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Mint - Growing and Using the Fragrant Herb Mint

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Mint - Growing Mint in the Herb Garden

Mint - Growing Mint in the Herb Garden

Photo courtesy Daniel Battiston / stock.xchng

Overview:

Plants in the mint family are very hardy perennials with vigorous growth habits. Mint, left to its own devices, will spread quickly and become a nuisance. However, it is very popular as a flavorful herb and the plants can be grown easily. Just try to chose a spot where you won’t mind the rampant growth or grow it in a confined space.

Latin Name:

Peppermints (Mentha × piperita), Spearmints (Mentha spicata).

Mature Size:

Height - 12 to 18 inches (30 - 45cm).
Width: 18 to 24 inches (45 - 60cm). However plants will spread much further.

Days to Harvest:

Seed germinates in 10 - 15 days. Full size plant depends upon variety and growing conditions. Usually within 2 months.

Exposure:

Sun / Partial Shade

USDA Hardiness Zones:

Depends on variety. Peppermint is very cold hardy, down to Zone 3. Spearmint handles the heat best, up to Zone 11.

Description:

Mint really wants to be a ground cover. The long branches grow upward and then flop over and root, spreading the plant wherever it can reach. The spikes of white or pinkish flowers are attractive, but brief. However, they do attract bees, butterflies and even birds. Most mint plants are hybrids and will not grow true from seed.

Design Suggestions:

Many mints work well in herbal lawns. They will need to be kept mowed, if you plan on walking on them. But this will help control their spread and the scent will make the work more pleasant. Otherwise I highly recommend planting mint in pots and keeping them on patios or paved areas. There will be more than enough to harvest and you won’t have the high maintenance of keeping the plants in check.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Mentha piperita , Peppermint - The best for mint flavoring. (USDA Zones 5 - 11)

  • M. piperita citrata cv., Orange Mint - One of the tangiest of the fruit flavored mints. (USDA Zones 4 - 11)

  • Mentha suaveoloens , Apple Mint - Apple. Mint. What’s not to like? (USDA Zones 5 - 11)

  • Mentha suaveolens variegata, Pineapple Mint - Variegated offshoot of apple mint. (USDA Zones 6 - 11)

Growing Tips:

Mint is one of the few culinary herbs that grows well in shady areas, although it can handle full sun if kept watered.

Cuttings of mint will root easily in soil or water and mature plants can be divided and transplanted. However you can start new plants from seed. Sow outdoors in late spring or start seed indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Keep soil moist until seed germinates.

Mint prefers a rich, moist soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6.5 and 7.0. If the soil is somewhat lean, top dress yearly with organic matter and apply an organic fertilizer mid-season, after shearing.

To contain the roots and limit spreading, you can grow mint in containers, above or sunk into the ground. Be careful to keep container mints from flopping over and touching the ground. Stems will root quickly, if given the chance.

Harvesting: Snip sprigs and leaves as needed.

If you don’t harvest your mint regularly, it will benefit greatly from a shearing mid-season. At some point, you will probably notice the stems getting longer and the leaves getting shorter. That’s the time to cut the plants back by 1/3 to ½ and get them sending out fresh new foliage again. You can do small patches at a time, if you have a lot of mint, and prolong the harvest season. All cuttings can be used, dried or frozen for later use. You can use, dry or freeze the cuttings.

Pests & Problems: Sometimes gets rust, which appears like small orange spots on the undersides of leaves. Use an organic fungicide and try to allow plants to dry between waterings.

Stressed plants may also be bothered by whitefly, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs

Recipe Suggestions for Enjoying Your Fresh Mint

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