Growing and Using Lavender

by Brenda Hyde


Lavender is a beautiful and fragrant herb that every gardener should grow. You'll find it hard to limit yourself to just one plant once you start growing this lovely herb. I grow Lavandula angustifolias because it's a sturdy, cold tolerant variety that works perfectly in my limited space. There are dozens of varieties that can be found. Always check the zone hardiness when buying a plant.

I've found lavender to be easy to care for, but it does require a dry sunny spot. It's not happy if it's too wet or humid. The spot I have it in is in full sun, and I rarely water it, unless we are in drought conditions. You also want to make sure to give it space for air circulation, which at first, meant I had to move some plants that ended up being too close. It needs a loose soil-you can add compost if you wish, but make sure it's not "packed" or heavy. I even added a little sand in the herb bed before planting. Plant lavender with other herbs that prefer this type of soil such as sage oregano, thyme, summer savory or rosemary.

Lavender blooms should be harvested when the bottom third of the flower spike is in bloom. Wait until the sun has dried the morning dew, and it's a dry day. You can cut the entire stem, strip the foliage and dry standing up in a vase, bunched together and hung upside down, or on a screen laying flat. One year I even dried them laying loosely in a big wicker basket. Keep them out of direct sun while drying, and again, make sure they are dry and warm, not humid. An attic, closet or shed can work well. When they are dry, rub the flower heads over a bowl to loosen them from the stem. Store these in a glass container in a darkened place to keep them fresh. You'll notice the key to growing, harvesting and storing lavender is dry conditions. Moisture can lead to mold or mildew.

Lavenders need pruning, but the advice is varied. Prune, but not heavily, seems to be the way to go. After blooming you want to prune some of the older stems, but don't go too heavy. I'm very cautious and prune lightly in the spring and fall. I've also transplanted in the spring when I needed to move the plant with good success. Dig as deeply as you can and move it quickly. You can also take cuttings from a lavender plant to propagate. Cut a 3-4 inch piece of the plant that is newer, not woody. Trim the leaves from the bottom half, remove any blooms, and dip lightly in a rooting hormone, then place in a sterile potting mix or sand. Keep moist, but not soggy--just barely moist. It will take several weeks to root. Keep out of the sun-- temperature around 70 degrees-and in a well ventilated area. When the roots have formed, transplant it to a pot and transfer to the garden in the fall before frost. Mulch it for the winter for a little added protection.

I use dried lavender in bath teas. I use it alone and brew a 1/4 of a cup or so in a bowl covered with boiling water for about 20 minutes. I then strain and add to the bath. I also mix with chamomile half and half or mint, or a little of all three using the same method. Below are recipes using fresh lavender. It's best to pick for the recipes later in the morning, right before making.

About the Author:
Brenda Hyde is a mom, wife, freelance writer and editor. She owns Old Fashioned and lives in the Midwestern United States with her family where she is an avid herb gardener.

Recipes using Lavender 

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