Gardens - Herb Gardening
Growing herbs in pots
Three ways to keep a crop of fresh herbs close by for easy snipping
Growing a potted bay tree standard
Evergreen bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) makes a charming standard (i.e., a tree with a long trunk and a rounded head), providing a constant supply of delicious leaves. Pick a durable pot 35 to 45 centimetres across. Choose a sturdy young plant with a single stem that’s as straight as possible. Training these slow-growing plants into a standard takes a few years so it’s worth getting one 60 to 90 centimetres tall to start with. Plant it in the container using high-quality potting soil amended with compost.
To train it, remove the lower branches as it grows, eventually creating a trunk 1 metre long. Keep pinching back the side branches to promote bushiness. When the plant reaches 15 centimetres above the ultimate desired height (usually around 1.8 metres, including the pot), clip the top growing tip. Prune the side shoots to about three leaves. When they have put out four or five leaves, prune again to create a globe shape. Stake the tree if it seems to be top-heavy, until the trunk has put on some girth. Set in a sunny but sheltered spot. Water regularly and feed with a balanced fertilizer every two weeks in summer. Overwinter the tree indoors or in a greenhouse, in a cool spot in indirect sun; do not overwater. Maintain its form by pruning in late spring and late summer.
To harvest, pick the leaves in the morning and dry them quickly under a weight (old phone books are good) to stop them curling, then store in an air-tight jar.