HARVESTING HOMEGROWN LAVENDER
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Inspired by my recent visit to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, and to the B&B and Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farms in Sequim (pronounced squim), I decided it was time to harvest my own lavender this past weekend. It is arguably a bit past time as their color has already started to fade, but I couldn't bring myself to cut them earlier.
Hidcote Giant Lavender
I have fifteen Hidcote Giant Lavender plants (Lavandula x intermedia), a variety known for its deep purple color and incredible fragrance. It is a hybrid of cold-hardy English lavender and of heat-tolerant Portuguese lavender with tall elegant spikes. I purchased them as starts from Victor's Lavender Farm in 2015. I had not realized until just now, in looking up the place, that the farm I purchased them from was literally a few miles away from the other two farms we visited. Had I only known, I would have returned to the place that all of mine were grown, perhaps on our next trip.
To harvest, I cut back each of my lavenders down to a small circular mound. I then took all of the flowers and cut them in several piles of similar sizes (see above) and hung them in a cool, dark, place to dry for the next three weeks. My harvest is incredibly small compared to the rows upon rows of lavender pictured below, hanging in a wonderful century-old barn at the B&B Lavender. But you gotta start somewhere.
Growing & Cutting Tips
Here are some of the most important things I have learned over the past few years about growing Lavender and its close cousin Rosemary:
They prefer well-drained soil. Mix or add sand to the soil when planting.
Feed with fertilizer just once a year in the fall or winter (depending on your weather) ahead of the spring growth and bloom.
Water just once a week or less in the first year moving to only occasionally when needed during a hot spell or when they really look like they need it.
Cut back the first year's flowers as soon as they show in order to send more energy back into the core plants growth in the first year—this is super hard to do when you see those first beautiful flowers after all that work, but you will definitely get a better and stronger bloom in year two and going forward.
Add fireplace or wood ash to the surface and mix it into the topsoil around each plant. It is a good source of lime, potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, and carbon for alkaline loving plants and is said to deepen the color of your lavender flowers. The harder the wood that you have burned the more nutrients in the wood ash with Oak having five times the nutrients as softer woods such as pine. I bring a large bag of it straight from our cabin each spring when I clean out the woodstove each spring.
I had to watch several videos and read lots of tips to learn how to cut back lavenders—each to a round mound. If you are harvesting the lavender, it should really be right at the height of their bloom, when they are their deepest, richest color.
Our plants are still only a few years old and this is only my second harvest but they come in stronger every year. I'm confident that next year will be our best year ever now that they have the protection of the fences until they grow larger and stronger.
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