Harvesting Lavender from the Garden

by Cynthia

A recent comment left by one of my readers spawned this post on lavender. I was asked what does lavender look like when it is ready to be harvested.  I thought this would be a great post since it is just about time for lavender picking up here in the Pacific Northwest. In just a few more weeks lavender festivals will be popping up all over as it is nearly that time. Close to where we live there is even a u-pick lavender farm.

Lavender is actually pretty simple to harvest. The flowers are gathered just before they open. You want them to still be in bud. The best way to know for sure the spikes are ready to be harvested is when the first two buds on the spike have opened. Although they are very pretty in flower, they really are past their prime for drying once they bloom.  If they are picked and dried in full bloom the flowers will drop off once they dried. In the picture below you can see some of mine are now ready to be picked for drying.

Lavender in bud

One use for them in bloom is to rub the fresh flowers on your skin which helps deter biting insects (and makes you smell good too!). Another nice thing about flowering lavender is that bees love it. If you ever go to a lavender farm it is truly amazing, the sea of purple blooms waving in the breeze, the heavenly scent floating on the air, and the hum of the bees dancing from flower spike to flower spike.

When you gather the lavender for drying just simply clip the stem towards the plant. Some types of lavender have nice long stems that are great for hanging in bunches or weaving into wands. If you do not want to hang bunches of lavender to dry you could also snip off the stem and place the flower head on a tray to dry. Once dry you can store the flower heads as is in a jar away from heat and light or you may separate the dried buds from the head immediately and store them away.

A great little tip for using the dried stems after the lavender buds have been removed is to save them for the winter and place them in your fireplace when you have a fire going. I have never tried this but it sounds like such a nice way to use up the dried stems instead of just tossing them in the compost.

Currently I only have lavender growing in containers on my deck. I plan to change that next year though! I am in the process of considering a whole new look for our front yard and I believe I want to have lots of lavender out there. Here soon I am going to take several cuttings of the lavender I have growing on my deck in preparation for next year’s garden. Lavender is not at all hard to propagate. I will post instructions for it here once when I take some cuttings.

Happy lavender harvesting!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurie July 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Oh how I love lavender. For some reason I have trouble growing it in my garden. I may do what you are doing and grow it in a container. I bet your lavender festivals are wonderful!

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Cindy July 7, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Laurie- I love to grow it in containers! It always does well for me that way. I think it is because the containers help it get good drainage.

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Mrs. Greenhands July 8, 2008 at 7:44 am

I love growing lavender! I make lavender wands and sachets. The smell lasts forever!

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Mary Domingos July 5, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I have fabulous lavender. My problem is that I can’t seem to get any starts to grow notwithstanding the use of rooting hormone. Any suggestions?

Mary

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Cynthia July 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Hi Mary, I have found that it takes a little longer for the cuttings to root when you do not use rooting hormone. It is possible though- it just requires some patience. Sometimes more than 4 weeks! It helps if the cuttings have some warmth beneath them if you can offer that to them. A simple way is to place the cuttings on a heating pad that is designed for germinating seedlings. Many seed companies carry these if you check out their catalogs. Hope that helps you out some! :)

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