If you enjoy cooking and eating delicious food, you probably know how bay leaves can make any dish more flavorful. Another good thing about it is it’s also easy to find in a supermarket. But have you considered growing bay leaves at home?
Planting bay leaves in your own garden is simple if you keep these tips into consideration:
What Bay Tree to Plant
First thing’s first, which bay tree should you plant?
There are different varieties of bay trees. The Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’ is the ornamental variety that is great for growing bay hedges or trees for topiaries.
If you’d like the edible varieties, look for Laurus nobilis ‘Undulata’ or Laurus nobilis f. Angustifolia.
Bay Tree Growing Conditions
The next thing you should consider is its growing conditions. A bay tree requires full or partial sunlight. It also thrives in well-drained soil and hardiness zones 5-9.
You can add light mulch to your soil to allow proper water drainage and regulate soil moisture and temperature.
Also consider extreme weather conditions, especially during winter.
Check the coldest temperature in your area. It should not go below 23 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re planning to grow a bay tree.
If it does and you really want to grow one, make sure to plant it in a sheltered position that protects it from winter winds and frost.
Things To Consider When Growing Bay Trees
When all those are taken care of, it’s time to plant your bay tree.
Look for a spot to plant your tree.
Dig a deep hole to fit the root ball of your bay sapling and twice as wide. If you’re planning to plant it in a pot, consider that this tree will grow as big as 10 feet, so you will have to pot it up as it grows.
If you’re planning to keep them in a container for much longer, prune them up to six feet tall.
Prepare your chosen spot to plant the bay tree.
Incorporate some organic matter like compost or animal manure into the soil. Place the bay sapling upright and in the middle of the area. Fill the hole with soil and tamp around it evenly.
Tips for Growing Bay Leaves
Water around the planted area.
When growing bay leaves, remember not to put too much water, or the soil will get waterlogged and lead to root rot. Once your bay tree has established a good root system, it’s generally okay to only water once every one to two weeks. Add some light mulch, and you’re good to go.
If you’re planting in a container, go for free-draining ones.
Add grit in the soil and water moderately to not “drown” your sapling; thus, hindering it from thriving. Tease the ground every once in a while, and replenish the compost. Repot every two years.
Keep in mind that it’s best to plant bay trees during spring.
How to Dry Bay Leaves After Harvesting
Continue caring for your bay plant until it grows mature and ready for harvesting. It takes two years before your bay tree is ready to become your kitchen staple. Midsummer is the best time for harvesting bay leaves to get more of its flavor.
Pick out the large and smooth leaves and dry them.
You can lay the leaves on a baking sheet and make sure they don’t overlap—sundry them for 72 hours or up to 2 weeks.
By then, they’re ready to be stored in your pantry. Now you have ready-to-use bay leaves for cooking any time.
Now that you already have an idea of how to grow bay leaves, feel free to give it a try. Your pantry will no longer run out of these mighty leaves. And oh, don’t forget to check these yummy bay leaf recipes for your future reference.
You may also be wondering, are bay leaves edible? They are technically edible, but it’s still best to remove them from your dish before eating them. Since they’re so stiff and pointed, they can be a choking hazard.
Additionally, learn how this gardener grows bay trees from cuttings in USDA zone 8b in the video below!