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 anount depends on the acerage 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 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, multi-purpose 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 .