Lavender, native to the Mediterranean, is a rather tender plant. There are at least eighty varieties, some more hardy than others. The hardy varieties are also known as English Lavender. Most lavender doesn’t winter well in the north. I have a very nice plant in North Dakota that did well every year. I never got as big as most get but it produced blooms ok and never froze out, so I consider it a success.
I started my seeds a couple weeks ago (early February). This first one just popped up! I know this seems a bit early and according to the seed packet it is. Starting lavender from seeds is pretty straight forward, plant the seed, water it, and keep the soil temperature at around 70 degrees. However, I have never had good luck starting from seed with lavender and I am determined this year. Starting lavender from seed can be difficult, especially the hardier varieties. They can take over a month to germinate! Before I knew this I would give up watering after three weeks or so… no wonder why I never had good luck. We have also always kept our houses on the cooler side (around 65 degrees in the winter) so I’m sure this has played a role in the slow germination in years past. Our “new” house is even cooler, (set at 60 degrees) I keep the wood stove going during the day and that heats the house to a balmy 70 degrees. To give my plants the little extra boost I set the by the wood stove. The tiles there get quite warm. When spring gets a little closer and the seed starting begins to take over, an electric blanket under the sprouting trays will keep the soil temps where they should be.
The goal over is to have lavender planted along the fence line that borders the drive way. I know this will take years because its a long fence line. Once I get the first few plants going and am sure I have the variety with the best chance of making it through the winter I can propagate with cuttings. To do this start with a well established plant that is at least a few years old. Cut a longer, healthy stem, cutting close to the ground getting some of the woody stalk. Dust with a little root promoting hormone if you wish, this can help prevent the stem from rotting before the roots establish. I use cinnamon instead. I always have it on hand and it works just as well. Then place the cutting in loose, sandy soil about 3 -4 inches deep. Keep the cuttings watered and they will soon start growing roots. Let the plants grow for a couple seasons before transplanting.
After a few years, when I have my cuttings ready for transplant, down the fence line they go!. I can easily fill in between the plants by simply bending a healthy stem to the ground. Cover a portion with soil, leaving the top above ground. This too with begin to sprout roots, thus giving me yet another plant! This way I don’t need to start 400 plants to cover the fence line.
Once your plants are growing well they should be pruned. Cut the plant back by about half in either the early spring or in the fall after the it has bloomed.
To harvest your lavender simply cut the stems when almost all the little flowers are opened. Don’t wait until they begin to fade. The flowers can be used fresh or dried. To dry them, tie the stems in bunches and hang, blooms down, in a cool dry place. Too much light and heat will evaporate the essential oils. Once the flowers are dry, carefully strip them from the stem, compost the stems and store the flowers in a dark glass jar or in another air tight container out of the light.
Now that you have flowers there are so many great things you can do with them! Here are just a couple of my favorites.
Lavender Truffles -See below.
Muscle Soothing Bath Tea -See below.
Tension Headache Relief
There are a couple ways to use lavender to relieve headaches. Just smelling lavender can relieve stress.
Balm- Combining oils, beeswax and some essential oils you can make a balm. Rubbing this on you temples and neck relieves the ache and tension, thus relieving the stress. (This is available for purchase in the Country Market.)
Tea- Lavender tea is another way to relieve and calm a headache. This also helps ease indigestion.
Kind of a given, adding lavender blooms and/or lavender essential oil to your favorite soap recipe is great too.
Add a couple drops of lavender essential oil to a cup of sea salt and mix well.
There are many uses for sea salt in bath products, cleaning products and even cooking.
Steamed Fish With Lavender Salt and Lemon
Cut circles out of parchment paper.
On each piece lay one fish filet.
Top the filet with a light pinch of Lavender Salt, a dusting of pepper, and a slice of lemon and a little butter.
Fold the parchment over the filet, then folding the top and bottom parchment edges together to form a pocket.
Place these in the oven and bake at 350 until the fish is done. (I can’t give a time because it will vary depending on the type of fish and size of filet.)
I like to serve this with steamed asparagus and a salad of arugula and shaved parmesan cheese.