Home & Garden: Lavender movement in Grand Valley growing slowly
Free Press Gardening Columnist
The field at Unaweep has been prepared and plants at the greenhouse are waiting to be planted. The field was ripped, plowed, and disked. A bed shaper was then used to shape raised beds for 5,000 of the lavender plants waiting at Valley Grown Nursery. Another two acres are scheduled to be prepared in the spring for 5,000 plants.
If you have driven past the Leynse Lavender Farm on Unaweep Avenue, you have seen lavender fields in the area have been put to bed for the cold season. The plants have been covered with frost blankets to protect them from winter and late-spring weather.
I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of prospective growers around the nation along with local residents. Locals have been interested in growing lavender in their adjoining fields to benefit from the reduction in taxes afforded individuals growing an agricultural crop. The cost of establishing and maintaining 2,600 plants per acre is quite hefty, and not everybody can afford to do this unless the difference in taxes is significant.
There are two major issues that need to be considered before growing a commercial crop of lavender — the availability of plants and the marketing of the bouquets, essential oil, or buds produced.
Growers in western Colorado are producing many different cultivars of lavender. Consequently we don’t have to go out of the area to obtain cuttings to produce plants. Plant availability, however, is limited by a lack of greenhouse space. This is especially true if you want to have plants available for a spring planting. Greenhouses typically depend on sales of bedding plants, vegetables starts, cut flowers, and foliage plants; and they already have their space reserved for those crops.
Many of the hoop houses and greenhouses in the area currently empty will be filled to overflowing with bedding plants and vegetables starts by spring, eliminating their use to start and hold lavender plants. Currently Valley Grown Nursery on 24 1/2 Road above Mesa Mall and Sage Creations in Palisade are the only two local sources for lavender plants I’m familiar with if you want more than just a few plants.
This past winter was hard on lavender farms around the nation with some growers losing 100 percent of their plants. Instead of replanting, some of the growers have decided to call it quits. Usually when crop failure occurs in one part of the nation the price of that product increases. However with Bulgaria, France, and other nations exporting cheap lavender oil to the United States, the price of the oil produced in this country continues to remain quite low. Agri-tourism, selling at a roadside stand or farm market, or selling at festivals is the way most lavender farmers make a profit. Some lavender producers have combined a bed and breakfast with their farm to create success.
So, why am I putting in acres of lavender? Hopefully the marketing effort we have started will be a successful and in a few years will help pay the bills encountered in growing this crop.
Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com.
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