When to Harvest Lavender?

I’m often asked by prospective lavender farmers about harvesting lavender plants, and how it’s done. The fact is, there is no “right method”. A huge amount depends on the average of lavender that you have, how it is laid out in the fields and what you want to do with it.

For us at the Jersey Lavender Farm, where we have nine acres of lavender laid out in rows, the harvest usually starts at the end of June. The lavender is closely monitored on a daily basis, and when our earliest -flowering variety of angustifolia (called “No.9”) has nice fat flower buds, but none open yet, the harvest gets underway. This cut of lavender will be for drying. We feel that once the flower buds open, you get a messier product. Our dried lavender is great for use in lavender bags in home, is clean and has lovely fragrance. Later on, when about half the flower buds are open, and the petals have emerged, we shall cut for the steam distillation of our pure lavender oil.

Here the harvesting is done by laying mesh nets either side of the row of lavender and cutting the flower stems off with standards gardening petrol hedge trimmers. It’s hard work, a bit noisy, but it gets the job done using standard, multipurpose gardening equipment. You can easily adjust the cut to follow the contours of the bushes, making sure that you don’t get leaves or too much stem. The lavender falls neatly into the nets, which, once full, can be dragged further down the row for more cutting and when full that are bundled up into the net, put into a trailer, and taken off for further processing.

On smaller farms, the lavender is often cut with a sharp sickle. You really have to watch your fingers, but in skilled hands it gets the job done pretty effectively, and it’s incredible how quickly it can be done. The lavender is often bundled up and tied with a string to keep it all together.

There is also some nifty equipment from Jenquip in New Zealand that harvests lavender. It’s basically an adapted Japanese tea picker, with a curved cutter, a fan to blow the lavender into a bag. It apparently does the job well. My issue is …. What do you do if it breaks down mid-harvest? The lavender won’t wait! With our method at Jersey Lavender, we have no such problems.

On larger farms, and there are some VERY big ones, it is all done very mechanically with sort of adapted combine harvesters that cut three rows at once, and push it up a shoot into a trailer following alongside. I worked out that if we could borrow one of these machines, it would take only a day to harvest our crop!

If you want to see how we harvest our lavender plants, visit us from late June to end July. The harvesting is normally done in the morning.

When to Harvest Lavender for Oil?

Choosing the exact moment to harvest our wonderful Jersey lavender is one of the most important parts of our work here on our lovely Jersey Lavender Farm. Harvest too early and the lavender will not be fully matured enough to produce the perfect highest quality, but harvest too late and the plant will have begun to wither and will have lost some of the volatile molecules that are so essential in producing our amazing lavender oil. Most varieties of lavender will start to flower from about June onwards, but here in Jersey, we tend to find that harvesting around late July or early August is just about perfect.

However, the exact purpose of the lavender after harvesting also affects precisely when we decide to harvest. If we are harvesting lavender that is destined to be dried and then sold as, then the lavender should be harvested when approximately one quarter to one-half of the buds on the stem have come into flower. This ensures that there is a high level of essential oils present in the buds, but if too many of the buds are in bloom, then they are liable to fall off the stem during the drying process.

Conversely, if the lavender is destined to be turned into our famously deep, rich and gorgeously velvety lavender essential oil, the lavender should be harvested when all the flowers have opened and a small percentage of them have started to wither. It is at this point that the oil accumulation is at its maximum, and quality is typically at its peak.

So if you are lucky enough to be growing lavender in your garden, when should you gather in your very own lavender harvest, and what should you do with it? As stated above, what you intend to do with your lavender should influence exactly when you decide to harvest it, but it is also worth remembering that harvesting your lavender crop also serves to prune the plant ready for next year. So when you have decided that the time is right, then it is recommended that you cut the flower stems approximately one or two inches about the woody part, which will encourage the plant to regrow next year.

Then, if you are planning to dry your own lavender, tie your lavender stems together at the base and hang them upside down in a dark, but well-ventilated space. This will ensure that your lavender dries evenly and doesn’t lose too much colour during the drying process.

However, if all of this just seems like too much work, why not just have a browse around our online shop and simply select your favourite lavender products and get them delivered directly to your door – much easier!


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Jersey Lavender Farm Shop