Lavender Growing Series

Hello lavender fans!

In the last of the ‘Lavender Growing Series’, we shall describe the best conditions to plant your lavender in the ground, for all of you who have established pots of the plant and for those of you who are looking to buy in some lavender for your garden.

Lavender definitely grows at its best when planted in the ground. Once it is established in the right conditions, it can last for decades with minimal amounts of care. The oldest plants we have on the farm are 17 years old!

When to bed the Lavender?

Between April and May, just as the ground begins to warm up.

Which Lavender to plant where?

Here at Hitchin Lavender, we recommend that in your gardens you opt for a species of lavender called angustifolia. Lavender can be fairly notorious for growing to huge sizes, taking over much bigger areas in your gardens than anticipated, sometimes taking over whole beds. For borders, an angustifolia will remain contained, creating a satisfyingly organised row. If this is something that interests you then make sure you look out for ‘lavandula angustifolia’ on the label. There are about a hundred different varieties of angustifolia, lots of different colours to choose from, but they all share the characteristic of being an easy to care for plant.

The one issue with this species of plant, is that it can self-seed, meaning that it can grow other smaller plants around the rows, almost like weeds. So if you do go for this option, be aware of this.

If you do have a larger area that you want filling with lavender, then the other species we would recommend is lavandin or intermedia. This grows a lot longer in the stem, sometimes growing to 3 feet in length and is ideal for filling a big beds. Again, if this is something that you are looking for, look for ‘lavandula x intermedia’ on the label.

What are the best conditions?

Lavender grows best in a chalk based soil. If you live in a clay rich area, then you need to add grit or sand to the soil to allow the water to permeate through. A lavender will not grow best if it is sitting in water, in fact it really needs an arid climate – think of the rows in Provance – so make sure not to plant too near to flowers requiring a lot of water! Lavender also grows at its best on a south facing slope, anything that encourage quick surface run off during rain fall, though this isn’t a necessity.

How to plant the lavender.

Once the optimal spot in your garden has been chosen and an area has been cleared, you are ready to plant your lavender!

It is a very straightforward process. Dig hole big enough for lavender, put lavender plant in said hole, cover up with soil, jobs a good’en.

Once it is in the ground, make sure that it is well watered for the first 7-10 days or so, to give it the best chance to really establish itself in the ground. After that it will not need any watering at all! If you wanted rows of lavender, make sure to plant them with a foot in between them.

 

Lavender Care Series: Pest Control

Pest Control

Hello lavender fans.

In the second of our lavender care series, we will be telling you about the two creepy crawlies that we have on our field, that you should be looking out for.  They have a real taste for lavender, so here are some tips for what to do if you spot them.

Frog Hoppers (Spittlebug Nymphs)

Period: July – September

These are sweet looking chaps and don’t necessarily do too much damage to the lavender plants, but they are a pest that do feed on the stems of lavender.

The above picture is actually what’s known as a Spittlebug Nymph, the younger version of a frog hopper and like to live on lavender as well as rosemary bushes. They create cuckoo spit to live in, that keeps them protected from predators, insulated from cold snaps and allows them moisture control, so that they do not dry out.

During this stage in the bug’s progression, they pierce the stem and consume the sap, which undermines the structural integrity of the flower, causing them to warp. This causes some damage, but does not necessarily kill the lavender off. The visible effects is that the stem becomes warped, sort of sickle shaped.

At Hitchin Lavender, we don’t take any precautions to prevent them from living on our lavender, because they don’t do irrevocable damage and because of the sheer quantity of bugs we get during their peak season. In your gardens, you can deal with them by hosing the cuckoo spit off your lavender plants. Though this won’t kill the nymph immediately, destroying the spittle it lives in will mean that eventually it will dry out.

Rosemary Beetles

Period: May – October

Again, these little beasties are nice to look at, with the oil slick striped patterning, but these can be much more of a menace to your lavender bush than the frog hopper. They are about the same size as a ladybird and like to live in various aromatic plants, such as rosemary, thyme as well as lavender. Where they differ from the froghopper, is that they eat all of the foliage, rather than just the sap, which, if left unattended can kill off the plant.

Again, because of the large quantity of lavender that we have here, it is pretty difficult to police our fields, and we don’t use any insecticides. The best way to get rid of them in your gardens is to pick them off one by one and dispose of them that way.

If you come down to our farm and see any of these beetles, we would very much appreciate if you could give them a squish for us! (You don’t have to obviously!)

Lavender Growing Series: Potting Up

Potting Up

Hello lavender fans!

This is the second in a series of posts detailing how to grow your own lavender.

In this post we shall be looking at how to pot up your lavender. This is for those of you who either want to move their rooted plugs into pots, or just to simply transpose those smaller plants that are starting to get too big into larger pots. You can find the post on how to propagate plants here. We will describe those respective processes individually, as they are ever so slightly different.  Doing this will allow your lavenders to flourish and help them become more established plants.

Potting up plugs

When

Mid Spring: early April – mid May

Equipment 

For this you will need:

  • healthy, rooted plants
  • bucket of water, big enough to fit multiple plants in
  • multipurpose compost
  • 8cm pots

(Optional)

  • Plant food

Process

Begin by ensuring that the plug is established enough in its initial container. First of all look to see if the plant looks green and healthy, if so try to gently pull the plant out of the soil. If the soil comes with the plant, then it is fit enough to transpose. If just the lavender comes out on its own, roots and all, then it is not.

                Next, you need to ensure that the plug is saturated in water. At Hitchin Lavender we float the plugs in a large bucket of water, whilst in their polystyrene planters and leave them to soak for a good 20 – 30 minutes.

                Whilst the plants are soaking, you can prepare the pots that they shall be planted in. At this point, if applicable, mix the plant food into the compost in a large container. Take your compost and fill the pots. Once completed make a hole for the lavender plug to drop into.

Top tip: to create these hole efficiently, get a hose, put it onto the single stream setting and give a short sharp blast into the centre of the pot, creating a deep hole for the plug.

                Once the pots have been prepared and the lavenders soaked, gently break up the soil between your fingers – not totally destroying the clod of soil, but loosening the it all up – and place into the hole. Keep the plants in a humid place and make sure they are constantly watered, especially when it begins to get warm.

Potting up Plants

As previously mentioned, this is a very similar process to the plugs, with some key differences. This process is for plants that are starting to outgrow the pots they are in and need putting into a bigger one so that they can begin to grow.

Equipment

You will need:

  • Healthy looking plants
  • Large bucket
  • Multipurpose soil
  • Larger pots – this is at the discretion of the gardener, as the size of pot depends on the size that the lavender has become

(Optional)

  • Plant food

Process

Like the aforementioned process, make sure that the plant is established enough in its current pot. Do this by gently pulling the plant out, to see whether the soil comes with it as well. If it comes out with the soil attached, then it is established, if not, then it is not healthy enough to transpose. Once pulled out of its pot, place the plant – soil and all – into the bucket of water to saturate the lavender.

                Whilst the lavender soaks, prepare the pots. As mentioned before, the size of pot that you transpose it to really depends on the vitality and size of the lavender. If the lavender is established, looks healthy, but its stems are a little short – 5 inches – then we would tend to put it into a 1.5 litre pot. If the stems are longer – above 5 – then we would put it into a 2 litre pot. The plant needs to room to grow into, but too much and it may suffer.

                Once you have worked out the sizings, begin to prepare the pots. Add the plant food to the compost at this point, then add the compost into the pots. When they have been thoroughly soaked, start to break the soil up, readying them to be planted. Because they are more established than the plugs, you can afford to open up the soil a lot more without damaging the plant.

Top tip: The more you loosen the soil, the greater chance the plant will establish itself in the larger pot.

                Next transpose the plants into the new pots. Add compost around the edges of the plants and then cover up any roots or old soil. Make sure to keep watered and keep humid, ideally in a greenhouse.

Lavender Care Series: Pruning

Pruning

Hello lavender fans!

This is the first in a series of posts detailing how to care for your lavender.

In this post we shall be discussing how to prune your lavender once it has been finished flowering and when to do it.

Equipment

  • Secateurs

Process

The most important thing to remember when pruning lavender is to never cut back into the old wood when pruning. By doing this, you run the risk of not allowing for new growth the next season, therefore killing of the plant entirely. It is tempting, especially with lavender, to take this step as older lavender does tend to go quite woody, which can be unsightly. Only ever cut into the old wood if you are prepared to plant in new lavender.

To keep the plant healthy, cut off the green stem at least a couple of inches above the old wood. This will allow for new growth for the next flowering season.

When to prune your lavender is a lot more flexible than where on the stem to prune it; it really depends what you want to with the stems that you cut off. If you want the stems for bunches, or flower arrangements or just for its scent, then prune the lavender just as it starts to go purple, but before it starts to flower. The scent of the lavender is in its oil, and it is at its most potent during this period.

                We recommend pruning the lavender just as it starts to turn, giving the flower optimum chance for regrowth in the next flowering season, furthermore the stems themselves will still have a scent in them to freshen up your homes.

                However, we do understand that sometimes this does get overlooked and the pruning process gets neglected. Lavender is a very hardy plant, once it is an established plant – either when bedded or in a larger pot – it can survive winters without any of the pruning process taking place. You can get away with pruning over the next spring, picking off the deadheads to allow for new growth. Obviously, this method can prove a little risky, as it increases the likelihood that the lavender may die off.

Lavender Growing Series: Propagating

Prop

Hello lavender fans!

This is the first in a series of posts detailing how to grow your own lavender.

We are going go from the ground up, so to speak; this week we shall be talking about how to propagate lavender. This is for all of you who have a particular plant that you want to introduce to a different area of the garden, or to transpose into a pot.

When

Mid Spring: early April – mid May

Equipment

For those of you not familiar with the term propagation, it is simply the growing of plants from cuttings. For this, you will need:

  • established healthy lavender plant
  • pair of secateurs
  • fine, ‘seed and cuttings’ compost
  • 4cm planter

(optional)

  • rooting powder

Process

First of all you need to identify a healthy looking lavender plant, basically any plant that would survive you taking a few stems from it. Then, with a clean pair of secateurs, take your cuttings or plugs. Only go for green, healthy stems, do not go for any lavender that is not dead headed; it should have no flower on it. They should be around 4-6 inches long.

Once you have got all the desired cuttings, put them in an airtight container to retain all the moisture whilst you prepare the planters. Spread the compost into each planter, pressing it down to ensure that the plugs will be able to stand upright once planted.

Take your plugs and from the base of the stem to a couple of inches up, strip away any woodiness to expose the green underneath, then cut the base of the stem at a 45 degree angle. At this point you would dip the plugs into rooting powder, to encourage growth.

These plugs prefer humid, but not wet, conditions, so keep them in a greenhouse out of sunlight. To check whether they are beginning to root, pull on them very gently. If there is any resistance, then they have begun to root, if they start to come straight out of the compost, then they are not ready.

Once they have rooted, you can then pot them up into larger pots.

 

Who We Are

Who We Are

Welcome to the first of our Hitchin Lavender blog posts!

Through these posts, we shall be updating you on the farm – how the field is looking, what you can do with the bunches you have picked, how we are caring for our lavender in and out of season – as well as giving you useful information on how to care for your lavenders at home.

Having brought the Victorian pharmacy Perks & Llewellyn back to life we would like to share with you what we found out about our own local history. We shall be periodically posting about the people and the places that made up the grand tradition of lavender farming to keep these memories very much alive.

But, as this is the first post, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves, who we are and what we do.

Hitchin Lavender is a 25 acre, family owned, pick your own lavender and sunflower farm situated on Cadwell Farm in Ickleford – North Hertfordshire. The farm, which has been operating since 17th Century, has been in the Hunter family for over a hundred years, but the rows of lavender were not planted until 2000.

When Alec Hunter put those first purple plants in the chalky earth 17 years ago, no one anticipated what would happen next.

Although originally intended to only be an agricultural business to sell oil at local farmers markets, after shots of our fields had been included in local and national publications, it soon became apparent that people were dying to come and spend some time amongst the lavender.

Since 2009, tens of thousands of tourists have flocked to us from all over the globe to come and enjoy the purple.  The café and shop, situated in a 400 hundred year old barn, has developed from a small operation, selling a few products – we literally used to be just a tea urn and a table! – to a bustling outfit selling hundreds of lines of lavender related cosmetics and souvenirs, as well as a range of delicious homemade comfort food.

From then until now, it has been the mission of Tim and Maria Noel Hunter to not only strive to improve this business and the experience of customers, but inspire community in the area. Through fundraisers for local charities, giving talks to primary schools, brownie and beaver troupes, as well as endeavouring to use British independent suppliers, Hitchin Lavender has always been a place for everyone to share in our successes.

If you have never been before and would like to make a trip, for more information, find us at www.hitchinlavender.com, like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/hitchinlavender) or Twitter (our handle is @HitchinLavender).

Also please subscribe to the blog, we shall be updating every week on everything lavender!

If you have any further questions, check out our FAQs tab on our website. If that doesn’t help then do not hesitate to contact us.

We hope to see you in the future!

Will

Hitchin Lavender