Lavender is one of the most remarkable herbs. Its history is interesting, its uses so many, its fragrance so profound, and its colors so varied.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence to use herbal/homeopathic remedies and aromatherapy.
Throughout history lavender rated high on the list of multipurpose herbs. The word lavender means “to wash”. Some literature, as well as discussions with WWII veterans, indicate that Lavender was used as an antiseptic in treating the soldiers wounds. Today lavender is used in soaps for its cleansing properties. Lavender facial cleanser is used to reduce acne.
Recently, Lavender is used in combination with several herbs to create a mixture named Herbs de Provence. This mixture can be used on baking of any meat (beef or pork roast, baked chicken), as a salt substitute on vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli), or sprinkled sparingly over fresh salad greens. Lavender can be infused in milk, cream, sugar, honey, etc. The infused products can then be used in any recipe. Lavender can be ground and used alone or mixed with other ground spices in making a wide variety of desserts.
We planted the Grosso and Provence with the plant rows six feet apart and the plants within the rows are four feet apart. This allows room for the plants to breath during the summer. We also place “large” hay bales around the field to protect the plants from the winter winds. Our grandchildren say the hay and Lavender look like a bowl of frosted shredded wheat.
Lavender is a very hardy, drought tolerant plant. It has two requirements: well drained soil and lots of sun. It needs 8 to 12 hours of sun a day during the growing season.
Lavender prefers well drained soil – sandy type soil. Soils can be amended with sand or the Lavender can be planted in a mound to accomplish the “well drained” effect. The pH should be in the range of 6.0 to 8.0.
Lavender does not like “wet feet”. Watering or ample rain is needed to get plants established. Young plants need to be watched carefully to ensure adequate moisture. Older more mature plants are more drought tolerant.
Lavender like lime based soil. Be sure to check you pH. Young plants require more nitrogen (bone meal or blood meal) than mature plants. Nitrogen will increase the length of stems for cut flower use. Never use strong fertilizers or manures.
Lavender does not like high humidity or cold winter winds. Be sure plants have been spaced far enough apart for then to have good air circulation. This is a must to avoid mold/mildew problems. Protection will be needed from cold winter winds.
Lavender needs to be pruned either in spring and fall or just in the fall. Spring pruning will promote a later bloom time, however, they will need pruned again in fall. Cut the plant back about one-third, but never cut clear to the dead wood.
Harvesting and drying
Lavender is harvested at various stages of maturity. This is governed by the intended use of the flower.
To use as fresh cut flowers, the stems can be cut at any time. Fresh flowers placed in a vase need to have fresh water daily.
For drying, cut stems when 3 to 5 florets are open. Combine a hand full of stems, place a rubber band around the stems, then hang upside down to dry. Hang the bundle in a cool, dry, dark place for approximately two weeks.
To use the buds after drying, shuck or rub the buds off the stems, Remove chaff or dried flower petals and stems from the buds.