Root rot. Root rot. Root rot. These words lurk on every single source when researching potential diseases and pests that lavender is susceptible to acquiring. Root rot is a result of fungus growing on the roots due to poor drainage. Commonly referred to as “wet feet”. It is detrimental to the plant’s health if it goes untreated. Since we live in the Midwest, where the summer humidity is basically always 500%, we knew that fighting root rot would be one of our biggest battles.
To ensure proper drainage, we mounded our rows. Laying out the rows was a daunting task left for my perfectionist husband, Aaron. The rows needed to be parallel to one another, which did not leave much room for error. Talk about pressure! He put our 70-year-old tractor to work, using a garden bedder attachment to create 12” tall by 24” wide mounded rows.
The soil within the mounds was amended with 3/4” clean limestone gravel, composted horse manure, and additional screened topsoil. Lavender likes rocky, infertile soil. Over-fertilized soil makes the plants less tolerant of wintry weather and more susceptible to fungus. The gravel and compost encourage drainage while also breaking down the hard clay soil, allowing roots to grow more easily.
We then tilled the mounds twice to ensure the contents were mixed properly. Attempting to be helpful, I took a run with the tiller and it turns out that handling a pre-historic tiller is not a job for the weak. Kelly is a bit on the dainty side so I thought I would be of assistance and give her a break from tilling. The tiller truly has a mind of its own. It has the tendency to jump from your hands and take off running! Successfully lurching from my grip, the tiller bolted, and fell over while still running. Not being cool under pressure, I forgot all there was to know about turning off the tiller. (let me tell you, it’s not much) I screamed for my much weaker sister to save me from the tiller’s wrath only for it to die lying on its side a few seconds later, unmovable. Once again brain trumps brawn.
Preparing the mounds was by far the most draining…pun intended. Shoveling gravel is the worst and for me, tilling was nearly impossible. However, with the idea of planting so near in the future, our spirits were high! Just the thought of working alongside our friends and family to finally put our lavender plants in the ground was enough to keep us motivated.