Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lavender Plant 2012

On the weekend of June 15th, 16th and 17th, Dad and Andrew helped me plant 34 new lavender plants. Most of these are tiny plants grown by my friend M. The lavender ladies were grown from cuttings and the Hungarian lavenders were grown from seed. M can grow just about anything and this saved me a ton of money. Other lavenders planted were two varieties I bought from a nursery in Asheville, Lodden Blue (which I've wanted for ages) and Ellegance purple. Ellegance is a newer variety that I saw the "Ellegance Skye" variant at Lowe's and Home Depot this spring. I also have a single Lavance that M bought at a plant sale and a couple of Vinceza Blues. Every year I do things a little differently based on what I learned the previous year or what I have read. This year got even more technical with equipment. Below is the lavender plant step by step, as well as I could photograph it while we worked on the project. Marking and Measuring Mom took this picture of Dad and I measuring out the spacing for the holes and marking them with spray paint. The chickens came over to help.
Holes in the Heat Hardened Ground Because the ground is super, super hard because of the lack of rain, digging holes was a daunting proposition. Add that I wanted to make bigger holes this year and that only meant one auger! Dad is using this auger we rented from a local plumbing/septic professional with his skid loader.
Why bigger holes? I read in the newest lavender book out there (The Lavender Lover's Handbook) that when growing lavender in clay soil, mixing the soil with mushroom compost is an immense boost for the plants. Mushroom compost, as well as I understand it, is compost that mushrooms have been grown in, then steamed (to kill off any remaining spores) once the mushrooms are harvested. So the compost can still act as a fertilizer but has a much lower nitrogen content. Lavender does not like a lot of nitrogen so this is a good fertilizer for it, but when mixed with clay soil, the mushroom compost actually breaks up the clay, which helps the lavender roots breath and not get trapped in a lot of moisture. When we planted the lavender, Dad brought over a cement mixer that we plugged in with an extension cord to mix the mushroom compost and the clay soil dug up from the auger. A great side benefit to using the auger, is that it ground up the dirt into very loose grainy pieces, perfect for these holes! The Lavender Lover's Handbook also recommended digging a hole 12 inches in diametere as that is the reach most full grown lavender plant roots will spread. The auger made this easy work. I'll be anxious to see if I notice a different in theseplants perfomrance over the years. Getting the Gravel On the 15th after the holes were dug, Dad and I went into Urbana and got almost 5 tons of limestone #8, a small fine grade gravel. As mentioned before, gravel helps keep moisture from collecting at the base of the plant and reflects heat and light into the plant to keep it dry.
Laying the Fabric I almost bought black plastic this year, the ultimate barrier for weeds, but read in Fine Gardening that black plastic kills beneficial organisms in the dirt so I went with fabric again and this was the most challenging part this year because the ground was so hard I was throwing away just as many bent anchor pins as I was getting in the ground. It was super hot that day and this is as far as I got before going into the house in frustration.
HOles Graveled Later that evening I rethought my process. Dad and Andrew were going to help me plant and then we were going to gravel but after the toiling earlier in the day, and realizing that 42 open holes was pretty much a death trap. So we graveled what I had down, then Dad and I held down fabric while Andrew weighed it down with gravel then it could be covered. I used scissor to cut X's over the holes do we could see them and also to minimize that gaps in the fabric once the plants were planted.
Below is a Hungarian lavender plant grown from a seed by my gardening genius friend M. Notice how it seems to be elevated a little bit. that is my attempt to plant it on a mound, as the dirt will settle over the coming weeks.
Below is a row of the Hungarians, 8 more holes covered with roof shingles are waiting for the smaller plants to be ready to go in.
Once the plants were in the dirt, I cut out circles from the landscape fabric, folded them over into a half circle, and cut a quarter sized hole in the fabric (thinking makind snowflakes out of construction paper) to slip over the plant to keep the weeds down. I called it "bibbing" them and it is a term I completely made up. I hope you like it.
Below is one of the Lodden Blues I bought on vacation, thriving. You can see it is graveled all around. I'll be watering the plants lightly through this heat wave and they should triple in size, maybe even quadruple by the end of July. The tiny Hungarians and Lavender Ladies will especially have to grow exponentially to survive winter...we'll see.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, it is a lot of steps I know and the gravel will never look this prisitine again. I have another great post lined up showing a more complete picture of the first round of harvesting and I have some other news about Black Lab Lavender making an experimental retail debut so stay tuned and thanks for following. Jules

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

From the Harvest

Well I've been cutting lavender every couple nights. The Hidcote Giants are the last to bloom and I'll be cutting them off later this week. ALso, it looks like this year's lavender plant will be this weekend. I'll be planting 24 plants. Because it has been so dry and because I am trying something different this year, I am renting an auger to make the holes, but more on that when I do that post. Here is how the Lavender is shaping up this year. Grossos in the back, planted two years ago. Cynthia Johnsons in the front, planted last year. Molly and a Grosso bundle. Molly checks out the early harvest tried, Munstead, Hidcote, Niagara, Croxton's and Tucker's Early Purple. Here are those Marge Clark's planted last year. From scrawny to showy! They also dry a very pretty blue.

Bees and Blooms

Most of these are from the ornamental (read not very fragrant)lavenders I have in the herb garden. I let them go completely for the bees. I have about 30 plants in the back that I did let go for the bees, the mystery variety, the croxton's and a couple munsteads and hidcotes. I could take pictures of bees all day. They move fast, staying on a bloom for just a few seconds. These were done with my macro lens. Note the orange on this bees leg. This part of the leg is considered the "pollen basket" The next two pictures aren't about the bee but the bloom. I just really liked the detail. The butterflies are even harder to catch as I think they are pretty flighty (pardon the pun) I think I kept casting a shadow or something and they thought I was a bird. Maybe later I can get more...