Top Dressing for Lavender Plants?

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Old 05-07-15, 11:15 AM
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Top Dressing for Lavender Plants?

I'm a newbie to lavender, but I just planted some about a month ago and it is looking good. Planted it in 50/50 soil and sand mix along with lime/bone meal/compost amendment that I've seen recommended. Anyways, I'd like to put a top dressing down and know that mulch/bark isn't good because it holds moisture. Maybe some sort of decorative stone/gravel? Any recommendations?

Also, if someone can recommend a place in the Seattle area that you can get said top dressing, that would be great!
 
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Old 05-07-15, 11:47 AM
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Generally mulch is a good choice because it holds moisture. Do you have trouble with the ground staying too wet around your lavender? Id' think with 50% sand it would drain very well.
 
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Old 05-07-15, 12:58 PM
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Thanks for the reply. I was under the impression that lavender like it pretty dry, hence the reason for having soil that drains well. Or do I want the soil moist but just not overly moist?

The bed is along side of my house (south side, plenty of sun) so when it rains it doesn't get a lot of direct rain, but the soil will get wet. There isn't a problem with the ground staying too wet, I just tilled in some sand in the top 4-6" of the soil that was there.

I just didn't want to put down mulch or bark (I have bark in everywhere else) and have it hold too much moisture.
 
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Old 05-07-15, 06:41 PM
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For the most part drainage and evaporation are two separate things and you can have moist soil that drains well. I think of mulch as a good thing and it's got to be a really extreme or unusual situation where it's not beneficial. Mulch is nice because it allows water to easily pass through but helps slow evaporation. I think the "drains well" for lavender and for most plants refers to the soil. They don't like wet feet. Moist soil is usually good for most plants while wet and soupy is bad. Unless you're in a extreme micro climate with gobs of rain I think a thin layer of mulch won't hurt.

My soil... well, it's not really soil. It's saprolite which is a form of decomposed rock that might become soil in a thousand years. Plants become root bound when planted in the ground becuse the soil is so impermeable. I plant lavender in mounds of amended soil and cover with mulch. The mound allows water to drain away from the roots while the mulch looks nice and prevents the water from evaporating away which can be a problem in well draining soil.
 
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Old 05-08-15, 11:32 AM
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Thanks, that is a great explanation about drainage/evaporation. Makes total sense. I think I am good as far as the "drains well" goes...I also have a couple handful of rocks under each plants to promote better draining.

After reading a little bit more, it seems the concern with organic mulch is mainly that it can hold water and promote mold growth around the base of the plant, something that lavender is susceptible to. However, this also prevents evaporation which is a good thing, like you say. So I guess the use of inorganic mulch gives the benefits of preventing evaporation while not having to worry about moisture being held at the base of the plants.

I would think using organic mulch would be fine, as long as you are careful about how much is around the base of the plant. This comes back to your comment about "it's got to be a really extreme or unusual situation where it's not beneficial"...if you pile on the mulch and smother the plant, you're more likely to have problems.

Still haven't decided what I want to do. While using bark will match the rest of my flower beds, it might be cool to have a nice colored stone mulch in the area where the lavender are. I just have to search around for a place that supplies decorative stone/gravel.
 
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Old 05-08-15, 04:29 PM
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Re your concern about the effects of mulch, mold and moisture... you can vary the depth and thickness of the mulch as well as the kind when using organic mulch. And it shouldn't be too close to the stems of the lavender, especially like the mulch used on trees by some commercial landscapers when the mulch is piled up against the trunk.

Seattle is I believe much wetter with more rainfall than my area in Michigan, so it's a bit difficult to guess how much moisture you have specifically in your area, and how it might affect your lavender plants. But you can also try different organic mulches.

I've used both; personally I wouldn't use limestone chunks again, not because I don't like them but because they end up sinking into the soil over time and then it's really difficult to keep them as mulch. Wood chips can do the same thing.

I actually use mulch in a much different way, primarily because of the aggressive code enforcement people who think that mulch attracts rodents and is a visual element of blight. I turn it under and bury it in a circle around roots of plants, so that it's not visible on the surface, but it does keep roots more moist. It was amazing how much better this worked for me, especially during hot dry summers.
 
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Old 05-09-15, 10:37 PM
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We average about 38" of rain annually. That looks about to be the max in some areas of Michigan. Anyways, thanks for the good info. I think I'll try to track down some decorative stone/gravel instead of going with an organic mulch. Mainly for aesthetics, but also for the moisture issue; I think it will look nice with the adjacent beds being the usual beauty bark.

Thanks all for the input!
 
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