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Hardiness Zone: 6b
Rose from Malvern, PA
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.
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
This follows a detailed answer. I'll most definitely have to try it for myself!
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Hardiness Zone: 6a
Gen from Kansas
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!