Lavender is a well loved plant that is not only pretty to look at but a powerful tool in aromatherapy. It can also be used for everyday tasks such as freshening a room or container, in cooking and in garden design. Care for your lavender plants and you can enjoy all they have to offer.
Location and Soil
Choose a location for this herb in a garden with full sun and prepare the soil so that it is well-drained. Most species of lavender do not tolerate humidity but prefer dry heat. Mixing peat with the regular planting soil makes for a more aerated soil base. Sand is OK but if your soil is dense or clay-like, you may be better off growing your lavender in large containers or raised beds. If growing lots of lavender and preparing rows, create your rows in mounds that are 1 1/2 to 2 feet high and dig holes into these just big enough for the plant. This helps to create a well drained area for each plant as well as organizes them. Sunshine Lavender Farm suggests tossing a large handful or two of 1-inch round pebbles as well as a handful of mixed lime and composted manure into each hole dug for a lavender plan. Dig holes at least 3 feet apart as the plants will grow quickly and be bushy.
Water and Care
Before removing lavender plants from their plastic nursery pots for planting, water them well and let them soak for at least 45 minutes before putting them into their new holes in the soil. Lavender doesn't mind somewhat dry soil once established, too much water can cause root rot. Spread mulch around the base of your lavender plants to help keep weeds from growing and to keep the area clean. In the fall, two to three weeks before the estimated hard frost, prune back one third of each lavender plant. This will help to prevent overgrown branches which can break and will ensure a nice full healthy plant the next spring. Do not use insecticide on lavender. It does quite well as long as it is kept well drained, due to its naturally strong essential oils which deter deer and many insects.
Harvesting and Drying
If you will be using you plants for more than aesthetic appeal, harvest them correctly to ensure healthy future growth. Cut lavender when the blooms at the bottoms of the stalks have just opened and the lavender plants are at their most colorful and most fragrant. Use garden shears to trim off the stems and stalks to the leaves below. Many lavender harvesters bundle about 100 stems together at a time with a large rubber band. Hang these bunches upside down from a hook and let them air dry in a warm, dark dry place like a closet for about two weeks. Do not let sunlight hit them when drying or it will detract from the vibrancy of their lovely purple color.