F or six years, Bob Bostwick and Janice Silva were traditional farmers, raising chickens, cattle and fruit trees on their over four-acre, 100-year-old farm in Atascadero.
Then they had an epiphany.
“We realized there was no lavender farm in the county, but they were all over Europe and even in Santa Ynez,” said Silva.
So in 2004, the couple started Green Acres Lavender Farm, putting about 14,000 lavender plants in the ground to create a fragrant three-acre stretch.
As they suspected, Atascadero was the perfect climate for the Mediterranean
perennial herb, which likes heat and sunshine and requires little water. Lavender is also resistant to pests (the farm uses no chemicals or pesticides) and all manner of critters.
“Deer don’t like them because of the tannins and camphor,” said Silva. “We might have lost one percent of our plants to gophers, and that’s from them undermining the root system.”
The farm grows two varieties of lavender: Provence for culinary applications, and Grosso, which is oil-rich and extremely hardy. They harvest the buds, distill pure essential oil, and offer a host of lavender-infused products including olive oil, bath and body products, salt, pepper, sugar, herb mixes, and honey. Some are made by the farm, others in cooperation with other local businesses.
Green Acres is also a nursery, propagating plants and offering their two varieties of lavender, along with a few alternate varieties, in various sizes. Along with plants, the pair is happy to dispense gardening advice.
“Water is the No. 1 enemy,” said Silva. “Often people will see browning or wooding, and they’ll give their lavender a soak—but you should never water too much at one time.”
Silva recommends that, once a plant is established, water lightly once or twice a week during the dry season, but never allow a plant to sit in soggy soil for too long.
When a plant looks woody, it is likely in need of pruning. When blossoms are harvested at the end of summer, it is a good time to perform an annual pruning, said Silva. Lavender can even be shaped into a hedge or a small tree.
Harvesting and drying lavender blooms is easy; distilling your own oil is another matter. It takes a pound of lavender buds to produce just one ounce of essential oil, which is why most gardeners leave oil-making to the pros.
Uses for lavender go far beyond aromatherapy. Silva refers to it as the “anti” herb, as in antibacterial, anti-fungal antiseptic, antiviral, anti-microbial and anti-pest. You can wear pure lavender oil directly on the skin as a natural mosquito repellant, or rub it on your pet to repel fleas. Toss a few buds onto the carpet before vacuuming, or add a sachet to your dryer. Silva likes to add around five drops to a bucket of water, along with some peppermint oil, and use it to clean the house.
Green Acres offers other ways to enjoy their farm. They regularly host art, cooking, tai chi and pilates classes. Their Lavender Festival will take place two consecutive weekends beginning July 10. Their website, www.greenacreslavenderfarm.com, has event and class information.
Rebecca Juretic is a contributing writer for Home & Garden. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.