Sunday, 24 June 2012

Our little lavender farm

Mia has always dreamed of moving to a farm.  When she saw pictures in a magazine of a lavender farm in Provence, France she fell in love with the idea.  She pictured living in an old stone house with a barn, climbing roses and fields of lavender. Something like this.
I had worked on farms in my youth and have a less romantic view of country life, but I thought I would see what I could do to at least capture the spirit of her dream.

The south side of the house, adjacent to the neighbour’s driveway, needed some improvements. We were considering different options for this section and wanted something to go with the roses we had just put up on trellises. 

Mia had read that lavender goes well with roses and I jumped all over the idea.  I looked up how to grow lavender on the web and contacted a grower in Dundas, Ontario.  Kevin, of Weir’s Lane Lavender was really helpful in answering my questions about which variety to purchase and how to plant them.  Kevin recommended going with an English variety of lavender called Hidcote.  It is hardy, has rich purple flowers and does not get too big. 
Hidcote Lavender
To pick up the lavenders, I met Kevin on one of his trips to Toronto at the Fire Hall in the Beach. It felt a bit like a drug deal.  He was standing on the corner with a tray of 10 plants beside some bushes waiting for me. 

Kevin from Weir's Lane Lavender Farm waiting for Misha

The plants were in amazing condition and I was really glad I did not buy the 2 for 1 plants from Sheridan Nurseries.  We plan on visiting his farm on July 14 as part of a 3 farm tour – check out his web site for details.

How we did it:
Lavender likes full sun and sandy well drained soil with little organic material.  It actually does poorly in rich wet soil.  The south facing side of the house is the ideal location to maximize sunlight.  The soil in the area we wanted to plant contains a lot of clay so I decided to amend it for the lavender by adding sand and gravel to improve drainage.

I started by removing the top 1 foot of soil from the planting area and laying it to the side. I then turned the second foot of soil and left it in place.  Next I spread 1 bag of gravel and one bag of sand over this layer. I then replaced the soil I had laid to the side. 

I spread two bags of cement gravel and two bags of sand over the surface then dug it in by turning the soil in the bed.

Mia pitched in to help with the planting.  We measured to ensure the plants were 2 feet apart and one foot away from the driveway edge of the bed. 

We used our last bag of sand and gravel to mulch the plants.  The finished look is great.

Kevin was also impressed by our planting and asked us to send him pictures when they flower in September.  Next year our lavender farm should be blooming from June to September.   A little bit of Provence in Toronto.  Pass the Gratin D’aubergine and Chateauneuf du Pape.  Sante!


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