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How to Plant and Harvest Lavender

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Across Oregon, lavender farms are united in one thing: it’s harvesting time. Lavender blooms during June and July typically (though this year, they bloomed late!), and harvesting begins while the plant is still flowering. At Carriage House Lavender, the lavender is then de-stemmed and run through our distiller in order to get that precious lavender essential oil. Here is our blog post that goes into the distillation process.

Harvesting lavender is a difficult, physically taxing activity. We’re a small farm, and it still takes our team up to two weeks of manual labor. Our Carriage House isn’t the only thing traditional about our process–we use scythes to harvest the lavender. Even with protective gloves, we are left with calluses and sore hands. We get cuts, bug bites, and stings throughout the day, and that’s not even including the usual wear and tear of working in the dirt.

For about as long as distillation to make lavender oil has existed, lavender stills have been copper. Some modern enterprises choose to use other metals, like steel, but copper specifically yields better and more oil. Our classic, copper still steams the lavender flowers, and separates the oil that sits on the lavender buds. There are a few ways to distill, such as fractional distillation, simple distillation, and vacuum distillation. We prefer to use steam distillation, which is the traditional process. The oil is precious, and what we use in our products. We don’t waste a drop!

We also take great care to hand cut the stems off of our lavender by hand. The fewer stems involved in distillation, less byproduct is made and the oil increases in quality. As the lavender is processed by the still, the constant steam gives us two results: lavender oil, and lavender hydrosol. Hydrosol, if you didn’t know already, is “flower water,” or water that has been infused with flowers, leaves, or other plant materials.

Lavender hydrosol is usable and safe; it is just much, much less concentrated than the lavender oil. But it keeps a delicate lavender scent. We keep the lavender hydrosol for use in some of our products, like our Refreshing Room Spray.

After harvest, we trim the lavender plants into dome shapes. This is something someone with lavender plants in their home would want to do, as well. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, trimming the lavender plants allows them to grow back better for the next season. Without this occasional upkeep, the lavender would become “woody;” the stalks grow older, they grow more protective layers around their stems, and they can grow in wild shapes.

Just like how propagating house plants will encourage new growth in the original plant, pruning lavender plants will give lots of new, lovely growth for next year. The plant’s energy goes into growing new shoots instead of protecting what is already there. This also regenerates the leaves! A trimmed lavender plant is a happy plant.

You’ve probably already noticed, but there are a lot of lavender farms in Oregon. Lavender originated in the Mediterranean area: what is now Italy, France, Greece, and more. For a long time, France was the best place to grow lavender. Hello, French lavender varieties. But we think Oregon gives them a run for their money! Lavender grows incredibly well in the Pacific Northwest, as our climate is similar to France.

But how do you plant lavender? For best practice, look up what your agricultural zone is, and then the best lavender practices for that zone. Carriage House Lavender is located in agricultural zone 8: for us, planting in spring is best. As for soil, a sandier mix of soil is preferred, as this allows for more drainage. Soil that drains easily can help lessen root rot in lavender. Lavender is drought tolerant, and prefers full sun if possible.

It is not difficult to care well for lavender once you understand the plant a little better. We hope this article clarified some of the lavender mysteries, and maybe even taught you something new. Don’t forget to shop your favorite lavender products to see in person how the lavender essential oil from our farm is used.



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