Harvesting Lavender – When and how to harvest lavender
Lavender grows slowly during the first year, and many farmers cut the flowering stems when the first buds open during the first growing season.
We usually harvest during summer (June-July in most areas of United States). Knowing when exactly to harvest lavender requires extensive experience and constant “trial and error” effort. Most farmers harvest when the buds have formed but most of the flowers have not yet opened. There are two rules of thumb when harvesting lavender. The first is that we must choose a sunny day with mild weather and no wind in order to harvest. A potential rainfall at the day of the harvest (or even 2-3 days before) will decrease the quality of the final product. Extreme heat and strong winds will also favor the evaporation of essential oil, so a portion of our product will be lost if it is too hot or windy. As a second rule of thumb, we harvest lavender for essential oil about 5-10 days earlier than when we harvest for floral stems. However, these are just common patterns that should not be followed without making your own research.
There are several harvesting techniques, depending on which part of the plant we need. If we are interested in dried floral stems, as a rule of thumb we harvest longer lavender stems. If we are interested in essential oil, first we have to decide if we plan to produce essential oil only from flowers and/or from leaves. Essential oil from flowers is of higher quality.
In developing countries, farmers harvest lavender by cutting with a scissor just under the first set of leaves. In major commercial lavender farms of USA, France and Spain, lavender is harvested mechanically via machines attached to tractors. Those machines cut the stems in predefined length in order to promote new growth.
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