Get down and dirty in the garden
Q: Why are my herbs dying?
A: Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is a versatile herb used in cooking, used medicinally and used decoratively throughout the home. When I think about lavender, the romantic purple fields of Provence, France, and endless products come to mind. This dreamy herb is a warm-season perennial plant that is durable to frosts and mild freezes.
English lavender blooms in early summer. Compared to other types of lavender it is darker in color and taller with longer flowers. French lavender (Lavendula dentana) is a medium-sized plant that is gray in color and capable of blooming year round (depending on location). There are many types of lavender but English lavender and French lavender are the most common.
The native Mediterranean herb prospers in sunlight—we recommend anywhere between six to eight hours of warm sunlight. Create a growing space that offers the appropriate amount of light. You can plant lavender in the ground or in a pot for easy transportation during cold months.
Another important aspect is proper soil drainage; too much rain and humidity can lead to mildew or root-rot, which is a common reason why this otherwise resilient herb dies.
Lavender is a long-lasting herb that likes well-drained soil and can withstand minor drought conditions. If you are growing lavender in humid conditions, avoid dark mulches as they encourage fungus growth. The soil should be between neutral to slightly alkaline and have a pH of 6.5 to 8.2. Testing the quality of your soil is easy with a pH kit from your local gardening store. Although there are many types of lavender, most can handle Zone 5 growing conditions.
Photo by _setev/Courtesy Flickr
Tips for Keeping Your Lavender Alive:
• If you are going to take clippings of the herb, take them when the stems break easily. (This usually happens in June.) Clippings promote a healthy, bush-like growth.
• Make sure your plants have a good drainage system to reduce root-rot and fungus growth. To achieve this you might add sand or perlite to your soil, but keep in mind that too much will dry the plant out. If you live in a wet climate and want to add sand or perlite, add no more then 1/5 of the pot’s container, if growing in a pot.
• If planting in the ground, place lavender 2-3 feet apart; lavender can have an expansive root system and can be tall and bushy.
• Keep an eye out for weather conditions, such as overnight frosts, that could damage your plants; adapt water and fertilizer amounts accordingly.
• Find an appropriate watering balance for you climate and plant size—lavender needs lots of watering, especially in the first season of growth. You can start with 3 cups of water and adjust from there.
Do you have problems growing lavender? What herbs do you have a difficult time growing? Let’s chat about it; drop me a comment or email The Herb Companion magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.