Lavender

For a beautiful plant that has many uses, culinary, cosmetic and medicinal, you can't beat Lavender. But in the appropriate climate, lavender is a long-lived perennial with a typical productive life of about 10 years, although plants have been known to live 20 years. Written records of the use of lavender for medicinal purposes date back as far as 60AD. It is thought that the name of the plant comes from the Latin "lavare", to wash, since the Romans used to bathe in lavender-scented water. They found it refreshing, and it was in this role that the herb was to be valued for many centuries to come. A dab of lavender water on the temples was considered the ideal treatment for the fainting. Legend tells us, that the Romans brought lavender to Britain. It was a highly valued plant due to its healing, soothing and insect repelling properties. Lavender oil was also used for massage. Records show that monasteries used lavender medicinally and it was listed as such, as far back as 1301. Lavender was often used during Tudor and Elizabethan times in the preparation of a wide variety of dishes and was a particular favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She used it to treat her migraines. The palace gardeners were required to have lavender flowers available at all times which were used to make Conserve of Lavender (a mixture of lavender flowers and sugar) and sweet lavender tisane, a drink made with lavender flowers, boiling water and honey. At one time lavender was virtually essential to the home medicine cabinet. It was used to relieve, among other things; headaches, fainting, hysteria, stress, insomnia, muscle aches, bug bites, rashes, colds, chest infections, rheumatism and flatulence. Many of the purported medicinal uses for lavender have, upon modern scientific testing, proven to be legitimate. Lavender oil does have antibiotic activity effectively killing many common bacteria. It is used to soothe and promote natural sleep.

Non-food products manufactured with lavender oil include soaps, colognes, and other cosmetics. Very high-quality essential oil of lavender is required for use in the alternative health practice of aromatherapy. The stems or "straw" left after stripping the flowers can be burned like incense and have often been used as a means of deodorizing and disinfecting sick rooms. The other maladies that Lavender is reportedly helpful in controlling include such things as the control of dandruff and hair loss when included in shampoos. Many of these claims have yet to be tested scientifically but it is evident that many of the old uses for lavender were more than simply old wives tales. As a culinary herb, you'll find contemporary recipes for lavender shortbread cookies and lavender ice cream.

Lavender loves the sun and hates to have its feet wet, so choose a position with good drainage and plenty of sun. In fact they will winterkill if the roots stay damp. They are great candidates for rock gardens. Select soil that is well worked, well drained and so loose you can dig it with your hands. Once established in a garden, lavender is a hardy and drought tolerant perennial. Lavender is better off with a little compost mixed into garden soil and small rocks are a boon. Heavy, wet clay is a disaster. And since lavender prefers what is called "lean" soil, compost should be coarse, mostly to break up clay and create drainage. Fertile, rich soil, the kind that vegetables crave, is not recommended. Most experts suggest purchasing the plant rather than attempting to grow from seed because germination is often spotty. Lavender likes a slightly alkaline soil so adjust accordingly. Space your plants so there will be plenty of room for airflow around the plant once it matures. Carefully knock the plant from its pot, spread the roots, and place the plant in a hole that accommodates the spread roots. Mixing a little bone meal into the soil mix below the roots will slowly release organics that promote both root and leaf growth. Roots should not be placed directly on the meal, but on a mix of soil and meal.

If the stems are long enough, give the plant a little shape by pruning, this will start the stems branching. Prune your plant in the early spring to 2/3's of its size. It seems drastic but this will stimulate new growth. Don't be afraid to "give them a haircut". They respond very well to being shaped because plants that are not pruned may have a tendency to fall open in the middle and sprawl. Harvest lavender as soon as it blooms- tie the branches together (rubber bands work well) and hang the bundles in a dry, cool room.

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To keep beetles from eating developing cantaloupe, squash, and pumpkins, slip old nylon hose over the developing fruit. The nylon will stretch and bugs cannot get through, or will avoid it. 

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As late summer approaches, your vegetable garden starts to look untidy. Pull out all your spent plants. Clean up debris and rotting vegetables. Keep your vegetables picked and dying leaves removed. This helps prevent disease and insects from taking over the garden.

Brandie

"When I am an old lady I shall have a lavender bush and sprinkle the blooms upon my sheets and under my pillow"




 
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