- Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Crop Production: alley cropping, cover crops
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: green manures
Our objective of this three-year project is to field test numerous soil mixtures within drilled, root-sized holes for growing lavender (Lavandula x Intermedia cv. Grosso) and isolate the best performing mixture. We will document these amended soil mixtures over the three-year period and provide soil tests within each measured mix to get an exact, repeatable formula. We will also test numerous cover crops, including intercropping the alley between the lavender rows for soil management. We aim to companion plant these areas so they have the same low water requirements as the lavender. We would like to research and test multiple crops with advise from J. Newton McCarty, our county extension agent. We have currently identified three cover crops we would like to research: Buffalo Grass, Purple Poppy Mallow, and Prairie Zinnias. These cover crops could potentially be harvested for seed for additional revenue. Lavender has been grown as a value crop that can benefit small farms in various growing zones throughout the Southwest. The market range for lavender products (direct from harvest and from processed as value added products) is rather extensive. Numerous lavender products include oil, fresh and dried bundles, potpourri, sachets, lotions, culinary products, as well as pet and veterinary products. For lavender growers, the product market can be local and international with direct and website sales. The lavender market can also reach the national level depending on clientele. Lavender farms can also attract agri-tourism. Lavender is native to warm, dry regions in the Mediterranean and considered an appropriate plant for the New Mexico region for it’s ability to grow with low water requirements. One major problem with lavender in this region is moisture drainage due to the heavy clay content (lack of organic matter) of our soils. Issues with drainage do not usually show until the third to fifth year of growing with catastrophic death of the plants. The delay in damage can be devastating to producers as the plant maturity (as with most perennials) does not reach full growth until the 3rd or 4th year and the potential life span of commercial lavender can reach 10-15 years. There is an estimated 15-20% crop loss per year for some New Mexico farms growing lavender in various soil types with various methods. The importance of finding the ideal growing environment (both soil and climate) and methods in order for lavender plants (and potential farms) to produce thriving and long life span plants is tremendous. A secondary problem with lavender is soil and weed management between the crop rows. The lavender is planted six feet apart with plants every three feet down the row. At Bluefly Farms, we initially planted into native grasses with a no-till auguring technique which provided individualized french drains and soil amendments (gravel and sand) for each plant. We have seen varying growth levels throughout the field based upon what we now realize is a variable of sand content based upon old river pathways that historically traveled through the valley. The lavender growth also varies based upon weed and grass competition from the area between the rows. This weed competition has been the greatest source of expense to the lavender field for mechanically maintaining and hand weeding around the base of each plant.
Project objectives from proposal:
- To research multiple soil mixtures for more precisely amending soil conditions in the immediate root zones of Lavender and documenting results. (Years 1-3)
- To research multiple different cover crops for surrounding soil to match water conditions of lavender and reduce field competition. (Years 1-3)
- To provide site visits and publish results of this research and encourage the adoption of best practices to Lavender farmers in the Southwest region. (Year 3)
We will accomplish these objectives by planting 32 Lavender plants within each soil mixture and documenting their growth over the three years with identical field conditions.
We will accomplish the cover crop research by planting three 100 feet rows of each of the cover crops so they can be compared side-by-side for their weed suppression, water requirements, and companionship ability with the Lavender.
We will provide site visits throughout the process to interested farmers and will publish and discuss the results of this research at the New Mexico Organic Conference, Annual Lavender Festival, US Lavender Conference, and on our website and other associated social media.