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Harvest Lavender

    Are you ready to harvest lavender? I'm not talking about the large lavender farms where machines or small armies of people gather the bounty to distill into essential oil. I'm talking about you and your garden or landscaping with one to a few lavender plants. Why would you want to harvest lavender? A mature lavender plant can produce a hundred or more stalks with flower clusters called spikes, and there are so many great things you can do with the lavender produce. Here are some tips for harvesting and for utilizing the flowers after you are done.

When to Harvest Lavender - Your decision of when to harvest will depend on your intended use for the flowers. If you are planning on drying your flowers and want the buds to stay on the stalk, harvest when the first few flowers have opened on the plant. If you simply want to include lavender in a fresh flower arrangement, wait until about half of the flowers have opened.

It is important to harvest when weather conditions are right. The plants must not be wet from dew or rain or the flowers will turn brown and fall off after harvesting. Also avoid the heat of the day, as the heat will tend to drive some of the precious oil from the plant.

Tools - Historically a small sickle was used to harvest lavender by hand, and these tools are still in use today, and they are actually quite effective. But since most of us don't have entire fields to harvest, and your average home improvement store does not carry such implements, a pair of shears will work just fine. Do not use anvil type shears designed for pruning tree limbs, choose a tool with scissor type cutting blades. Grass shears with long blades work quite well, but even a sturdy pair of household scissors will work fine.

You will want to have a container of some kind to put your flowers in after cutting. A basket lined with a cloth or a plastic tub will work well. Whatever you choose, be sure that your container doesn't have holes. You don't want any of the buds that fall off the stalk to fall through the cracks!

Harvesting - It's a dry day, still early so it's not too hot, you have your shears, now what? There really aren't any special techniques. Simply grab a handful of stalks and cut them off where they protrude from the bushy part of the plant. Don't worry if you cut some of the leaves while you are at it, this will not harm the plant at all. Place the cut flowers in your container all aligned in the same direction to make it easier to handle them later.

Harvesting Lavender

What to do with Cut Lavender - The most common use for harvested lavender is for drying. Tie a bundle of lavender stalks together with a string, rubber band or wire that is about 6 to 8 inches (15 - 20 cm) long. The stalks will shrink somewhat as they dry, so choose something that can be easily tightened. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry spot where they won't be disturbed. Drying time will be very dependent upon the humidity and can take from a few days to a couple of weeks.

The drying lavender bundles can make beautiful aromatic decorations if they are hung in the home. Dried lavender can be used in dried floral arrangements, and it can be used to make crafts such as sachets or potpourri. The buds will hold their aroma for several months, even when dry. They can be stripped from the stalks and can be used in crafts such as lavender pillows and even in cooking.

Freshly cut lavender can be used as part of a fresh floral arrangement or enjoyed by itself. If this is what you choose to do with your lavender, change the water daily to keep the flowers fresh as long as possible. Fresh lavender can also be used for crafts such as wreath making, or it can be used in culinary recipes.

If you decide to harvest lavender, I'm sure you'll find it an enjoyable experience, especially as you explore the possibilities of what to do with your bounty!

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