Cool and refreshing, mint is a hardy perennial with a multitude of uses.
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 75-90 days from seed
Height: 12 to 30 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows
Stand back! Mint (Mentha) produces quickly and can take over in ideal conditions. As a result, many home gardeners prefer growing mint in containers to keep it… well, contained. The plant is easy to grow and perfect for the beginning gardener.
One of the most popular of all herbs, mint — spearmint and peppermint — is known by its square stems, aromatic leaves and refreshing flavor. Plants are hardy perennials often attaining 3 feet in height.
Fact: The US produces 70% of the World’s peppermint and spearmint supply with almost half of the mint oil production being used for flavoring chewing gum.
Mint grows from underground runners and thrives on abundant water. It’s not fussy about soil or light, but ample water is mandatory for success. To prepare planting sites, dig in plenty of rich organic compost (see Preparing Garden Soil). Avoid using animal manures with potential weed seeds since weeding becomes difficult in an established mint patch.
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How to Plant:
Although mint may be grown from seed, it is a good idea to buy small plants of your choice to be sure of getting the variety you want. Space plants 1-2 feet apart in all directions and mulch to retain moisture and keep leaves clean. Mint is easy to propagate from cuttings (see Planting & Propagation). Older mint plantings can be divided up every 4-5 years.
Tip: Keep mint from overtaking your herb garden by planting in a bottomless pail, or other container, sunk into the soil at least 10 inches deep.
Mint leaves can be harvested regularly and enjoyed throughout the summer months. Leaves are best when picked early in the morning just before the dew evaporates. To dry mint, cut the stalks just above the first set of leaves, as soon as the flower buds appear. Hang upside down in bundles in a dark well ventilated room for at least two weeks (watch How to Dry Herbs — video).
Insects and Disease:
Several garden pests are common on mint including aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles and spidermites. Apply least-toxic, natural pesticides to prevent further damage and establish control. Mint is also susceptible to fungal diseases, such as rust and anthracnose. Hand prune infected leaves and apply organic fungicides — copper or sulphur — at first sign.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Seeds are ready to harvest when the blooms begin to turn brown and dry. When the heads are completely dry, gently crush them between your hands and then carefully winnow away the chaff.