First lavender farm in Florida thriving in Southport

August 29, 2019

With the many challenges of growing lavender in the south, one family has found success right here in the Florida Panhandle. It’s a group endeavor as Jason Leabo, an Air Force combat veteran, his wife Kari, and daughters Jamie and Amber all chip in and work their Southern Grace Lavender Farm in Southport. As Florida’s first lavender farm, it is off to a great start with more than 1,500 plants along with a line of lavender products.

Planted right before Hurricane Michael, it’s a wonder the crop is doing so well as it typically takes three years for a lavender plant to mature.

Lavender plants at Southern Grace Lavender Farm.

“We grow a variety of lavender called Lavandula x intermedia PHENOMENAL® (‘Niko’ PP24193),” said Jason. A specie that is best suited for our area.

Lavender is a natural insect repellent, with white fly and aphids being the only pests. Leabo uses ladybugs to help eradicate and it has worked. It’s a somewhat complicated process to provide the perfect conditions for the plants, as the plants do best in well drained soil and not too much heat. The plants also require a different mineral combination than what our acidic soil provides.

Jason shares his recipe for success:
When we planted our plants we started by removing stumps and roots and then we did our best to level the dirt. Then we put down the weed fabric. We chose SRW Pro Plus V 5oz Landscape and Weed Fabric, 25 Year because it’s a superior quality geotextile made from polypropylene fabrics, needle-punched together. It’s also a high strength fabric with excellent water permeability. UV damage resistant, and it won’t rot or mildew. One of the things I failed to realize was that it can get way too hot, and it holds in moisture. So just something to consider. When installing the weed fabric it’s important to staple it every 12 inches. This is perhaps the only thing that saved our fabric from Hurricane Michael. Once the weed fabric was installed we ran our drip irrigation lines. We used Dripworks 1/2″ Emitter Tubing, 24″ Spacing, 1 GPH. Using a galvanized metal duct connector as a template we burnt holes in the weed fabric using a Bernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start Torch next to the emitters in the drip line. Then we dug our holes approximately 6″ wide x 8″ deep and added the following:

      • • 2- Cups Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil for Roses
      • • 2- Cups 50/50 Pea Gravel & Manna Pro Oyster Shell
      • • 1/4- Cup of Equal Parts Hi-Yield Bone Meal, Sunniland Lawn and Garden Lime and Black Kow Organic Composted Manure
      • • 1- Handful of Cypress Mulch Blend
      • • 2- Cups 45/45/10 Miracle Gro Garden Soil Cactus; Palm & Citrus, Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil for Roses, & Manna Pro Oyster Shell
      • • Pinch off the long leaves at the base of the plant
      • • Dust All Roots of the plug with Garden Safe Brand TakeRoot Rooting Hormone
      • • Plant the plug 3/4 of the way into the ground
      • • 2- Cups 45/45/10 Miracle Gro Garden Soil Cactus; Palm & Citrus, Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil for Roses, & Manna Pro Oyster Shell to form a mound of dirt level with the top of the plug and/or base of the plant
      • • 2- Cups of Pea Gravel poured around the base of the plant
    • Jason and Kari Leabo with their daughters Jamie and Amber.

      The family hopes to make visiting their farm an enjoyable agritourism destination in the near future. They offer potted lavender plants with the proper soil mixture, and a line of lavender products. The farm also boasts several beehives, a gazebo, and future plans to expand their 3+ acre spread.

      You can learn more about Southern Grace Lavender Farm by calling 850-348-3361, or go to their website at or Facebook page: