Learn how to harvest lavender properly!
Given its beauty and multitude of uses, lavender remains one of the most beloved garden herbs. However, growing them and harvesting the lavender blooms aren’t equally easy. One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is simply plucking each one up. If you want to ensure that you’re getting the most of the plant and harvesting lavender correctly, here are the different steps you need to keep in mind.
How to Harvest Lavender
When is the best time to harvest lavender
Ask any expert and they will tell you that it typically takes around three years for plants grown from seed to reach their peak, providing you with a much greater harvest. However, growing lavender from cuttings will make them bloom sooner and replicate the appearance of the original plant. With these, you can usually harvest within a few months. Note that this varies from one type to another.
Having an understanding of when the right time to start harvesting lavender largely depends on the purpose you have for it. If you plan on using the blooms for aromatic purposes—whether that be for essential oils, potpourri sachets, etc., it’s best to harvest lavender early in the morning.
The buds should still be closed at this hour and the oils in the flowers are also at their most intense. Note that these fragrant oils dissipate as the heat of the day grows, so if you want a strongly scented harvest, start early.
Lavender is also often used for decorative purposes, so if this is your intent, you would want to wait for the buds to open a bit more. These are best for drying purposes as well or if you intend to add lavender to your cooking since the scent won’t be as overpowering!
What to keep an eye out for:
- If the sprig of lavender has all of its buds still closed and has a paler color with a touch of green, it is too young to be harvested.
- If the sprig has both fully bloomed and loose buds on it, you can now harvest lavender.
Harvesting lavender: Equipment and how-to
When it comes to picking the lavender flowers, you might be tempted to just go ahead and break off the stems by hand—DON’T. Doing so can create damage that might be detrimental to the growth of your lavender plants. Instead, grab a few garden tools such as:
- Pruning scissors
- Garden knife
- Garden sickle
The sharper it is, the cleaner your cuts will be and the less damage you’ll do to the plants. Of course, a lot of care should go into the process so do make sure you’re wearing protective gear as well.
To harvest lavender, follow these steps:
- Make sure that you cut low in order to get long stems. This will make bundling them much easier.
- Avoid cutting into the woody base of your plants. If you do this, you can hinder their growth next year. The damage is also often irreversible. You can check for where the “green growth” ends and cut just a few inches away from the “woody growth”.
- You can cut a bunch of stalks at a time, provided your tool is capable of cutting through them. Remember, clean cuts instead of ripping the plant’s stalks.
- Always harvest lavender in order of blooming. The bushes will continue to produce throughout the season, so always cut whenever necessary. Doing so will actually encourage them to re-flower, especially in the areas where the growth is patchy.
Harvesting vs. pruning lavender
How do you keep your lavender plants bushy and looking good? Whilst harvesting does help ensure re-flowering, pruning is also key to keeping the plants healthy. Given its limited lifespan of 5 to 10 years, you can keep lavender bushes looking full by annual pruning. This can’t be done randomly, however.
After you make the harvest, leave the foliage thick for winter to protect any new growth from the harsh cold. Come springtime, however, you can thin it out in order to keep the base from becoming bare and leggy. This tends to happen when the growth is concentrated up top. Just remember to avoid cutting into the plant’s woody parts.
Here is a nice tutorial about pruning lavender.
How to Dry and Store Lavender
Once harvested, what comes next? To maximize your yield, you must also know how to dry and store your lavender.
Here are a few simple steps to help you get started with properly drying the blooms:
- After you harvest lavender, sort them into small bundles and tie the ends with some twine. You can also use rubber bands or a fabric tie as long as it’s securely knotted.
- Next, wrap a piece of plastic or a brown paper bag around the bundle, especially if you harvested them a little late (i.e. already drying on the stem). Doing this would help you catch any bits that fall. If you’re drying fresh blooms, however, you can skip this step. Note that late harvests tend to dry quicker.
- Where best to hang your lavender bundles? Somewhere near a sunny window would work best. Preferably an area in your home where there’s little wind so that it won’t cause the more fragile bits to fall off of the stem.
You’ll know when these are dry by breaking some of the stems off. They should do so with a snap.
What to Do with Lavender
Dried lavender can be used in a number of creative ways, so they need not go to waste. While it may not have the strong scent of fresh ones, they are just as wonderful to keep for both decorative, crafts, and home purposes.
- Lavender pillows. A good night’s rest after your harvest is guaranteed with one of these. Combined with dried chamomile blooms, it’ll help induce a more relaxed sleep.
- Moth and insect repellent. Keep them in small tea bags and hang near windows or in your closet. Flies and moths are known to avoid areas protected with lavender buds.
We hope this guide not only helps you harvest lavender like a pro but also provide you with key information on how to make the best of your yield. Best of luck!
Beautiful image: countryliving.com