Every year in August, our lavender harvester rolls out into the field to begin getting in the season’s crop. It signals the beginning of the end of our summer season, but it’s also an interesting event to see as stripes of harvested stems begin to appear in the field.
This week, we spoke with Harry, groundskeeper and manager at Hitchin Lavender, who does a great deal of the harvesting at the farm. You can listen to the conversation here:
Our Lavender Harvester
The harvester we use at Hitchin Lavender is unique and was designed and built for us by our local colleagues and engineers. Its design allows the user to adjust the height of the harvester with ease, ensuring that we don’t damage the lavender plants as we go over them.
The harvester attaches to the back of a tractor and then travels over a lavender row at a time. Rows of rubber teeth are attached to a rotating drum at the base of the harvester, which collect the lavender heads and pluck them from their stems. These are then propelled into the back of the harvester, where they remain until it is emptied.
Drying our Lavender
Once the harvester is full, it returns to the barns on the farm, where the lavender is emptied out onto long tarps to make it easy to transport. The drying process then begins.
Fresh lavender is left outside in the sun to dry for a few hours before joining the larger collection in the barn. The lavender is then laid out in rows, heated and aerated through a fan system in the barn, which ensures that the moisture is removed from the lavender quickly. The lavender needs to be turned regularly to ensure that no moisture gathers at the bottom of the pile.
At home, you can dry your own lavender by leaving it out in a light layer over newspaper and turning it occasionally to ensure that the moisture drains from the stems. If you want to maximise the longeivity of the dried lavender’s scent, bunch up your lavender stems loosely and tie them with a rubber band. Then, hang them upside-down to allow the moisture to drain away freely.
Making Use of our Harvested Lavender
When we have dried our lavender, it can then be used in making up products for sale in our shop the following season. Some of the lavender gets sent off to our friends at Norfolk Essential Oils, who steam distill the lavender and return it to us in the form of essential oil. That is then used in many of our soaps, washes, candles and so on.
The dried lavender that remains with us can then be sieved and used directly in lavender bags and sachets or bunched up as they are. Lavender bags are easy to make at home too. All you need to do is remove the lavender buds from the stems, put them in small bags and tie them up. The smell will last for years. If you’d like to keep the buds attached to their stems, take a look at our advice for making a lavender wreath from earlier on this year!
We hope that’s given you some more insight into the harvesting process at Hitchin Lavender! Don’t forget to send us you entries into our sunflower growing competition if you picked up a kit earlier in the year!