Marching into Springtime

the birth flower of MarchHappy first day of March! Maybe you noticed it's been awhile since I wrote - just needed a break from blogging, that's all. Winter has been busy, but we've also had some fun family time thrown in. We spent part of December in France where I searched high and low for lavender finds and explored farms and farmers markets whenever possible. January and February were cold, wet, and snowy. I'm happy there's just twenty days til Spring. Seems it's been a long time coming. You ready? I'm ready for a repeat happy yellow bouquet like this one from last year.  

The farm's wildlife must know that spring is near. Our bottomland has been flooded for most of winter, and it's given way recently to all manner of aquatic life including ducks and especially frogs! Oh wow, what a chorus which can be heard clear as a whistle all the way to the barnyard! It's been said that the presence of frogs and amphibians is a measure of the health of a wetland in which case we evidently have a very happy wetlands, marsh, and stream.  

Each growing season I continue to experiment with different varieties of lavender. The test plant for 2014 is Lavandula dentata with plants going in the ground early to mid-April. Heads up - annual Herb Festival at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market is April 26-27, always a good time to get your herbs or just visit. And something new this year, I'll be vendoring at the NC Extension Master Gardener Conference May 5-7 in Winston-Salem. Spring has (almost) sprung! 



October: The Science of Lavender Farming in North Carolina

Hello, October! Today we hosted a fine group of students from Davie High School's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Center. What fun! What glorious weather! When asked about the possibility of hosting a field enrichment trip for students, I was excited and maybe a little bit nervous. I fretted over choosing a topic that would involve interactive participation, per the request.

As it happens, soil pH is a pretty big deal when it comes to growing lavender in North Carolina, and while I thought that that could be a good topic, I ran the idea by my mother, Madeleine Sparks, who has a personal connection to Davie High School after teaching chemistry there for 30 plus years.

Under normal conditions, lavender farming in our corner of Davie County can be a challenge because typically the dirt here is claylike and acidic. This summer's crazy wet weather in July and August added an unusual layer of stress in two ways. First and foremost was simply too much rain which basically drowned the roots and was fatal for many of our plants. Second, excessive ground water leaches nutrients from the soil. One lesson from today was the importance of soil testing and the need to adjust soil pH with the addition of lime since lavender prefers alkaline conditions. 

Hauser Creek, which dissects the farm, provided another angle for discussing pH with regard to water quality. Davie High science teacher Jimmy Dobbins brought along pH testing paper and an electronic pH meter for students to test 2 different samples of creek water with an average healthy value of 7.4. 

And then there was the homemade lavender lemonade the students made using purple 'hidcote' lavender buds. The end result: A faintly pink beverage. While it's a no-brainer that lemonade is acidic, my mom pointed out that the color pink alone can be used as a visual sign in assessing pH. Pink = acid. This morning was sunny and 65 degrees, making lemonade a tasty finale. Thank you, Davie High School, for visiting the farm! And a special big thanks to my momma. 

Definitely hard to believe the year is almost over. We have one last event scheduled for 2013 -  Fall Open Farm Day, which is November 3, 1 to 4 pm. For more details, visit: Come join us!

Bridal Bouquets: A Few Favorite Flowers, Including Dried Lavender

There's just something about sunflowers that makes me smile instantly -  maybe it's the yellow color, the stout, circular size, or the height. Whatever it is, just when our lavender field is looking tired, along comes the sunflowers. We planted just under 2 acres in late May and while the prolonged wet weather hasn't been particularly kind to lavender, growing conditions have been ideal for sunflowers. Like lavender, sunflowers make the wildlife happy - bees, butterflies, and ladybugs, to name just three beneficial insects - and a host of songbirds are loving the landscape.

To me, both lavender and sunflowers are best with as little embellishment as possible. I love the pairing of yellow and purple in the bouquet that I made this week. Simple and straightforward. The finishing touch, although not pictured, is a pale lavender-colored ribbon wrapped around the base. We tend to think of fresh flowers as being preferable for weddings, but I think dried lavender worked beautifully here. The stems stand tall and upright with no worries about wilting! If you're planning a fall wedding, think dried, either alone or in a mix for bouquets, wreaths, or even on the wedding cake! It would be perfect for fall.