Lavender – Growing, Harvesting and Drying
For the first time ever, my herb garden produced enough fresh herbs to make preserving worthwhile. Other years, I would get a small amount here and there, enough to flavor a recipe or two. Most of it was few and far between and I would end up taking the treats to the chickens more often than not. And then, all the good that can happen for a herb garden came together and my herbs were growing! Not only growing but thriving. I have been using them fresh, drying, and freezing the herbal goodness.
The lavender plants were particularly happy and thriving for the first time ever. I was inexperienced with growing my own lavender, so I asked a few friends who have more experience growing herbs than I do.
Lavender needs sun, water and good soil as all plants require. So what made this year different? This year I planted a variety called Provence which can do well in the humid conditions that we experience all summer. Lavender also requires a full day of sun, which mine did not get, although it did get quite a bit of sun. Plant in full sun, about a foot apart. Lavender requires full sun in order to flower, so this may explain why my plants did really well, but did not bloom. The soil should be more alkaline and when watering, it is suggested that you do so early in the morning and water close to the ground. The plants smelled heavenly, so I was anxious to go ahead and harvest the branches.
My first question concerned when to cut it down. It is late October here now, and while we do have late frosts in our area, I did not want to lose the plants to frost before I harvested what I could.
How and When to Harvest Lavender
I was told that lavender is a perennial meaning it will come back year after year, if care is taken to protect it from extreme weather. The spot I chose for the lavender plants is very sheltered, so I think it will thrive and return next spring. I also learned that I should cut it down low on the plant, now and this will help the plant rest up for it’s next appearance. Two plants I have are the Provence variety. It is beautiful and the aroma is sweet. Between the two plants I harvested a large dishpan full of lavender branches? stalks?, leaves? I am not sure what to call them. But I have a lot of the lavender!
But, My Lavender did not flower! Is that a problem?
The other question I had was about lavender flowering. Although my plants thrived and prospered this year, there were no flowers. The aroma is strong though and the bunches will add fragrance to what ever they are added to. But was it OK to harvest the leaves if there were no flowers? Again, I had to consult a friend with more knowledge than me. I was talking with Lisa and she told me that the lavender did not always flower for her either but it was still a useful aromatic and culinary herb. I should go ahead and cut and dry to use as needed.
Here’s a link to a You Tube video that Lisa has about growing, and using Lavender on the homestead.
I plan to use my lavender in two ways.
I gathered up bunches of the lavender branches (again, is this what they are called?) and rubber banded the ends together. Use a paperclip to hang the lavender bunches for drying. Insert the paperclip into the rubber band. Hang the lavender bundles in a well ventilated, dry area for a few weeks. The aroma may be strong for the first few hours, but it will not stay overpowering.
I will take some of the dried lavender and grind it up to use in lotions and soaps.
I also plan to use some of the bundles and tie them with a pretty ribbon to use as package a tie-on or gifts. In addition, I want to offer the lavender bunches and linen bags of lavender to my customers with a purchase of our homegrown yarn.
Here are some other uses for lavender
- Add to a citrus cleaner for an extra punch of germ fighting power.
- Use in potpourri to fragrance a room
- Make sachets’ to fragrance your clothing or to help you sleep.
- Sprinkle dried lavender in the nest boxes in your chicken coop. The lavender will help the hens relax and soothe them while they lay their egg.
- Lavender is also a natural insect repellent, so adding dried lavender to the chicken coop will help with fly control.
Share with me your ideas for using home grown lavender.