The term lavender derives from the verb “wash”, the plant owes its name to its good scent: being used in soaps or to perfume drawers, it is typically associated with an idea of good and clean. When it blooms in the garden it is an explosion of color and this delicious aroma spreads in the air.
The lavender bush embellishes the environment but is not simply ornamental: it is a very useful plant and brings many benefits to the garden, attracting beneficial insects and lending itself to various uses, from cooking to scented decoration.
The reasons for starting lavender cultivation are therefore many:
- Ornamental plant. With its splendid purple flowers it perfumes and embellishes the environment
- Attracts beneficial insects. With its flowering in the garden it attracts bees, valuable insects for pollination.
- Medicinal properties. Lavender is also a medicinal plant with positive properties for well-being.
- Aromatic useful in the kitchen. Although little used in recipes, the plant also has interesting culinary applications.
- Use of dried flowers. Its dried flowers can form garlands or be used to perfume linen
- Lavender honey. For those who make beekeeping, lavender is also excellent as a melliferous plant, from which to obtain a very precious honey.
The lavender officinalis plant
In gardening, lavender (Lavanda Officinalis) is widespread for its aesthetic qualities: its bushes remain fairly tidy, generally remaining within 50 cm of height and filling the space of the flowerbed dedicated to it with dense greyish-green vegetation. with long and narrow leaves.
It is a perennial herbaceous plant that does not require much maintenance, in particular, it is satisfied with little water and is not afraid of drought.
Lavender flowers are the classic purple spikes, very decorative and appreciated for the aforementioned perfume.
There are many varieties of lavender, there are no substantial differences in the cultivation of one or the other.
Climate and soil suitable for lavender
Climate. Lavender is a plant that is very resistant to heat and aridity, withstands dry summers, thrives well in sunny locations, and likes the wind. Some varieties also have good resistance to cold and are therefore suitable for cultivation throughout Italy, both in Mediterranean areas and in the north.
Soil and fertilization. This plant looks for light soils and without water stagnation, it also lives well on arid and stony soil, mainly calcareous and not very acidic. It is a very modest herbaceous plant in terms of the demand for nutrients, therefore fertilization can be avoided at the time of planting. Being perennial, it is however good practice to renew the organic substance with periodic and moderate supplies of compost or mature manure.
Propagation of lavender
To start cultivating you need to get the lavender seedlings: we can do it starting from the seed, with a cutting from an existing plant, or obviously by buying the seedlings ready in the nursery to be transplanted.
Sow the lavender seeds
Propagating lavender from seed is not very simple: it is cultivation that requires special conditions to germinate, it has seeds that are difficult to germinate. For this reason, the advice is to avoid the seed crop and buy a seedling already formed or reproduce it by cuttings.
With a little patience, you can still choose to look for lavender seeds or reproduce them on your own. The best method is to put the seeds in the refrigerator for two months, to simulate winter, starting from the end of February we can then proceed with sowing in the seedbed, remembering that the germination times are long.
Propagation by cuttings
The cutting is a technique that allows you to reproduce the plant starting from the branch of a mother plant, it is better to do it in spring (approximately in April).
Lavender is very simple to take root in cuttings: the branch to choose must be at least 10 cm long and with at least three leaves (better 5), chosen from the lateral ones without flowers.
After cutting the sprig you need to peel the leaves of all its lower parts and put it in a jar with mixed sand soil. It is necessary to water regularly since good humidity is needed to root. Within a year, you have a lavender seedling ready for transplanting.
Plant the lavender
After having bought or reproduced the lavender plant, it is time to plant it in the field, a very simple operation.
A sixth of the implant. There is no real planting layout for lavender, it depends on the type of flower bed you want to create. In any case, it must be borne in mind that it is a plant that expands and therefore it is advisable to keep a minimum of half a meter between the plants.
Lavender is a very simple species to grow in the ground and can also be managed in pots on the balcony. A simple lavender flowerbed capable of perfuming and brightening a border can be kept even without care while growing lavender for professional purposes requires more care. Among the enemies of this crop, it is worth mentioning the Chrysolina Americana, a metallic beetle that particularly appreciates lavender flowers.
Lavender is a plant that is not particularly afraid of drought. For this reason, it is necessary to wet only when the earth is very dry and in any case, do not overdo it with watering. In most climates, lavender plants can stay in the vegetable garden or garden even without ever being irrigated, contenting themselves with seasonal rains.
The lavender plant does not require mulching, being herbaceous it easily colonizes the entire dedicated flowerbed and its dense vegetation does not leave much room for weeds. For this reason, the control of weeds on already formed lavender bushes is simple and requires very rare interventions.
Delimit the cultivation bed
It may be convenient to delimit the lavender flowerbed with barriers (wooden boards, bricks, or stones), to safeguard the rest of the garden from the expansion of the lavender and not have to periodically weed it out.
How and when to prune lavender
Lavender must be cut every year, pruning is the only really important cultivation operation if you want to keep this aromatic in the garden.
The purpose of pruning lavender is manifold:
- Keep the bush tidy.
- Keep the plant young, preventing it from going to lignify
- Stimulate flower production.
The correct time to prune this medicinal plant is the end of summer, once flowering is complete. If necessary, to adjust the flower bed, you can also intervene in early spring (by the end of March) with a second cut.
When pruning this medicinal plant, the first operation to do is topping by cutting just below the flower, in this way the bush is kept at a regular height. We then proceed by thinning the stems to facilitate aeration and eliminating the parts of the plant that expand outside their borders at the base.
Cultivation of lavender in pots
Lavender is a flower that can also be kept in pots, as long as you have a very sunny position.
The pot indicated for growing it can have any shape but it must be large, especially in width. The soil to be used must be fairly basic and should be mixed with river sand.
During cultivation, it is necessary to wet regularly but in moderation, with targeted interventions when the soil begins to dry out, too much water can cause the plant to die. In this regard it is also very important that there is drainage at the bottom of the container, expanded clay balls are perfect but gravel can also be fine.
Lavender harvesting and drying
Collection. It is very easy to understand when to harvest lavender: since the flowers are used for this aromatic, the right time is when the flowering spikes begin to form, which happens in summer. To pluck the stems are cut, preferably using scissors and without tearing. The long stem is convenient for making bouquets that can also be used to hang the flowers to be dried.
Drying. The drying time is important to maintain the scent of the flowers. As with many other medicinal herbs, lavender also dries in a shady and windy place, traditionally bunches of lavender are hung under the porches of the farmhouses.
Uses of lavender
Lavender is generally used to perfume, especially in clothing and linen drawers: you can make small bags by placing dried flowers in small canvas bags. It can be a great way to recycle the bags of confetti that accompany the favors.
For medicinal and cosmetic uses and in general, to extract the perfume, the essential oil is obtained from lavender, due to the complexity and the need for specific equipment it is a procedure that is carried out by those who cultivate by profession. Lavender is attributed with disinfectant and beneficial properties for the respiratory system, while in aromatherapy it is used against stress and to relax.
Cooking with lavender
Although it is not often used as an aromatic herb, lavender has many culinary applications, we find it mainly present in blends of dried Provencal aromas. Dried flowers can be used in desserts, cheese sauces, jams, and risottos. By mixing lavender and coarse salt, a flavored salt is obtained that goes well with meat. An interesting application is to insert lavender in the dough of baked goods, to obtain fragrant loaves or biscuits. Vinegar and wine can also be flavored.
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