What we wished we'd known before starting a lavender farm.
I can't tell you the number of people who say, "Oh! A lavender farm! That must be so cool!" or "I've always wanted a lavender farm!"
While is is a pretty neat endeavor...and one that smells remarkable better than most typical "farm" smells - it is far from easy. Here are some things we wish we'd known before we began.
1. Plant on a hill.
Drainage is SO important for the life of lavender plants. The more hilly, rocky, slightly acidic soil you have, the better. Our soil drains fairly well, and most of our land is flat as a pancake, but we've had to amend our soil much more than anticipated.
2. Know about disease and test your plants.
While lavender is hardy and known to be resistent to many diseases, there's one that is taking many plants by storm. It's called Phytophthora and it can ruin your entire field and devastate a business. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately, we fear we may have it in our newest plants. We're sending them to UK for testing tomorrow. Be sure you're following our blog for results!
3. Have a plan.
See Jane. Jane has a business plan. Be like Jane.
See Mary and Allison. They have no business plan. Don't be like Mary and Allison.
Although I'm kidding (kind of), we didn't really know where we wanted to take this business when we started. We would have placed our plants in shorter, wider rows, anticipated for on-the-farm traffic, done better at preventative weeding, and done more research before throwing plants in the ground if we had to do it over. (A side note: KCARD is a free service in Kentucky that can help you think through some of these things! Find out more about them here).
4. Research which varieties do best in your climate. Know how you plan to use the plant.
There are a TON of different lavender varieties, but not all grow well in every environment. The two main groups are English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, and lavandins Lavandula x intermedia. We started out with two varieties, Munstead, which is a English lavender and a culinary lavender, and Grosso (fat spike), a lavandin.
5. It's a labor of love.
We love our little endeavour, but quickly realized that it's no easy task! Everything we've done has been labor-intensive. The planting, weeding, harvesting, drying, debudding, and more, has to be done by hand. It's been fun to get our families involved in every step of the process (although I'm not certain they would agree), and we hope to see the operation expand in the future, but it's certainly not a "plant it and they will grow" operation! Lavender doesn't really like Kentucky soil or weather, so we sometimes feel as if we are fighting a loosing battle, but don't worry...we'll keep on fighting it! We love sharing our passion with other lavender lovers out there!
What about you? Have you had success with your lavender plants? We're still learning too, so we'd love to hear about your successes or lessons learned.
The Lavender Farm at Woodstock
Just a mother/daughter team working with our families to bring a different, unique lavender experience to South Central Kentucky. We love the land, we love our farming heritage and we love lavender!