How to grow fresh mint in your herb garden

botanical name Mentha piperate; Mentha spirata
Common name Pepper mint; green mint
Type of plant Perennial herbaceous plant
Cut 12-36 inch
Sun exposure Partial shade
The type of soil Sandy, well-drained loam with organic matter
soil pH 6-7.5
Hardiness zones 3-11
Area of ​​origin Mediterranean Basin
Toxicity Toxic to animals

How to plant mint

Treehugger / Julia Cook

After being planted, mint can spread quickly via runners. Your options are to choose a location that you would like to eventually line with mint, plant in a bottomless container deep in the ground to block lateral growth, or grow mint in a large pot on the patio.

Growing from seeds

Mint is rarely grown from seed, as the cuttings tend to provide a more faithful reproduction of the traits we love. Some seed companies carefully isolate their grape varieties for genuine selection. They recommend starting the seeds indoors during the winter and transplanting them after the last frost.

Growing from a cutting and transplanting

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint spreads fiercely in gardens via its roots or runners. It is hardy enough to sprout roots from a cutting in a glass of water. Simply cut off all of the leaves except the first few pairs of leaves and wait about a week. To plant cuttings directly into the ground, you can use a rooting hormone. Again, cut off all the leaves except the top leaves, then dip the stalk into the powder or liquid. Make a hole in the ground with a pencil, gently insert the rod, and close the soil around it.

Tree climbing tip

Honey can be used as a root stimulator. Boil 2 cups of water, then add 1 tablespoon of honey and stir. Let cool completely before use. Do not toss commercial rooting products down your drain, as they may attract roots to your drains and pipes.

Treehugger / Julia Cook

When transplanting young plants into the garden, whether from seeds or cuttings, space the plants about 18 inches apart in a shallow furrow about 2.75 to 4 inches deep and irrigate immediately. The authors say this planted area can produce for 3-5 years.

Grow indoors

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint can be grown indoors, like many other herbs. All you need is a well-drained pot and enough room for the roots to spread out, some potting soil, and an abundant light source. Use grow lights or set up your plants in a large, sunny window.

Keep in mind that in apartments, heaters are often found near windows and can dry out plants. Choose the type of mint that best suits your space. Peppermint has a tendency to grow slowly or even drag, while spearmint is straighter and can grow long.

Caring for mint plants

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint is a sturdy and adaptable herb that is simple and keeps coming back year after year. It’s a great confidence factor for novice or previously disappointed gardeners.

Light, soil and nutrients

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint loves lots of sun until the weather gets extremely hot, when it can go dormant. Partial shade prolongs the growing season in warm places.

An article published in Plants recommends that the soil be completely cleaned of all weeds for planting.When working on a smaller scale, the soil can be cleaned thoroughly and the manure can be mixed with a tiller. (Of course, growing mint in containers filled with potting soil completely eliminates this chore.) The authors of the article also reported that fertilizing with nitrogen and sulfur increased volatile oils in mint plants. .

What are volatile oils?

Volatile oils are the easily evaporated oils from plants which are responsible for flavors and fragrances and are used in cooking, cosmetics, and medicine.

Water, temperature and humidity

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint plants should be watered several times a week so that the soil is always moist. Its roots will grow close to the surface if given frequent water that does not go deep into the soil. When watered properly, the roots can be up to 2 feet deep, right up to where the soil holds water more consistently.

When the plants have created a thick canopy, evapotranspiration is somewhat blocked; however, after cutting and thinning the plants, more water may evaporate from the soil. Use a moisture meter to adjust the watering. Drip or furrow watering is recommended, as water on the leaves damages them and reduces volatile oils. Mint prefers moderate temperatures as well as medium humidity.

Common pests and diseases

Mints are frequently used as companion plants to deter pests of other crops, but they are not immune to everything. Like many plants, they are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a fungal disease that causes leaves to curl. This disease attaches itself, spreads to the stem, turns it yellow or reddish, and reduces the volatile oil content of mint.

Plant varieties of mint

The most common type of mint is peppermint, which grows wild in various parts of the United States.

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Here are some common and unique types of mint that you might be interested in growing on your own.

  • Spearmint has larger, more wrinkled green leaves and a fresh, crisp taste that is perfect for mojitos or mint and lime waters.
  • Peppermint has smaller dark green leaves and a low-to-ground growth habit.
  • Chocolate Mint features dark leaves with purple stems and tastes like peppermint chocolate candy; it is very refreshing infused in water and stimulating like hot tea.
  • Bergamot mint exhibits a citrus scent and flavor, like its namesake. The showy flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. She likes more shade and humidity than other mints.
  • Pineapple mint has a variegated leaf and a pineapple scent, but it is not palatable.
  • Other parents such as lemon balm require the same steps for planting and care.

How to harvest, store and preserve mint

Treehugger / Julia Cook

Mint is a wonderful cut and return plant. Cut just above a knot and the plant will branch out from there. However, for the best oil content, try harvesting when the plant is in full bloom and in the late morning after the dew has dried on a sunny day.

Mint can be used fresh or dried. To dry the mint, simply tie a small bundle and hang it upside down in a place with good air circulation and no direct sunlight. When dry, crumble it in a glass jar, removing the thick stems. Use as you would any loose leaf tea or herb. The National Gardening Association recommends cutting 6-inch stems, tie them together, and put the bouquet in a paper bag to keep a nice color, then hang the mint in a well-ventilated area.

Terri S. Tomasini