Lavender (Lavandula) is among the best-known of aromatics. Lavender has been used since ancient times for aromatic and medicinal purposes, and it maintains popularity because of lavender ingredients in essential oils, perfumes and other personal care products. There are more than 20 commercially important lavender cultivars, with climate and plant culture requirements varying among some of the major lavender types. Large-scale lavender production in Kentucky is limited by climatic requirements (low humidity and low winter temperatures ), poorly drained soils and the scale requirements for essential oils processing. Lavender could be suited as a specialty/niche crop for some Kentucky farms, especially those with ongoing agritourism enterprises.
Marketing constraints and the scale requirements for essential oils processing make lavender more likely suited as a crop for ornamental or on-farm agritourism potential (lavender festivals) in Kentucky. Kentucky-grown lavender also has potential as an ingredient for small-scale producers of value-added products, such as soaps and floral arrangements. Other marketing possibilities for lavender include fresh and dried cuttings for floral arrangements; flowers for cooking or food garnishes; and as an ingredient in a wide range of other value-added products, from potpourri to candles. Lavender and lavender products could be sold across the range of farm direct marketing channels, including on-farm stands, agritourism, community supported agriculture and farmers markets. Wholesale marketing to retailers, florists and restaurants is also possible. Because of the wide availability of lavender products, especially personal care products, local lavender producers must be able to differentiate their product greatly to obtain profitable prices.
Lavender is best established on sandy loam soils with a pH from 6 to 8. Kentucky plantings will be most successful when established in well-drained soil, usually on raised beds. Amending soil to improve drainage will be necessary for long-term lavender production from most soil types in Kentucky because lavender is prone to root rotting diseases. Lavender can be successfully propagated through softwood cuttings. Propagation of lavandins from seed is not usually recommended in order to produce plants true to type. Removing flowers during the first growth years can help establish healthy plants. Supplemental water and fertilizer are necessary during establishment years. Spring irrigation is necessary for young plants. Drip irrigation helps reduce foliage moisture. Dry foliage and good air circulation around lavender plants helps reduce disease, which can reduce yields and foliage quality. Lavender has few insect pests, and lavender plants may help attract beneficial insects to other nearby crops. Fertilizer requirements are less for lavender types grown for oil. Spring nitrogen applications applied through fertigation can improve lavender spike growth and flowering. Lavender is susceptible to freezing injury. On-farm research has shown that the use of windbreaks, hoop houses or other protective structures can reduce winter injury and increase plant survival.