Growing & Enjoying the Benefits of Lavender for Beginners

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Lavender. Who doesn’t love a row of perfectly curved bushes surrounded by that glorious purple haze of flowers and the even more incredible aroma? I love the look of lavender and I love the scent.

While I did appreciate the glories of lavender, I really didn’t know how to use it. Looking on Pinterest, I’ve found a lot of great ideas to use lavender for decorating and making crafts and some about growing it, but not so much about actually using it medicinally. Side note, I may have to do another post of my favorite Pinterest ideas to keep me busy once I have more lavender to play with! There also seemed to be a lot, and I mean a LOT on using lavender essential oil, but not so much on using lavender right off your bush.

So while essential oils are great and many of the benefits of lavender can be reaped using the oil, I want to talk about lavender in general and share how to make a lavender infusion.

Benefits of Lavender

Lavender is aromatic, fights gas, is antibacterial and antiseptic, is an expectorant, and is considered an antispasmodic. The use of Lavender dates back to ancient Egypt and China. Lavender has been used to soothe headaches, toothaches, sore muscles, and coughs , ease anxiety, and eliminate digestive issues. (Doctor’s Health Press)

Lavender for Calming

Lavender is probably most well known for its calming, sedative properties. Studies have shown that breathing in the scent of lavender can promote deeper, more restorative sleep. In fact, I found one study done in a nursing home that found that residents slept just as long and even more soundly when they used lavender aromatherapy as when they used a sleep inducing drug. (Prescription for Herbal Healing) Wow, that is impressive. I know I have reached for the lavender at night when my first daughter was awake screaming for hours at a time and it seems to have helped. It either soothed her, soothed me, or just made me feel better because I was actually able to do something for her. I’m not sure & wouldn’t be able to tell scientifically, but when you’re a mama up in the middle of the night, you want results, not science.

Lavender for the Heart

Interestingly, Lavender is also good for the heart. It slows the cardiovascular system , which allows it to release constricted blood vessels. (Doctor’s Health Press) Lavender been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve blood circulation.

Lavender for the Lungs

Lavender has been used to treat respiratory issues including asthma. As an expectorant, it can be useful when you have a cold or a cough by clearing mucus. (dherbs.com) According to Prescription for Herbal Healing the American varieties of Lavender have been shown to reduce the severity of bronchitis symptoms by acting as an antihistamine. This is definitely one tidbit I’ll be keeping in mind as we enter cold & flu season this year.

Lavender for the Skin

This beautiful purple plant has many uses for the skin as well. Lavender water (just an infusion of lavender) spritzed on the face or irritated skin can be soothing. Because Lavender is an antimicrobial, Lavender oil can be used to treat acne. It balances out overactive sebum production, which the bacteria grows on. (Eden’s Garden)

Speaking of skin, you can also protect your skin with Lavender by using it as a mosquito repellent. Simply make a very potent Lavender infusion using 4 cups of water to 4 tbsp of Lavender.

Using Lavender in an Infusion

How do you make an infusion, which is really just another work for a stronger tea? Check out my post here for more details or read on for a brief summary.

Simply boil 4 cups of water then, once it reaches boiling, pull it off the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of Lavender, either loose or in a tea ball, and allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes. I would do much longer then this because one, I would forget about it and two, I would want it very strong. To learn more about storing your infusions, check out my blog post on the subject.

Growing Lavender at Home

Knowing the benefits of Lavender and how to use it is all well & fine, but you need to know how to grow it so you have some to work with! As I have learned more while writing this, I have realized that my poor little Lavender plant has not been taken care of all that well . . . Oh well, live and learn.

To begin with, Lavender is a perennial native to the Mediterranean region. The “four necessities” of Lavender are heat, air, drainage, and dryness.

It loves sun and warmth; Plant in full sun or grow in a south facing window indoors. Many people even suggest planting it against a stone wall/foundation to give your plant extra radiant heat.

The next three needs all have to do with dryness. Give your plant plenty of space so that it has sufficient air circulation and does not stay wet. I found suggestions to give it as much space around as it will grow tall; they seem to grow in a pretty ball shape when given ideal conditions.

The next need is drainage; again this is important so the roots do not stay wet and rot, especially in a pot. You can line the bottom of the hole or pot with gravel to increase drainage.

The last need IS dryness. I included this because you need to specifically make sure not to overwater your plant. Water only when the planting soil has dried out an inch deep. Also make sure, if growing in a pot, not to use a container that has a tray under it to retain water. I would water the plant in the sink or tub, let it drain, then return it to its window so it doesn’t drip everywhere.

Lavender plants like an alkaline soil. You can supplement your soil with oyster shells or add lime to increase alkalinity.

When to prune or harvest your lavender plant? To slow woody growth, I found suggestions to prune after flowering and before winter. Harvesting is pretty straight-forward cut it above the woody line and allow it to dry for two weeks before storing. You can bundle it & hang it, tie it into a wreath, or put it in a vase to do double duty as a decoration while it dries too!

If you live in the south and don’t experience very chilly winters, your Lavender plant should do great outside all year round. However, if you live in the north and have to deal with cold, wet winters, either growing your Lavender in a pot or potting it to bring it inside in the winter is probably your best option. I left my lavender outside last winter, but will be potting it to bring it inside this year. (Though it is 85 degrees today and doesn’t really feel like winter is coming yet!) As a side note for potting your lavender, find a pot around the same size as the root ball of your plant because they like to have their roots more tightly compacted in the pot.

So there you have it . . . a crash course on the benefits of lavender, how to make a lavender infusion, and how to grow lavender in your home garden. Please share if you found this helpful and click on the photo below to pin it to Pinterest!

lavender

Planter Ideas for Indoor Gardening

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There’s a hint of cool in the air, it is officially after Labor day, the kids are back at school, and pumpkin flavored everything is making an appearance. Sounds enough like fall to be thinking about bringing the outside herbs in!

I began looking on Pinterest to get some ideas for my indoor herb garden and was quickly overwhelmed by just how many different posts there are, and just how many of them are SUPER similar to each other.

So, wanting to streamline things, I decided to narrow them down into categories, post a picture of each category, and share some thoughts on each one to help you decide how  you want your garden to grow.

First I want to talk about some of the issues you’ll have to contend with: The two biggies are light and watering. Obviously, it is super important that your herbs get enough light. .Window sills, the sides of cabinets next to windows, stand alone shelves in front of windows or the unused side of sliding glass doors, sunny table tops or desks, etc. They don’t all have to be in the kitchen either. I have plants tucked in my laundry room, bathroom, the window sills behind my couch, and on the dining table. The only thing to consider is that they need to be accessible or you will forget to use them and forget to water them.

Which leads me to my second point; indoor plants are completely dependent on you for water. You can’t forget about them and hope it rains enough to keep them happy like in an outdoor garden. I am absolutely terrible at remembering to water my houseplants and am working on developing some ideas for remembering. That will be a post in itself once I prove to myself I can actually keep them alive. Like I said already, make sure that your plants are accessible; a plant on top of your kitchen cabinet is likely NOT going to get watered as much as a plant sitting on your sink windowsill.

On the flip side of NOT watering your plants is OVERWATERING your plants. With a toddler who really likes to “help mama” I can see this becoming more of an issue. A damp plant will become moldy or get root rot, so let your pots dry out between watering.

Consider drainage too. Some planters like mason jars or tea cups won’t have drainage holes and will need to be watered less. Keep trays under your plants with drainage holes so you don’t damage your window sills or set them in the sink to water them and let them drain for a bit before putting them back.

With these general guidelines in mind, here are a few broad ideas for growing an indoor herb garden.

Shoe Holder Gardens:

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I don’t know how I never thought of this before, but it is brilliant! You could stash it behind a door that gets a good bit of light, or mount it directly on the wall. You would just have to be sure to mount it securely because that much dirt could get very heavy when wet. Which leads me to my next concern. Some shoe hangers are made from breathable fabric, and that could very likely start dripping on the floor when wet, stay damp and damage the door/drywall, or cause mold to grow. If I did this, I would definitely stick with vinyl and potentially cycle my watering schedule to only water 1 or 2 rows at a time. Just a thought.

Cup Gardens

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A Cultivated Nest

How cute are these! I don’t drink coffee, but I have some super cute giant sunflower coffee cups that I would love to display in my kitchen and I think this would be the perfect reason to do so. Only downside is that my husband DOES drink coffee and might not appreciate me filling all the good-sized cups with dirt & plants. This would also be a good use for cups that you love but have a crack in them.

Upcycled Cans as Planters

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listotic

Any sort of cans headed to the recycling bin can be washed out and used as is or spray painted your favorite color. I especially love the idea of copper spray paint to make plain silver cans look a bit more expensive. Adding labels to them is a great touch too because I tend to forget what I have planted in each pot. Another benefit is that unlike other planters such as tea cups or mason jars you could easily drill a few holes in your recycled cans for drainage.  I love the look of matching tin cans lined up along a window sill, but if you are limited on window space, you could also mount them on a board by screwing them on from the backside of the board then mount the board on the wall.

Hanging Bucket Garden:

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HGTV

This looks a good bit more time intensive than simply washing out a can or filling a cup with dirt, but I love the effect! This would be great to add to a window that didn’t have the best view (as long as you don’t open the window very often) It would be fun to put hanging plants in a high row and let them cascade down the window. Another benefit for home herbalists with kids is that could mount them out of reach of tiny fingers and there is no way they would get knocked over during any rough housing. I’m actually talking myself into this as I type!

Tiered Organizers:

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There are so many beautiful tiered organizers available that could be used to display your herbs. It would save space on your counter, catch water that drips out when you water your plants, and be moveable. It could also double as a centerpiece on an island or table, yet be easy to move out of the way when you need the additional space.

Mason Jar Planters:

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Domestically Speaking

We can’t forget the quintessential mason jar! Whether you want to mount them on a cabinet like this photo suggests or spray paint the inside and line them up on your window sill, I love the country touch a mason jar adds (even if it is a bit stereotypical).

So there you have it . . . six broad categories of indoor planters to spark your imagination and help you get your creative juices flowing as you bring your herbs inside. Have another idea that I didn’t cover? I would love to see your ideas & photos of your indoor gardens in the comments!