Growing and Using Lavender

 How To Grow Lavender:

Lavender  grows best in a Mediterranean like climate. They are a drought tolerant  perennial that blooms mid-late summer. They will reach their full size  in 3- 4 years.

Lavender thrives on full sun (at least 8 hours per  day or more), and hot, dry, rocky, or sandy soil.  Good drainage is a  must.  Plant the lavender in “hill” fashion if you have a drainage  problem. If you have clay soil (heavy) dig two feet down and amend the  soil with sand and compost.  It wouldn’t hurt to place a shovel of  driveway gravel in the hole.  Weed around the area you are about to  plant. You want to remove all competition for the young Lavender start.  If, you are planting more than one plant, space your lavenders depending  on the expected size of the full grown plant. Larger species will need  three foot centers, the smaller ones just two foot centers.

Turn  and loosen ground around where you are going to place your lavender.  This will help distribute any rainwater so the plants will be happy! Dig  the hole. It should be twice the circumference of the plant. In the  bottom of the hole mix bone meal or general fertilizer. This helps with  transplant shock and insures a healthy start for your plant. Add fresh  dirt to cover lime/bone meal. It can burn the plants roots so you want  to protect it. Fill hole with water and let drain.  If your soil is  acidic, add lime, because lavender likes a higher pH or alkaline soil.   Fertilizers if you are organic: bone meal, blood meal or kelp.

Be  careful not to over water your plant. Initially, it needs a little  water every day especially if it is hot outside. If Mother Nature is  giving you rain, you don't have to water, if not, then water well, but  infrequently. The issue of watering is so specific to where one is.  Apply black landscape cloth if you want to use it. Secure the black  cloth with stones or pins so wind cannot tear it up.

In the fall  after it is done blooming and before frost, cut one third of current  year’s growth off. Shape into a mound or mushroom type shape. DO NOT cut  into the brown woody stem. If you do, that branch will probably not  grow back. Although some Angustifolias will sprout from the base,  Grosso, Provence and Hidcote Giant will not.  Pruning in the fall will  keep the bush compact and help it not to break down in the center as  most lavender cultivars are prone to do.

Lavender can be grown  OUTDOORS in containers; however the rules are a little different.  FIRST...get a huge pot. Since potted lavenders cannot get their food  naturally, you will need to fertilize. Use Miracle Grow and follow  directions. They will need to be watered more often as the pot gets hot  and water evaporates quicker. Do not bring indoors in the winter. Place  it out of wind and where it will get maximum sunlight.  (at least 8  hours per day or more.) After 1-2 years, they must go into the ground.  Their roots will get as big as the top growth and if you keep it in a  container longer, it will die slowly.

To utilize your lavender  the goal is to harvest your lavender when the bottom third of the flower  spike has bloomed.  This ensures that the oils are well developed and  it helps keep the blossoms from shattering once dry. It’s Simple; just  cut, rubber band, and hang upside down in a dark ventilated place.  The  dark location prevents the sun from altering the color of your harvest;  the ventilation prevents your bouquets from molding.  Depending on the  size of your bouquets and your climate your bundles will be dry and  ready for defoliation in about ten days to two weeks.

Once your  lavender bouquets are dry you can now enjoy them in many different ways.  You can place your dried bouquet in a vase on the mantle or hang it  with some lace as a wall decoration.  To make sachets or potpourri you  will need to defoliate your dried bouquets.  To defoliate wear gloves  and hold your bouquet upside down over a bowl and roll it between your  hands. Clean the buds you have collected in your bowl by picking out the  large stems and leaves and sifting over a screen.  Once clean you are  ready to craft, create or cook with your lavender blossoms.

When  cooking with lavender, the Angustifolias are preferred but any lavender  can be used in cooking just some will give a more camphor flavor that  the Angustifolias.  My favorites are Folgate, Betty's Blue and Hidcote  for cooking.

Everyday Ways To Use Lavender:

First  Aid:  Apply one drop of lavender essential oil directly to a minor  wound after it has been cleaned and dress appropriately.

Burns:  For mild burns, place 3-4 drops of lavender essential oil onto the wound dressing.

Bruises:   Place a few drops of lavender essential oil into a bowl of cold water  using a washcloth as a cold compress.  Place 1-2 drops of lavender  essential oil directly onto the bruise once a day until the bruise is  healed.  If the oil is too strong use a carrier oil such as sweet almond  or olive oil with the lavender E.O.

Sunburn:  Place 15 drops of  lavender essential oil into 1 cup of cold distilled water.  Place is a  sprayer or dab onto sunburn.  Lavender has analgesic properties that  help to alleviate some of the pain of sunburn.

Disinfectant:   Lavender has fabulous antiseptic properties.  For cleaning use 6-10  drops of lavender essential in a spray bottle filled with water and a  1/2 tsp of dish soap.  For windows, mix vinegar, water and a few drops  of essential oil in a spray bottle.  For areas that require scrubbing  such as bathroom sinks, sprinkle baking soda and a drop or two of  lavender essential oil, gently scrub and rinse.

Stress:  Place  lavender buds in a small sachet bag.  Squeeze gently a few times and  inhale.  Or place 20 drops of lavender essential oil into a warm tub and  relax away the stresses of the day.  Or use a vaporizer with 5-10 drops  of lavender E.O.  Not only does it relieve stress but it helps to keep  the vaporizer clean.

Insomnia:  Apply one drop of lavender  essential oil to the corner of your pillow case nightly.  Take deep  breaths as you relax your body.  Do every night for a week or so and you  will eventually train your body to relax when it smells the essential  oil.

Insect/Bee stings: Place one drop of essential oil directly  onto the bite/sting.  Lavender oil can reduce swelling, pain and  itching.  Place 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil into 1 cups of  water.  Place in sprayer and spray body to prevent insect bites – great  for mosquito protection.