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Pruning Lavender & Drying the Harvest

September 26, 2013

Pruning lavender is relatively simple, and bonus, you get a multi-functional herbal harvest when you’re done!

Pruned Lavender Harvest Bundle

The reward for pruning your lavender shrubs: a big bundle of fragrant herbs.

Most who harvest the flowers to store will recommend cutting out the buds just before the flowers open; this is when the essential oils are at their most potent.

Honeybee Pollinators on Lavender Blooms

Honeybee Pollinators on Lavender Blooms in July

However, if like us, you prefer to enjoy the flowers and all of the pollinators that visit them in the garden, it is okay to wait and prune your shrubs to harvest their essence later in the season. The oils won’t be as strong, and the dried buds won’t hold as tightly once they have dried. But, if you’re looking for flower bits to sprinkle on your carpets or stuff into packets to freshen drawers or the laundry, cutting after blooming is just fine. And, in fact, it can easily become a part of your early fall garden cleanup practice.

Lavender Shrub Ready to Shear in Late Summer

By late summer, the bees are finished with lavender flowers & there’s still time to shear out the fragrant flowers to use indoors. It’s a relatively quick chore that’s fun to do on dry, sunny days.

Pruning Lavender Cuts

Lavender is one of the few shrubs we cut by shearing. Without cutting into older wood, we trim out all of the flower stalks just above the point where new leaves are forming on the plant. Try to complete this work before the threat of a freeze, when the plants are dry, and before any molding begins. And, if you don’t get to it before winter, no worries. Trim it in early spring before new growth emerges; don’t try to store this material. Compost it instead.

Sheared Lavender Shrub

After shearing off the flowers, the lavender shrub should still have plenty of leaves. It may look a little rough, especially if it’s an older shrub like this 12 year old ‘Provence’ plant that continues to produce fantastically beautiful & fragrant flowers. We forgive it its ugly times & thank it for its bounty.

Lavender drying in the sun

Late-harvested lavender for storage should be picked when the weather is dry. Sunny late summer days can be perfect. As we get ready to bundle it, we spread it out in a hot, sunny spot to help dry out any residual moisture that can lead to rot in tight bundles.

Lavender Bundled & Ready to Hang to Dry

Once the lavender is harvested, gather it into small bundles. Tie them together with a biodegradable twine like the jute shown here. You can compost the jute later.

Lavender hanging to dry

Since late-harvested lavender flowers fall apart fast, hang the bundles inside a paper grocery bag that will catch the messy bits that fall. Try to keep the bundles from touching; don’t overcrowd the bags. Hang the bags in a dark, not-damp location. Because some drying has already begun on the plants before you cut the flowers, late-harvested lavender may dry quickly — even within just a couple of weeks. Check the bags and bundles often to be sure nothing is molding.

When the stems are dry and brittle, breaking with a snap of the fingers, your harvest should be dried. Now you can begin using them. Try shaking the bundles inside the bags to rattle out the loosest of the flower bits. The rest can be removed from the stalk by hand, if you wish. Any flower buds that stay intact on the stem may make for a nice dried arrangement. Or tie the best bits into small swags to hang in your bath or kitchen.

**Note: Pruning shears shown by Fiskarsยฎ were supplied to Garden Mentorsยฎ for review purposes. Garden Mentorsยฎ has received no compensation by Fiskarsยฎ for this post or image.

1 Comment

  1. […] soaps, she had this to say: “No fragrant, healing soap would be complete without lavender buds! Use a deep purple variety like โ€˜Hidcoteโ€™ lavender to add a bit of color and exfoliating […]

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