How to Grow and Dry Lavender
Lavender is a delightful perennial herb known for its ability to promote relaxation and restful sleep. But, it is also beautiful in the garden and attracts bees and butterflies. Growing and drying your own lavender will provide you with dried lavender for crafts or sachets, or can be used in pomanders and sachets for the bedroom.
Getting Started with Lavender
Growing lavender in your home garden is relatively easy. This hardy herb returns each year in larger clumps, but from my experience, it does take a few years to become established. My lavender began several years ago with one small nursery plant. It endured a move to a new home, but just now produced an abundance of blooms. I would recommend beginning your lavender garden with several seedlings.
Choosing a Site for Lavender
Plant your lavender plants in an area that receives full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. The New England Gardener's Guide recommends planting lavender on a south facing slope in sandy soil, but I grow mine in a raised bed filled with a combination of peat moss, manure and compost, and it is thriving. Adjust the pH to 6.0 or above, as lavender does not grow well in acidic soil.
Water seedlings often to keep the soil evenly moist until roots have time to grow and the plant is established in the new area. Once established, water deeply once a week to saturate the soil to the root level.
Apply water-soluble fertilizer in the spring when new growth appears and again just prior to blooming.
Harvest lavender blooms when they first begin to open. Cut the stem back to the next level of blooms. Stems typically branch with one main bloom rising above the others. Two or more smaller blooms emerge on the side branches. Keeping your lavender plants harvested forces new lavender flowers to form and extends the blooming period of lavender.
Bundle the lavender stems together and secure with twine or elastic. I personally prefer elastic as it holds securely and tightens as the stems dry. Hang the lavender blooms upside down in a dry well-ventilated area to dry. Check daily for any signs of mold or disease. Lavender flowers dry quickly, but overall drying time depends on the humidity level and air temperature. Most dry within a week or two. Small bundles are recommended as they dry quicker and are less likely to get moldy in humid weather.
Storing Dried Lavender
Snip the dried lavender flowers from the stem to use for potpourri or sachets and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Lavender can also be tied up with a decorative bow and displayed with the stems attached.
Preparing Lavender Plants for Winter
Lavender plants should not be cut back to the ground in the fall, but can be cut back to 6 to 8 inches. New growth appears in the spring on the same plant. Lavender begins growing later than other perennial herbs. Don't be discouraged if the plant looks dead in the spring. Be patient. Regrowth will appear soon.
Note: Not all lavender is hardy in all parts of Maine. Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone of the variety you are purchasing to be sure it will survive in your zone.