use that for when you are taking cuttings that day. Discard after using it.
Farming involves so many tasks that you don’t normally associate with farming a crop. At our farm the trees that were planted in 2000 as a wind and visual block had grown to over 20′ tall and were shading the lavender field. They also created a barrier between the two lavender fields.
In an old-fashioned display of extreme neighborliness, our neighbors pitched in to take some of them down. We took down 9 trees, and while it’s sad to take them down, it’s also a farming issue – the lavenders need sun, and these trees have grown more successfully than we had expected. Now they will contribute to the soil through the chips we will create from the limbs, and they will give heat through our burning of the wood. And now, the view between the two lavender fields is more accessible.
Fire! Water! Earth! Air! The four elements from ancient times describe the necessities of life. This year, water was the element that came down from the sky in droves, drops, puddles, lakes, and sheets. It soaked the ground, saturated the fields, created lakes where there had been none, and caused bluffs to collapse into the sea. It flooded our fields. The earth could not contain the water, the air blew hard, but still wasn’t enough to evaporate the water. And in the end, after the waters receded fire is what came to clean up the lavenders that drowned.
Farming is full of risks as any farmer around the world will tell you. This year it was water. Neighbors were pumping out flooded basements and pranks were played by setting out plastic pink flamingos in one of the many lakes that were created in the saturated fields. Lavender, though, is a perennial crop. It stays planted in the ground for an average of 10 years, producing for at least 8 of those years. This year, many of our 4 year old lavender plants were drowned. The waters of the temporary lake (Lake Lavande) drowned the lavenders. Even so, in February and March one couldn’t tell they were dead. But, in April it was clear. The plants that are grey, rather than green don’t have leaves coming out, they are dead.
To keep the fields healthy we had to take out the dead plants as soon as we could get onto the field without getting the tractor stuck in mud. We dug out the plants with the bucket, shook off the dirt, and piled them up to transport them to their funeral pyre.
The green weeds you see above are horsetail. It is a deep rooted living fossil (because it has been on the earth for so long) and it loves the damper ground. It is extremely difficult to eradicate, so we will keep this part of the field brown all summer to weaken it. But, that won’t make it go away, that takes years of hard work (and chemicals if you are willing to use them, which we aren’t) and even then there is no guarantee it will be gone. Some people use it for medicinal purposes, but we haven’t pursued that option.
There is a possibility of disease, so the plants are being burned. One night, after work, we burned 300 of them in about an hour and a half. That only made a small dent in the big pile, so we’ll be having more bonfires when the weather permits. Lavender burns hot and fast, the fire would flare up with each plant we put on top of the coals. It was beautiful and hot.
The farm had something like 14,000 lavender plants, and we probably lost about 10% to 15% of them to the floods. We are still counting. But, that means we probably have between 85% and 90% of the lavenders that are in good shape even though there are still patches here and there that we are watching closely to see if they will green up. If not, we’ll have to pull them out and burn them, too.
Luckily, last year we had a bumper harvest, this year it will be leaner. Even so, we are looking forward to fields of purple in another couple of months, and that first day of harvest when we again get to breathe the fragrance that armloads of lavender bring.
You have grown your lavender, picked it, and dried it. Now what?
Making attractive lavender bundles is easy if you are just making one or two, but how about if you are making 20 or 200? This video shows how we make them at Lavender Wind Farm.
It was a fabulous season at the farm this year. We had a cracker jack crew harvesting and distilling.
Have fun watching these two very short videos from this summer’s work.
The first is the staff harvesting some Lavendula Angustifolia “Hidcote Pink”.
The second is the wonderful sight and sound of distillate coming out of the condenser.
Lavandula x-intermedia is a hybrid cross between Lav. Angustifolia and Lav. Latifolia. The Lavandula Angustifolias tend to have a high quality but low yielding oil, whereas the Lavandula Latifolias have a poor quality but high yielding oil. So there are quite a lot of hybrid crosses of various varieties of these two lavandulas and Provence is one such cross.
Provence is not typically found in that French province, rather, it is a cultivar that was hybridized in Canada. Nevertheless, it has found its way throughout North America, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
It has a sweeter, less camphorous scent compared to most of the other x-intermedia hybrids. The oil is also sweeter, but it does not have a larger yield than the angustifolias, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to other x-intermedias. Therefore, many growers don’t distill Provence, they tend to use it for both crafting and culinary applications.
Provence is susceptible to root rot due to overly wet conditions. The flowers dry well and the bud is easily taken off the stem. Too easily, in fact, and it is well known to be useless as a dried flower because the blossoms shatter off the stem once they are dried.
Purple Bouquet is AWESOME! It is the variety on the right. Next to it is Hidcote Pink, and to the left of that is Folgate. Purple Bouquet blooms a bit later than the other two so it isn’t quite in its full bloom in this picture.
The plant is not very large. This plant is in its 4th summer.
Purple Bouquet lives up to its name. It produces a longer stemmed flower than many other Angustifolias and it holds up well when dried. The fragrance is strong and pleasing.
We like this variety for making lovely dried bouquets. Because we have so much wind at our farm, our stem length tends to be a bit shorter than stem lengths on farms more protected or inland.
For Comparison here is an image taken June 30, 2015 of six varieties in our field. The Grosso and Provence weren’t yet in bloom in this image.