Lavender Test Plot?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Steven Ashley
Posted on: May 21, 2002

Sorry for the long delay in replying to your query. This month, May, being our busiest season we have fallen a bit behind in our correspondence.

Lavender Test Plot

How many varieties do you recommend to get a good sampling? How many plants do you recommend of each variety? Plugs or 3" to 4" inch potted plants or some of each? Is it too late this year?

Some varieties are not suitable for all purposes. For dried flower, potpourri, essential oil purposes, you are best to stick with the lavandins (’Grosso’ and ‘Provence’) and the english varieties (Lavandula angustifolia and varieties thereof).

To get a good representation of how each variety will perform for you, you need at least a dozen plants of each. You could work with fewer but there are variations within each variety which is hard to capture with fewer than 12 plants. If this were a scientific study, I would like to see a larger sample size, at least 100 plants each, in separate replicated plots -- because subtle variations in growing conditions such as soil and light and water can make a big difference in performance. You don’t want to conclude that variety A is better than variety B ifthe former was in a location that was slightly more favourable. I have seen surpising differences in performances in replicated plots of a single variety -- differences due solely to slight changes in soil elevation (for example).

Your budget will determine how big your trial will be, but from what I know of the lavenders, I believe anything less than a dozen plants per variety would be practically meaningless as a comparison.

Some varieties may not be available the plug format because we are sold out at this late stage. Others may not be available in plug form because we don’t offer plugs. You can contact our commercial department (commercial@richters.com; 905-640-6677 x 211) for the latest availability for plugs.

Whether you plant potted herbs or plugs, you need to allow two season for a proper evaluation. Most lavenders will not reach full blooming size in the first season.

Additional information

We have a wheat and cattle operation in north central Oregon. The elevation is about 2500 ft. Rainfall is about 12 inches per year. A limited amount of water would be available to supplement if necessary. We get snow but it is unusual that it stays on the ground for an extended period of time but it is a Zone 6 location. Our soils run from Condon Loam to gravely and or sandy (sage brush grows very well...). We are investigating whether it makes sense to plant lavender on parts of the ranch that are not being utilized for wheat or cattle.

Sounds like lavender could do very well for you. Lavender typically thrives in well drained soils such as yours. You may need some irrigation at times.

Still an Opportunity?

If done right (big if I know) in your opinion is there an opportunity for a profitable operation?

Lavender farms that include retail sales and farm-based events for nearby city dwellers can be very successful. We have heard of several such operations in the United States that are doing very well. If you are thinking of oil distillation or dried markets only, you will have a harder go at it because the worldwide competition is more intense for transportable commodities. But for a farm-based tourism operation, with ancilliary sales of lavender products, your have significant advantages that you can parlay to your benefit. It is a good idea to consider organic certification because there is a relative shortage or quality organic lavender right now.

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