How to Grow Bay Leaf Tree – A Guide to Growing Bay Leaf Tree
Bay Leaf Trees given the right growing conditions and not pruned can grow to 12 m (40 feet) high. To keep them to a dwarfed and more reasonable size they need to be grown in a container .
Ornamental bay trees you can buy from garden centres are the same variety as the bay leaf which is used in cooking. An evergreen tree which flowers in the spring and you can use in cooking makes it a good addition to your garden or patio.
Varieties of Bay Tree
The decorative bay trees, including small plants available from both garden centres and plant nurseries are one and the same aromatic, culinary bay.
Pests and Problems with Bay Trees
Although the bay tree is generally problem free it is shallow rooted. So to avoid root damage it is best not to grow other plants in the same pot .
Although evergreen the bay can suffer leaf damage from frost and cold winter winds. In cold weather it is best moved to a sheltered spot (if potted) and should be protected with horticultural fleece or bubble wrap if the temperatures are going to drop below -5ºC.
Growing Bay Trees
Although you can grow bay from seed, it is much easier to buy a small plant.
Using fresh compost pot it up into the next size of pot – John Innes No. 3 loam based compost would be best. To ensure good drainage place course grit or broken clay pot pieces in the bottom of the pot .
A slow release fertilizer or liquid feed should be added at planting. Then give a small amount of general purpose fertilizer fortnightly from spring and right through the summer .
The bay tree is happy to grow root bound so once it is the size you want, stop potting on. Then each spring just change the top 2.5 cm (1 inch) of compost and halve the amount of fertilizer.
Pruning bay is best done each spring and to encourage bushy growth you need to cut out the leading growing tip. Bay trees are often pruned to grow into pyramid shapes, or as a standard ‘ball on a stick’.
Harvesting Bay Trees
The aromatic leaves can be harvested as and when you need them for cooking.
Eating & Storing Bay Leaves
When you prune your bay you can dry and store the leaves from the trimmings for later use in the kitchen. Bay leaves can be kept in an airtight jar.
Traditional ‘bouquet garni’ contains bay, along with parsley and thyme.
Give your soups, stocks, cooked meat and stews a fragrant flavour by adding bay leaves while cooking. The leaves should be removed before serving .
Medical Benefits of Bay Leaves
Essential oil of bay laurel is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism .