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Harvesting Lavender

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Question:

I never seem to know when to cut my lavender to get the best fragrance. Also, what is the best way to dry it.

Hardiness Zone: 6b

Rose from Malvern, PA

Answer:

Rose,

Timing is everything when harvesting herbs for preserving and storing. The trick is to gather your herbs at the point in their growing cycle when the volatile oils they contain are the most concentrated. In regards to lavender, the parts of the plant usually harvested for fragrance are the flowers and leaves. Young, year-old plants should only be harvested lightly, if at all so they can focus their energy on becoming established. To harvest, pick the flower spikes in the early blossom stage before the flowers have fully opened. Do this early in the day (after the dew has dried) during dry weather. It will help facilitate the drying process if there is no extra moisture on them.

You can dry lavender in a couple of ways. The easiest way is to bunch several stems together, secure the cut ends with a rubber band, and hang them upside down to dry. Collect enough stems to make a 1-inch thick bundle. If you are worried about dust or losing a few leaves or flower petals, cover the ends of the spikes with brown paper bags. Cutting a few small flaps (observation windows) down each side of the paper bags will allow for plenty of air circulation.

When drying herbs, slower is better. Ideally, herbs should be dried over a period of 1-2 weeks in a room that is cool, dark, and dry. If space is an issue, try drying them on a cooling rack or screen placed over the top of a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet can them be stored somewhere out of the way like on top of your refrigerator or hot water heater.

Good luck!

Ellen

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About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By nana2one (Guest Post)09/22/2008

Does anyone know the name of the variety of lavender in the picture? It is so beautiful! The plant I have has long spikes of lavender, but doesn't look like that in the picture. I'd love to get a plant with the deep purple flowers like that next year to add to my garden. Thanks.

By Mary M. Armstrong (Guest Post)09/18/2008

I planted lavender in the spring in a container, but don't have any flowers yet. Can I leave it over the winter or what should I do now?

By Janalyn (Guest Post)06/30/2008

I can sympathize. I have read you harvest lavender just before it opens. Only, I'm not sure how you tell when that is either. :o) So I've learned to keep track by checking when local u-pick farms in my area say their lavender is ready. HTH

Janalyn

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Archive: 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.

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:

RE: 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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