Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 13 Time to harvest the lavender

How Beautiful is that?! 
So I thought, before the day gets too hot we could talk about harvesting that beautiful lavender you have growing in your garden.  Here at Lavender Fields, the lavender has been blooming for several weeks and it is finally at the point were it needs to be harvested.  Why harvest you may ask?  Well...  We harvest both the english and french lavender for use in the products that are sold in the Lavender Fields Cottage store.  Ok, you may not be making hundreds of eye pillows or a thousand bars of lavender infused soap but for the sake of your lavender make sure you harvest your lavender flowers.  Here's why:  Harvesting your lavender plant by 1/3 helps to encourage new growth (next year, more flowers/bigger plant).  When you harvest your lavender flowers you are helping to maintain the proper shape.  A properly shaped lavender plant is less likely to become woody or crack in the middle.  Harvested lavender lives a longer healthier life.  And finally, if you harvest your lavender you may be lucky enough to get a second bloom, especially with an English variety like Hidcote.  So lets harvest those plants! 
Disclaimer:  For the sake of the pictures we will actually be harvesting Super a french variety, it has nice long stems which will make it easier to see what is being done.
Grab a bundle of flowers and set your huge sharp cutting thing (scary, huh?!) at the base of the stems and cut. (Carl is a great hand model!)
Make your way around the entire plant.  (be careful of your fingers Carl!)
Almost done!
Finished at last!
Notice Carl left about two inches of green all around.  
Bundled, tied and ready to hang in the drying barn.
So there you have it,  lavender harvesting made easy! 
Thanks Carl!
'Til next week! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 12 Dinner in Provence!

One of the top bids at the Annual Milton Historical Society Auction last fall was for a Provence style dinner at Lavender Fields Farm. The winners chose Friday, June 11 for their party. It was a beautiful night - the al fresco dining was adjacent to rows of Jean Davis, Provence, Munstead and Hidcote lavender - all in bloom. Tea lights illuminated a tent well into the night. Linens and china purchased in Avignon and Quimper France adorned the table. The meal was prepared by members of the Milton Historical Society, all of whom have stayed in Provence. Each of the five courses (see the menu) was paired with an appropriate French Reims or Epernay champagne or a wine (a star was a 2007 gigondas) from vineyards in southern France. The dining experience also included pre- and post-chauffeuring.

What a wonderful evening! 
        Thank you Marie Mayor for being our guest blogger!!! 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Week 11 Lavender Fields Farm Beekeeping with Nancy!

When visitors come to Lavender Fields Farm in Milton Delaware, I'm often asked, "How in the world did you ever get involved in farming lavender?"  (I'll save that story for another day!)   I think, whenever we meet people with interesting job or hobbies we can't help but wonder how it came to be.  
That was my first question to our Lavender Fields Farm beekeeper, Nancy Goggin.  How in the world did you ever get involved in beekeeping?    Previously a teacher of Environmental studies, Nancy and a class of 10th grade students  decided to do a project on beekeeping.  From that class project, Nancy entered into one of the most fascinating and beneficial  hobbies ever!      
Nancy maintains 11 hives, 6 of which are at Lavender Fields Farm.  At the Lavender Fields Farm, each hive contains 60,000 bees, remember, we have 6 hives, that's alot of bees!  A standard hive consists of 2 boxes, as the bees start to produce honey you add a "super" (a removable upper story of a beehive) to the top to capture the nectar flow.   Nancy tells me that the bees at Lavender Fields are living large!  Because the lavender grown in our fields is constantly in bloom we are able to supply a very long season of nectar flow.  First, the english lavender at Lavender Fields Farm blooms and fades, followed by the french lavender.  Nancy has taken 120 pounds of lavender honey already this season and today plans to take 30 pounds more.  No, the bees and honey are not purple and I'm not sure if the bees smell like lavender. (I'll have to admit I've not been close enough to get a good whiff!)
              Opening up the Super
           (notice the warning sign, ouch!)
Don't be fooled, I'm very far from the bee area! 
Looks good?!
Any tips or advice?  Nancy believes the best way to start your beekeeping journey is to hook up with your local Beekeeping Association.  Delaware Beekeepers Association Nancy was lucky enough to find a willing and helpful mentor and credits him with all of her sucess in this fascinating hobby.   Last but not least, my favorite bit of advice... When beekeeping do not wear black, why you may ask?  If you wear black the bees will think your a bear.  How funny is that? (I bet its pretty hard to out run an angry swarm of bees even for a bear!)
Thanks Nancy!
Week 12... Stay tuned! 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 10 Time to Propagate the Lavender

Let's get right down to the business of propagating some lavender!  Time is short, we're expecting a huge thunderstorm and I'm under strict orders to shut down the computer at the first signs of lightening and since the dog is laying on my feet under the desk (nervous nellie) I'm sure we can expect it to start any minute!

Why propagate Lavender? 
1.  You have an older/overgrown/woody plant you love and you would like to replace it with the same type but you can't remember what it is.
2.  You want to add to what you have, remember more is better, there's nothing like a wave of purple!
3.  You just want to see if you can do it!  Well, you can it's very easy!

There are many ways to take "cuttings", I am going to explain what we do here at Lavender Fields Farm.  We take what is called a softwood cutting in the spring or early fall from new growth on an existing plant. It isn't really cutting the plant but actually taking a "heel" or peeling away a piece.
The key to sucess:  take from a healthy non-flowering plantmoisture (moist not soaking, soggy wet soil), humidity (we have plenty of that this week), don't park your cutting in the sun while you wait for roots to appear.

OK, the thunder is coming so lets get started!
First, get your pots ready.  Add dirt and then water your pot. With a pencil poke a hole in the center.
Next, find a nice healthy non-flowering plant with some decent new growth.  Remember, propagating produces an exact duplicate of the plant from which it comes.
Grab your rooting hormone, we use the powdered stuff from Lowes.
Now just follow my handy dandy pics!  
          Here is my healthy non-flowering plant.   

I removed the lower leaves.

See the rooting hormone in the upper left corner?

What you see here is where I removed the "heel" from the nice healthy non-flowering plant. It's possible to get quite a few "cuttings" this single branch.  I actually took 8 from this tiny branch. You would want to remove straight from the plant itself, this poor branch was sacrificed so I wouldn't have to sit in the sun and take the pictures.  (it was laying in between the rows, close to the mow area!)  And finally, don't forget to keep your cutting moist not soaked and don't leave it in the burning sun! 
So there you have it!  In 6-8 weeks (give or take) you will have an exact duplicate of your favorite and most treasured lavender plant.  
Next week lets go visit the Bees!