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Lavender

Lavender - Organo Republic

LAVENDER

ABOUT THE PLANT

Description: An aromatic bushy shrub growing as high as 3 to 6 ft tall. The leaves are silvery grey to bright green, and the blooms are usually deep purple to blue-purple on 2-3 inch spikes.   Lavender is grown for its colorful flowers and wonderful sweet fragrance. It tolerates low temperatures, wet winters, and dry summers.

Origin: native to the Mediterranean

Usage: For culinary use, flower buds are used in teas and as a spice or condiment in pasta, salads, and desserts. Flower spikes are used in dried flower arrangements. The calming fragrance in flowers and flower buds is used in potpourris and as a filler in sachets. The oils from flower buds are used in scenting soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other cosmetics. Flowers are also used for wedding confetti. You can use the leaves for tea and culinary purposes, the same as with the flowers and for making sachets.

Interesting facts: Lavender bouquets were sold in the streets during the Black Plague of the 16th century to mask the smell of the dead. Its oil was used to ward off the disease.

HOW TO GROW

General requirements: Lavenders do best in dry, well-drained, sandy, or gravelly soils in full sun. Although lavender favors neutral to alkaline soils, it will tolerate acid soils. It needs good air circulation but little or no fertilizer. For young plants, the soil should be kept moist for the first week, then once established, they are drought-tolerant and don't need much water. Damp soil may cause root rot. Lavender plants grow best in conditions that are warm and dry. To get continuous blooms, remove faded flower stalks. Prune and shape in the spring after new stems and leaves appear. Never cut into the old woody stems.

 

In the garden: Scatter the seeds onto the soil in the spring after all danger of frost is over. Cover the seeds with a row protector or a very light sprinkling of soil, as the seeds require light to germinate. Or plant them in your garden in late fall for sprouting in the spring. Allow the soil to dry some between waterings as the seedlings are vulnerable to fungal diseases. Having good airflow can also help mitigate fungal problems. Seeds can take from 2-4 weeks to germinate. It grows very slowly in the first year.

In containers: Use a 12-16 inches wide and deep container with good drainage. Fill it ¾ full with good draining potting soil, then sprinkle 1 Tbs lime over the surface. Set your plant so its crown shows 1 inch above the final surface. Water thoroughly. Place in a sunny location.

Transplanting: Start indoors about 3-4 months before your last frost in the spring. Use a light, seed-starting mix and seed trays. Lightly cover each seed with a thin layer of soil, as the seeds require light to germinate. Set the trays in a bright, warm spot or use a plant heat mat. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings because lavender seedlings are susceptible to fungal diseases. When ready to transplant outdoors, harden the plants by setting them outside for a couple of hours the first day, then increasing the time spent each day outdoors for 2 weeks. Plant them in full sun and water in. Water them twice weekly for the first week or two until they are established. Let the soil dry out between waterings.

HARVESTING

Flowers: For dried flower arrangements, harvest flower spikes of mature plants as soon as the blooms open. Cut the flower stalks just above the leaves. To dry them, hang them upside down by the stems to dry in a cool dark room with plenty of ventilation. Cut the flowers while still in the bud stage for use in teas, cosmetics, or culinary use. Cut the flower stalk, and while holding it upside down, run your fingers along the stalk, removing the buds and letting them fall into a container. Allow the buds to dry completely in a cool, dry, dark place. Store the buds in jars or plastic bags for later use.

Leaves: To harvest lavender leaves, you can cut small springs or pinch off individual leaves as needed. Be sure to use the tender new growth and avoid dry or brown leaves.

Seeds: After the flowers have faded, seed pods will form. Leave them on the plant until they are completely dried out. When seeds start to fall out when you gently shake the plant, it's time to collect them. Gently shake the seed pods over a bucket or other container. They are small and black. You could also cut the stalk with the pods on them, place them in a paper bag, and shake the bag. To separate the seeds from the chaff, empty the bag onto a flat surface and lightly blow the chaff away.

FAST FACTS

Common names: lavender, English lavender, true lavender, garden lavender, common lavender, and narrow-leaved lavender

Latin name: Lavandula angustifolia

Growth habit: upright herb

Life cycle: herbaceous perennial

USDA Zones: 5-9

Seeds per ounce: about 30,000

 

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