Large Lavender Farm in Missouri
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Paula Johnson
Posted on: January 18, 1999

I want to plant 300 acres of Lavender in oraround Bethany, Missouri, for the use in aromatherapy. I am not sure if the soil and climate is conducive to this crop. If so, what kind of Lavender would grow there? How long will it take to be ready for harvest. Do I plant seedlings or seeds. What time of the year does this happen? Can I start planting in March and if so, how do I prepare the soil.

That size of farm is very large for lavender and will be expensive to start. We question merit of starting off so large. You need to prove the viability of the operation you propose -- it is by no means assured that such a venture would be profitable, for several reasons.

One, it is not known whether any of the commercial lavenders will thrive in your area. A key issue will be the effects of humidity in your area. Lavender is susceptible to various fungus diseases which may be exacerbated by the humidity, particularly during the winter months. You need to conduct trials of a half or full acre to verify which variety does the best. The best varieties for yield and disease resistance and fragrance are Grosso and Provence lavanders, but both of these must be grown from cuttings and the cost of establishing the numbers you need will be high. Inevitably, you are going to consider propagating your own plants from a base that you will establish from bought plants. Richters offers plug trays of 120 plants, the cheapest way to get your base started.

The english lavenders can be grown from seeds, but seed grown plants are not as uniform as plants grown from seeds. Growers are looking for uniformity in height and flowering time in order to reduce the cost of harvesting. If you decide to experiment with english lavender seeds, you need to allow about 6-12 months to get transplants from seeds.

Lavenders need excellent drainage. Lavenders prefer a slightly alkaline gravelly or sandy soil. If you have a heavy or poor draining soil, consider adding sand and banking up the soil into beds 6-12 inches high.

With rows three feet apart and plants spaced on foot apart within the rows, you will need about 14,000 plants per acre. The planting can be done anytime in the spring before the heat of summer begins.

After planting out seedlings or plugs, it takes 2-3 years to get a harvest, and you get 2-5 more harvests after that, depending on how well you maintain the plants and keep them free of weeds and disease.

If you try the Grosso or Provence varieties, you need to make special arrangements with Richters to produce enough to plant an acre or more. Once you have your first acre you can propagate enough plants over a 3-5 year period to plant the remaining acreage.

If you are trying english lavender from seed, you need start seeds in flats now. Later when the seedlings are large enough to handle they are tranplanted to plug trays and grown until the root system fills the cells. There are about 1000 seeds per gram, the typical germination rate is about 50-60%; so, you will need 50-100 grams per acre.

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