It is officially lavender season here at Ochre Hill Farms! We have been busy harvesting, bundling, drying and pruning our lavender (and have a lot left to do)! As you may know, we are a family of five, and all of the work here is completed by one of us (cutting the 230 lavender plants is no exception). While it may be a slow process, it is certainly one of our favorite tasks!
Handling such a beautiful, vibrant and fragrant plant requires some patience, the right supplies and a proper drying location to ensure the finished product is as close as possible to the live plant when drying is finished. So...in honor of this lovely herb and season, let's talk about harvesting lavender!
We start harvesting when there are some flowers already opened. This is around the time when the color peaks on our plants (for us here in NC with the Phenomenal variety, it is around mid-June). We always cut as early in the day as possible because there is more oil present in the plant and thus, a stronger scent.
While we love getting the finished product, cutting the plants is the hardest part of the process. They look so lovely on the hedge! We just have to remind ourselves that healthy plants need pruning, and we need the products. Without proper pruning, the woody parts of the plants can grow in all directions, making the plants less uniform and more susceptible to rot and fungal infections. As we trained our plants to hedge (grow together in a thick row), this is even more important for keeping the rot out of the moist areas at the base of the plants.
When pruning, we simply take a bundle of stems and cut at the base. We use normal kitchen shears when cutting, nothing fancy. After the stems are removed, we shape the plant into a circular mound by cutting off any growth that is growing in a strange direction. It is important to be very careful when cutting the harder woody parts of the plant (we do this only if 100% necessary) as it can be hard for lavender wood to repair damage.
Once the plants are all uniform and bare, we start working on the cut stems and blooms.
We start by separating the stems into small bundles, then tie with string or rubber bands, making sure to remove any abnormal stems and sneaky weeds. We hang the bundles in a few different locations, but all have the same traits. It is important to choose a location that is warm and dry. Excess moisture and humidity can cause the lavender to mold or potentially rot. Warmth speeds the drying process. It is also a bonus if the location is dark because the buds retain more of their color in these locations. For smaller bundles it can take less than a week to dry, larger bundles typically take 1-2 weeks.
After they are dried, we are able to remove the buds to make sachets, teas and other lavender goodies or simply enjoy the dried bouquets!
And that is all! We still have a lot of plants to harvest and are looking forward to a couple more weeks of working with these beautiful buds! If you are interested in purchasing dried bundles or would like to come cut your own lavender before the season ends, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-564-6437.