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Growing lavender for profit can be a great way to turn your love of herbs and gardening into an solid income from selling lavender plants and the value-added products you can make, such as dried lavender bundles, lavender buds, aromatherapy products, skin-care products, sachets and herbal pillows. There are dozens of products that are easy to make and in demand by consumers who love the scent of lavender.
In many parts of the world, such as the Provence region of France, lavender has been grown commercially for centuries. In North America, commercial cultivation of lavender is just beginning to take off, as lavender’s growing popularity has led many new and veteran herb growers to specialize in this unique fragrant herb. Their lavender farms range from small backyard gardens to multi-acre farms. They all share a love of lavender, and most willingly share growing and harvesting tips willingly with newcomers.
Lavender offers a wide range of colors, fragrances, growing habits and end uses when harvested. Its family tree includes those other familiar Mediterranean herbs, rosemary, sage and thyme. Lavender is the best known of the fragrant herbs, and has a long history of use as a culinary herb, a medicinal herb and as a fragrant herb. The ancient Romans used lavender to scent their public baths, and the Roman soldiers used it as a disinfectant.
Today, lavender is experiencing a renewal of popularity as a culinary and medicinal herb, and as a fragrant addition to cosmetics from perfumes to body lotions. As one veteran grower put it, ‘Lavender today is where vineyards were thirty years ago.’
LAVENDER SPECIES TO GROW
Although there are over 30 species of lavender, with hundreds of varieties, there are just 2 species that are widely grown by most commercial growers. The first is Lavendula augustifolia, also commonly called ‘English’ lavender or true lavender. The second is Lavendula x intermedia, called lavandins, as they are hybrids. Within these two species, there are dozens of varieties, each with unique qualities that make it preferred for bouquets or essential oil or culinary uses.
DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT CLIMATE & SOIL?
Not everyone can grow lavender. You must have the right climate and the right soil, although you can amend the soil to make it suitable for growing lavender.
- Lavender is a Mediterranean plant, and requires a similar climate to thrive.
- Lavender has been grown in most areas of the U.S., but some microclimates can really help, such as being near a large body of water.
- Lavender must have well-drained soil, with a pH of 6 to 8. You can test your soil with a simple pH tester found at most garden centers.
- Lavender does best in sandy loam soil that provides good drainage.
- Lavender does best with almost no fertilizer once it is established. When the new plants are first planted, nitrogen fertilizer can give them a boost.
- Lavender needs pruning during the early years, while it is still growing to maturity. If pruning is not done for the first two years, the stems could become woody, resulting in fewer stems and flowers.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO SELL LAVENDER?
For most small lavender growers, the local farmer’s market is the best place to sell your harvest, from fresh cut lavender bouquets to dried buds, lavender oil and the many value-added lavender products you can make and sell. Best of all, selling direct at the market allows you to cut out the middleman and receive full retail prices for your products. By taking a few simple additional steps, growers can take their lavender harvest from a basic herbal commodity to valuable items that bring top dollar from consumers.
For example, the market for natural personal care products, such as soaps and lotions, has grown to over $6 billion dollars a year, and rising at double-digit rates, as more and more health-conscious consumers choose to go chemical-free in favor of healthier natural ingredients like lavender. A big chunk of those billions is finding its way to small entrepreneurs whipping up profitable specialty products in a spare room or garage. There are about twenty proven ways lavender growers can add value to their lavender harvest. Some are very simple, like selling bunches of fresh or dried lavender at the local farmer’s market. Others take a bit more work, like mixing and packaging aromatherapy products for sale.