If you have to pick one herb for your garden, Lavender is it.
There are many types of lavender. I like the ones with long stalks and big flower heads. All lavender is fragrant and fantastic for medicinal, cosmetic, and culinary uses. Lavandula angustifolia, in it’s many varieties are low maintenance and drought tolerant plants. What’s not to love about lavender? It attracts beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies, and deer and rabbits don’t bother it.
Lavender will soothe and calm nerves and has been used in herbal preparations to treat anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. Known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps heal minor burns and bug bites and your herbal first aid kit should contain some quality lavender oil for use in emergencies.
It’s Harvest Time
May, June and July are the months for harvesting lavender. If you want to encourage growth for next year, you need to harvest this years stems. By the third and fourth year, your lavender plant will fully mature and bring you the potential of hundreds of blooms. A plant, properly cared for, will live about 10 years.
The best time for your lavender harvest is in the morning, when the plant is dry and the sun is less intense. This preserves more of the essential oil in the blossoms.
You’ll Need: * rubber bands * scissors * a large flat sheet * lavender to harvest *hanger
- Cut a bundle of lavender from your plant. You don’t have to to be gentle with it, just grab a bit and cut, moving along the plant. Just be sure to leave a few inches of green growth on the plant. This is actually good for it. Going down to the woody portion of the stem is too extreme.
- When you have enough blossoms to fill your hand, wrap a rubber band around the bottom of the bundle. Some people cut the bottom off all pretty – I didn’t.
- Open a small paperclip and use it as a hook to hang the lavender bundle upside down in a dry, dark place. The darkness will help the lavender retain its color, and drying it upside down helps lavender retain its blossom shape.
- Let the lavender dry for about a week until there is no moisture remaining on the stems in the center of the bundle.
Now the fun part, decide what to use your lavender harvest for.
You could use your lavender harvest for:
1. Use lavender in soothing, calming bath salts to relieve tension, stress and insomnia. To make 12 ounces of Lavender and Rosemary Bath Salts use mix these ingredients in a non reactive bowl or glass jar:
- 1/2 cup Epsom salt
- 1/2 cup Dead Sea salt
- 1/2 cup oatmeal, powdered in a blender
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil
Combine ingredients and mix well. Transfer to a mason jar with a lid and let it rest for a couple of days so the essential oils are incorporated. Add a handful of bath salts to warm bath water. The Epsom Salts help relieve sore muscles and the lavender help relieve stress. Enjoy! To dry rosemary and lavender, use the hanging method above or remove the needles and flowers from the stems. Place them on a dehydrator tray for a few hours until the herbs are completely dried.
2. Make lavender antiseptic spritzer with 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons of lavender infused witch hazel, 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil – all placed in an 8 oz spray bottle.
3. Make lavender lemonade with this recipe from Small Footprint Family. It uses honey, lemons and lavender. Simple and scrumptious!
4. Make lavender infused sugar to give as a gift with your own specialty herbal tea blend. Organic Gardening has a fabulous tutorial for unfused sugars.
5. Lavender wands – these sell for big bucks in specialty stores! (1) Use freshly picked lavender but make sure it is not wet from rain or dew. You need the stalks to be bendable. Begin with an uneven number of stalks, the bigger the bundle the bigger your wand. (2) Tie ribbon around the stalks and under the flower bundle to secure and (3) fold the stalks down evenly over the flower head bundle. (4) Weave the ribbon over and under each stalk, around and around, until you have enclosed the entire flower head. (5) Tie off the ribbon at the bottom.
Want more? See also 50 Ways to Use Your Lavender Harvest from Naturopathic by Nature. Share your favorite way to use your lavender harvest in the comments section below.