There's something about the smell of fresh lavender that brings a smile to your face and a sense of peace at the same time. Growing it in your garden or flowerbeds will attract butterflies and bees your yard, and provide you fragrant stalks that can be used fresh or dried.
Surprisingly, lavender is an extremely easy plant to grow. It prefers soils that have low to moderate fertility and is even fairly drought tolerant. Since it comes back year after year it makes a great perennial addition to your garden. Follow these tips when harvesting to promote good growth and a constant supply of lavender to use in a variety of ways.
1. Harvest first thing in the morning
Like many other plants, lavender is best harvested first thing in the morning when the plants are dry and the sun isn't as intense as later in the day. This ensures the stalks will dry down nicely with a lower risk of mold growth, and the plant is at its peak, i.e. not stressed, if you are going to use it fresh.
2. Shear entire plant
Lavender is the type of plant -- and one of the few shrubs according to Garden Mentors -- that does best when the entire thing is sheared off. Unlike herbs where you take when you need when you need it, harvest the growth from the entire plant all at the same time.
3. Leave some green growth
Even though it's recommended to shear the entire plant at one time, it's important that you leave some green growth when harvesting. Leave at least 2 sets of leaves on the green part of the stem when cutting stalks. This will allow the plant to continue growing after harvest.
4. Harvest before flowers have opened
The best time to harvest lavender, in terms of plant maturity, is after buds have formed on the flower stalks, but before the flowers have actually opened. At this point, the concentration of lavender oil in the plant is the highest and will yield the highest fragrance.
5. Hang to dry
Bundle a handful of stems together, securing with a rubber band or twine. Then hang the lavender bundles upside down in a dry, dark location. After plants have dried completely you can use the stems or remove the buds to use.
6. Cut back after blooming
If you choose to not harvest your lavender for use, it's important to cut the stems back after the bloom cycle has finished. Per Timber Press, waiting too long to harvest the plants after flowering can stress the plant, stunting growth.