Winter Lavender

Lavender Queendom

When you think of Montana in the winter months you probably picture it covered in snow. And that is typical. It has been like that all 2016/17, and though we got a late start - the middle of December - this year 2017/18 is on track for typical.

There were some such as 2009, the year I lost 90% of my original crop, when winter started in early October (about a month earlier than is normal) and since then and up until 2013/14 there were a handful that would've made you think our state had relocated to the Oregon coast.

Winter used to be so much more predictable in the Intermountain States. It would show up on Halloween night (and you were smart to think of a warm costume) and aside from a predictable January thaw, would stick around until Easter. Anymore with the obvious effects of global warming it seems fickle as any cat.

I am grateful that snow does fall, and seemingly right on cue to avert disaster. Each winter we can get two serious bouts of sub zero temperatures. Sub zero. I can't tell you how many times these sub zero predictions have come a mere week after I was still outside barefooted. And I'm always on pins and needles wishing there could be a languid slide into cold weather rather than an abrupt cliff. My small plantation is still green and looking very much alive when this forecast comes in. Miraculously, the last two years, and I recall another in 2006, at least a foot of snow falls from a gray sky. Sometimes it happens only a few hours before I watch the temperature guage plummet.

Most lavender varieties fit in the USDA zone 5 category. This is a broad and general classification based on what minimum (antiquated U.S.A.) Fahrenheit temperature the plants will sustain without serious injury. Zone 5 indicates to -20°F, that's negative 20. Any temperature below that, a plant with no cover/protection will not survive. I have, on a few occasions noted plants surviving uncovered to minus 20°F, but that all above ground growth is killed. In this case the roots survive and then push all new top growth the following spring. This can cause a delayed harvest and certainly a sparse one but the next year, barring any drastic weather event, the harvest is right as rain.

So the lavender farmer in high el