Harvesting Lavender

Q: I have a lavender plant. Could someone tell me how and when to harvest it. Should I cut it back for spring? I want to make little bags to put in my dresser.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Gen from Kansas

A: Gen,

For sachets, you're going to be interested primarily in the lavender flowers and some swollen flower buds. The best time to harvest lavender for sachets and potpourri is when the flowers on the stalks are starting to open. Select stalks that contain some open flowers and some unopened swollen flower heads and snip them off with a small, sharp shears. Lavender should be harvested in the morning when temperatures are cooler, as the heat of the day causes the fragrant oils to dissipate. The faster lavender dries, the better the colors of the flowers and the fragrance will be preserved, so try to harvest them after the dew has dried from the stalk. Ideally, harvesting stalks would follow a few days of dry weather when the flower stalks contain less water and the drying process would be shortened even further. As the stalks dry they will shrink, so bundle small bunches together with rubber bands rather than a string or baggie tie. Hang the bunches upside down in a dark, dry place and check them every few days for mold. You might want to place a sheet or towel underneath to catch any falling flowers. Depending on the humidity, they should take 1-2 weeks to dry.

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An easy way to separate the flowers and buds from the stalks is to roll them up in a pillow case and gently roll the pillow case back and forth like a rolling pin across a counter or table. Then dump the contents out onto a cookie sheet and separate the flowers and buds from the chaff. Save the unused stalks to use as fire starters or burn them and create a mosquito smoke when spending time on the deck or patio.

Ellen

More Answers:

Harvesting Lavender

Hi Gen, when I harvest my lavender I wait until it has just flowered and the blossoms are at their peak. I put it into small bunches, tied with a rubber band, and hung it upside down from a wire hanger in an unused spare bedroom closet that I left open for the air to circulate. I let it hang for two to three weeks until I was sure it dried. I have also used the microwave to dry herbs (never tried lavender) I dried parsley, thyme, and sage with very good results. But, you do have to watch carefully not to over-dry them. I never tried trimming my lavender in the spring, so I can't tell you what results you will have; though, I would think that if you did a light trim on the plants it surely wouldn't hurt it. I always trimmed my plants in the fall and have had good results. The only time that it didn't look very good was when I had tried to trim back a very old plant that had never been trimmed and it had some very thick, stemmy, growth on the inside and it looked a little rough until it filled back in over the next season! (03/31/2006)

By Persnickety Paula

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