Planting Lavender and Rosemary on the Farm

What do you do on a Saturday when the farmers market is closed and rain is in the forecast? You plant the rosemary and lavender plants you said you were going to plant for the last three months!
Fall is a great time to plant perennial plants (the plants that come live from year to year) such as rosemary and lavender. The ground is warm, the air is cool and there is more chance for some natural irrigation (yay, rain!) to get plants established for spring and summer harvests.
This Saturday we added one bed of Tuscan Blue Rosemary and one bed of Grosso Lavender, a classic French variety.
The plants pictured in the wagon began as one inch cuttings from "mother" plants last winter. This spring, the cuttings had grown to fill four inch pots. By fall, they were gallon pot sized, and now they have been planted out to give us cuttings for spring plant sales as well as providing flowers and foliage for our fresh cut flower and dried herb offerings.
The lavender and rosemary plants we sell to gardeners and market farmers are propagated from plants that have been at our farm for a minimum of one year. Like many of our perennial plants, our Provence Lavender and Tuscan Blue Rosemary plants are descendant from plants we established in our first year as a commercial greenhouse 16 years ago. One of the keys to gardening success is to start with varieties have been proven to grow in your area, and are locally grown. We are happy to be that source for you!
How We Plant Lavender & Rosemary
Lavender and Rosemary originate from the Mediterranean, which tends to have well-drained, rocky soil and low humidity - just the opposite of the Piedmont's clay soil and sauna-like summers. In order to simulate their native habitat, we plant lavender and rosemary in raised beds with plenty of spacing between plants for good air flow. The beds pictured are on a south-west slope for full afternoon sun and good drainage.
By working as nature does, we started building the raised beds last fall by layering leaves and wood chips in a three foot pile where we wanted the planting beds to be. Reclaimed potting soil from our nursery and greenhouses was also added to inoculate the soil with a diverse microbes and beneficial fungi to help get the soil building process going quickly. One year later, without any additional work, the beds have composted down to approximately two feet high, are rich with organic matter, and the planting holes are easy to dig!
Worth the wait without the work!
Waiting a year to create a raised bed may seem like a long time, but time flies when you are having fun (and have lots of other projects to complete) on the farm. Gathering materials for composting, turning the compost pile, and loading compost into a wheelbarrow to spread onto beds is just more work than we feel is necessary. Nature shows us that "composting in place" is a great way to nurture and fertilize beautiful fields and forests, so we follow her lead! We always have a planting bed in the making somewhere on the farm.
Of course, you don't have to wait an entire year to let nature help you fertilize your growing spaces with organic nutrients and biology. Start now by gathering all the leaves falling freely from the trees and mulch vegetable garden and flower beds. Not only will you build soil, you are also suppressing next summer's weeds, feeding earthworms, and providing a habitat for beneficial insects, just like nature does. At Windcrest Farm, we always say, "Spring begins in the Fall". The more we can prepare in the cooler months, the easier warmer months can be.
If you have any questions about our Rosemary and Lavender plants, or the way we farm, please ask!