About Lavender Living

Introduction

Lavenders have everything for the modern garden as an amenity plant. They are
evergreen, fast-growing, compact and fragrant. The origins of its name are
probably from the Latin word Lavare indicating the plant has another use as it
means to be washed and suggests it was regularly used to perfume bathing water.
There are numerous references to other qualities of lavender in Roman times – such
as a cure for mild epilepsy and as a laxative. The production of lavender for
aromatherapy, perfumery and alternative medical purposes is now well developed
in countries where various species of lavender are found naturally i.e. from the
The Mediterranean to the Middle East, India, North Africa and Asia.

Climatic Factors

Lavender production requires dry roots and shoots, free draining soils and
reasonable light levels. Low fertility sandy soils are ideal with a Ph range of 6.0 to
7.0. When selecting suitable sites frost pockets should be avoided.

The Market

The market for lavender in Ireland is unknown. There is no Irish market or market
infrastructure requiring producers to develop their own products and outlets. It is
possible to develop markets for specific products, which can only be carried out by
small scale testing and market research.
There are two species of Lavender i.e. French L. Dentata and English L.
Angustifolia grown by the nursery industry for the amenity market. Both are
difficult to grow because of their dislike for overhead watering. Some good
cultivators of both species are always in demand, particularly for the garden center
market.

Propagation and Production

Specialist propagators usually carry out propagation as it involves taking cuttings from growing stock under protection in February. Anti-condensation polythene is used during propagation. After the cuttings have rooted they are potted into 9cm pots and approximately 4 to 5 months later the plants are potted on into 2
litre pots. This is the size used for planting into the open ground. Ideally planting into the open ground should take place in the spring with rows 1.2m apart and 0.4m between plants resulting in approximately 16,000 plants per hectare. As the plants have a low fertility requirement a light dressing of a compound fertiliser such as 10 – 10 – 20 should be cultivated into the soil before planting to promote early growth. Weed control is
extremely important. Ideally, the plants should be planted through a fabric barrier such as a Mypex strip approximately 0.4 metres wide. Inter-row cultivation can then be carried out mechanically.
Lavender plants that are harvested each year will keep going for longer than ten years.
A range on the lifetime of the crop is possibly 15 – 20 years. Under wetter conditions, its lifespan may be reduced.

Pest and Diseases

Few pests attack lavender with the exception of Aphids on the flowering stems. The main diseases are Phoma and Botrytis as well as bacterial soft rot. These diseases are mainly associated with bad soils and humid damp climates.

Suitable Cultivars

1. Lavandula Angustifolia
Traditionally known as English lavender and is the hardiest of all species flowering in June and July. The species produces the best quality oils but in lower yields than some of the hybrids. Munstead is one of the good cultivars used.
2. Lavandula X Intermedia
This hybrid (Angustifolia x Latifolia) is most widely grown for commercial oil production. Plants can grow up to 130 cm in height. The main cultivar used is ‘Grosso’. The flower spikes are longer than Angustifolia with the flowering taking place in July and August.

Management

In the first 2 to 3 years plants require light trimming with shears or hedge trimmer. Avoid trimming after September, as newly created wounds may not recover as growth ceases. Trimming and shaping plants in the early years is extremely important for the life of the plant.

Establishment Costs and Profit Margins

The establishment costs are high but the crop requires limited amounts of artificial nutrients which is a plus.
Different varieties of lavender are grown to provide both high-quality lavender oil and essential oils can be extracted on site with distilling equipment. Lavender can be sold dried or as bunches. Once established, growing costs are not very high but harvesting could be, especially if done by hand. The other key is having the right steam distillation equipment on hand to extract the oil immediately after harvesting. Each potential
producer should research and source a market before production.

 

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