The major reason lavender plants are so prized is that their flowers keep their fragrance when dried.
Besides being beautiful and aromatic, lavender flowers are also edible. They can be used as a seasoning, added to salads, baked into cookies and brewed into tea. They can also be candied and used as a cake decoration.
For best drying results, harvest the flowers as the buds first begin to open. In general, wait until any rain or dew has dried from the plants.
Harvest midday when the heat brings the most fragrance out of the flowers. Hang in small bunches upside down in a warm, dry spot with good air circulation and out of direct light.
Use rubber bands to tie the stems together for drying because they will contract along with the drying stems. If you wish to remove the flower buds from the stems for potpourri after drying, place the bound bundles inside a pillow case.
Then roll it up and gently press and roll it on a hard surface--as if it were a rolling pin. (You can throw away the stems or take them camping and place on a campfire to repel mosquitoes.) Then scoop out the flower buds and place in sachets or potpourri dishes.
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Trying to think of things to keep your kids busy over the summer? Summer is a great time to "sow" the love of gardening in them by engaging them in some fun summer projects.
Build a Living House or Teepee:
Help your child construct a house or teepee by using stakes and twine.
To build the house, place 4 (6'-8') stakes about 6'-8' apart making a square; be sure they are sturdily set in the ground so that they won't collapse when the future "walls" and "roof" are covering them.
On one side of the square, create your doorway by placing 2 stakes about 2' apart in the center.
Secure the stakes with twine near the bottom, in the center and near the top by starting at one side of the doorway and going all the way around the "house" to the other side of the doorway, wrapping the twine several times around each stake as you go.
Prepare a planting bed all around the "foundation" of the house, incorporating a good quality planting mix into the soil.
Plant sunflower seeds and/or a fast growing--non-poisonous or even edible--vine. These will grow up around the walls, making your living house.
If you string some twine across the top of the structure, your vine will grow along the twine, forming a roof.
A teepee can be constructed using 5 (6'-8') poles that are tied together near one end, forming the teepee shape.
Near the bottom of each pole, plant pole beans, preparing the soil as above. These will grow up and cover the teepee.
These structures make great shady "get-away" areas for your kids to go to have a little private time to commune with nature!
Plant a Garden in a Bag:
Many potting soils and some soil amendments can be used to plant right in the bag. This is a fun, easy and inexpensive project to instill the love of growing and harvesting home grown produce.
Simply purchase a bag of soil (ask us which type would be best), cut off the top of the bag and position it where it will get at least 6 hours of sun a day. Punch a few small holes in the bottom of the bag to provide drainage.
Let your child choose the vegetable of his or her choice.
When you get home, plant right in the bag.
Your child can be responsible for the plant by checking it daily to be sure it is getting the right amount of water. You can also teach him or her about feeding the plant when needed and explain how every living thing (including plants) needs nutrients.
When it's time for the harvest, you can cook a meal with your child using the vegetables he or she grew. This one easy project will provide many opportunities to share the love of gardening!
When your flowering plants go to seed, show your child how to collect the seeds and explain how these seeds can be planted in the garden for next year's flowers.
You can turn it into an art project, too, by helping your child make their own seed packages; allow them to decorate each pack with the names and pictures of each plant. Next year, when its time to plant, you can use the seeds that they collected!
These easy and fun projects have the added benefits of getting your child away from the television set or computer, getting them out in the fresh air and sunshine, giving them some much-needed exercise--and maybe even getting them to willingly eat some veggies!
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