A bit of The Lavender Patch Farm history
The Lavender Patch Farm is just that, a family-owned working farm. Through the years we have prepared ground, removed rocks, dug holes, removed bigger rocks, planted lavender, removed even bigger rocks, and weeded and weeded some more! Some of the plants have made it but many have not. We have switched patches because one was too rocky (as in HUGE rocks) and one was too wet, so now we are where we think is just right. We call this patch "the north patch" and it is where we have settled to grow our plants.
In some ways, we feel we are started again in the spring of 2016. However, one of the main differences is that we now know some of what we wished we had known before! For various reasons- much being circumstances beyond our control- we have lost many, many plants through the years. However, our dream stayed on and we remember that this IS farming and so, however crazy it may be, continue and persevere by taking out the dead plants, replanting with new ones and pray that they grow and prosper!
In 2009, while in California to be with Daryl and Erlinda (Davin's brother and wife) the dream of the lavender farm took shape. We visited Lavender Hollow in Escalon, CA and we talked to the owners. We came back to Kansas and started working to make this dream and reality.
In 2010 we tilled and planted a "test plot" to see how it would fair. Many did fine but we did learn a few things. Some of the plants were planted too close to a line of trees and didn't do very well. However, we had enough success to decide to jump feet first into this endeavor! However, in June 2011 we moved to the house where our lavender farm is located. Because of the time involved and everything happening, not much happened on the farm in terms of planting more plants.
In 2012 we were ready to really get started with this crazy dream! We decided on the patch of land that Erlinda had bought- behind our home is where the lavender would go! We dug up and moved thousands of rocks, some so huge it took 2-3 people to move! Look through the pictures to see some of them and our rock pile that we have as a result. We had read that it is good to "mound" the lavender plants when you plant them. We did this for two of our patches but then realized it would be difficult to mow so we didn't do that for the other patches. That year the plants looked good and through the winter too. However, when spring came around we realized our mistake. As the plants grew, obviously the roots did too and they grew close to the surface because of the mounding rather than being in the ground. So... because of the freezing temperatures we get in our winters, we lost all of those plants, about 300 or so. Fortunately the other survived! We took out the dead plants- mainly Provence and Grosso- and replanted. We also added three more "patches" and a demonstration plot to see how they would do. Many of the demo plot did not survive because they were varieties that aren't the best for our environment. Rain was also a factor. A couple of our patches were completely wiped out after a huge rainstorm. As hard as it was, we were starting to think this patch was not going to work.
In April 2013, a severe hailstorm hit Fort Scott and surrounding areas. Up to baseball size hail damaged many houses, vehicles and businesses throughout the county. On our patch, the tulips looked as though they had gone through a shredder! All flowers were gone, tree leaves stripped away, and the ground had indentations everywhere because of the hail. I was scared to see what had happened to the lavender but when we checked, we were pleasantly surprised that they were not in too bad of shape. Some of them were divided in half from the force of the hail, but it did not break or kill them which was a relief!
The next year, 2014 we started a new patch in a new area. We were excited as this patch was on a slight southern slope, very few rocks that needed dug out, and in a beautiful area of our land. We made 20 rows, 60 ft long, 7 feet apart. We planted some plants and they seemed to do well. The next year we expanded. In 2015 we ordered lavender plants from two sources. One was one we had received plants from before but one was new. That spring and summer we had record breaking rains. It was not dry enough to plant the lavender until June 10 and even then it was between rains! We had the plants for almost a month and they had been sitting around, waiting to get to their new home. It was a RAINY spring as everyone around (and throughout Kansas and Missouri) knew! It took us that week to get the plants in the ground but we did it. They looked good and we were excited. We started having problems with grasshoppers- enough that they pretty much ate all the Hidcote Lavender. We were not sure (and still don't know) if it was the Hidcote variety they liked or because it was on the first row. Either way, they ate them until not much was left. The weekend after we planted these lavender, we left to go to a family reunion. When we came back, my brother and his wife wanted to see the plants. We walked out there... and they were mostly all dead. The ones that weren't, were dead before the week was out. We were devastated. We called our source and found out about a fungus that some of the lavender farmers across the nation were dealing with. It is called Phythophthora nicotianae (Pn) and is mainly spread by water. If it is in your ground, the plants will die and it can never go away. We were advised to send samples off to Kansas State University to be tested by plant pathology. We did and the results were negative for Pn and was probably from the conditions of the spring- all the rain. Even though our plants do not have Pn we decided to move our fields closer to our house and where people can see them by the old highway.
We went back to our north field in 2016 and this time planted around 300 plants. We did transplant about 80 from our original plot. We decided to keep them altogether and closer to the house. In some ways with all our losses we feel we are starting all over. However, we often tell ourselves that this is farming, farming at its best. We planted more plants, around 500 in 2017 and they did pretty well. About 100 additional lavender were added in the spring of 2018. During the years of 2018 and especially 2019 we had a lot of rain... and I mean, LOTS of rain. Sadly, lavender doesn't like rain and our ground is not slanted enough to keep all the water away. You will see empty spots and this is where some of our lavender died. We have replaced some of the plants and when we could, the same variety.
As 2020 is now upon us and the rains have continued, we will see what happens to the lavender plants. It is always interesting to note that even though they all should be dead from all the rains, many many of them persist and continue to bloom despite the weather conditions. There probably always will be spots where a plant didn't make it, sometimes part of a row. This just shows that the land dipped down too much so water couldn't get away. To me this is part of the experience of the lavender. It isn't just about the beauty (although that is a huge part!) but what goes behind that beauty- the rough and tough stuff- that lets us appreciate the beauty we come to see and love.
In the last few years, have expanded by going to more shows, farmer market, and opening our gift shop as well as having an annual "Lavender Fest" on the third Saturday in June. Thank you for taking the time to learn a bit about our history. If you have any question, we'll be happy to answer!
Betsy and Davin