Lavender harvesting and drying. A lovely event every year, almost the end of summer, time to gather in the herbs for use in the winter. Their time in the garden is over.
Tools of the trade; Don’t expect to pick any of yur herbs just using your fingers. You wikl end up with sore hands and an angry and frustrated mind as you wrestle with nature’s stronghold on her bounty. have a decent pair of scissors or garden snips to hand. I have lovely old garden snips but this time I couldn’t find them 9memory again0 so had to resort to bright red kitchen scissors instead (at least i don’t lose the damn things in the lavender).
Use rubber bands to tie up your bunches of lavender (or any other herb for that matter). The rubber bands mean that as the herb dries out and shrinks a bit, the band will just retract with it and not drop the bundle of herbs all over the floor as a loop of string would. I save the rubber bands that come with the post each day. I just build them up all year round into a rubber ball shape, then come the herb cutting time, I usually have enough to band up everything.
How NOT to tie up your lavender (see photo above)
1. These bunches are too big (too many stems per bunch).
2. Too loosely tied with string (as the plants dry they will shrink and fall through the stringy loop).
3. Herbs not trimmed and leafy at base (this means that the air won’t get around the stems and they won’t dry properly).
These bandles are much better. There is less lavender per bundle, the bands are tight and the stems are stripped of all excess leaves etc and are neatly trimmed.
When hung up these will dry evenly and well.
I use this old nursey guard to hang my herbs on. It is about a metre and a half tall and in three folding panels, looks a bit like park railings. The great thing is, I can tie on all my bunches and then just lift the whole thing up and move it about if I have to.
I also use my clothes pulley in the kitchen and an old one I have just for the herbs in HQ. This is a great way to have them hung up and well out of your way. You just get rained on by plant debris every now and then.
If you have just a few small bunches of herbs to dry, tie your bundles to a metal coathanger (one bunch at either end and one in the middle) which gives them enough space to dry without touching eachother. Now hang the coathanger in an open area. You can of course buy herb drying racks and things to hang from the ceiling. A coathanger is just as useful and finally gives you a use for those nasty metal hangers that you get back from the dry cleaners every time you visit.
To maintain colour of your herbs they should be hung in a warm dark place with plenty of air flow. Being north facing with a small window, my diningroom is ideal as it doesn’t really get much natural light and I don’t use lighting in there when it’s not in use.
Depending on the warmth and size of the bunches, your herbs can take anything from 1 – 2 weeks to dry out completely.
By completely dry, I mean bone dry. The herbs should crumble when you rub between your fingers. If they are still bendy with any moisture inside at all they are not ready for storage. If you store partially dry herbs you will just ruin all of those in the same container. The partially dry herbs will go mouldy and this will spread to all the others.
Patience, enjoy the heavenly smell of the lavender as it dries at it’s own pace.
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