Growing mint in the garden is very straightforward. It is easy to grow and emits a wonderful scent when you brush past it. It can be used in a variety of dishes including roast lamb and salads and goes well with freshly podded peas.
Mint is a hardy perennial and a voracious grower. It will do well in both sunny and shady parts of the garden. It will also thrive in pots; in fact if you have a small garden it is recommended that you grow mint in a pot to prevent it from spreading and taking over the other herbs.
There are three main varieties of mint that people grow in their herb gardens:
- Pennyroyal mint – the most common type of mint.
- Peppermint – with a distinct cool peppermint flavour.
- Spearmint – traditionally used in mint sauces.
How to Grow Mint
Mint can be grown easily from seed, or young plants sold at garden centres. Mint is tolerant of almost all conditions, but it prefers a well-drained, fertile soil. However, mint enjoys a fair amount of moisture, so it will do better in a moderately shady position, where the soil won’t dry out as quickly as it would in a very sunny area.
Mint can also be propagated from its roots, or rhizomes. Simply take a piece of root and pot it up in a small container, keeping it well watered. Leaves should begin to sprout within a few weeks and the small plant can then be transplanted into the garden the following spring. As mint is such a strong grower it is advisable to grow it in a container to prevent its roots from spreading and potentially killing other plants. You can sink the container into the soil so it appears that the plant is part of the herb bed, however its roots will be contained so the plant will never be able to grow beyond the confines of the pot.
Caring for Mint
Mint requires little attention and will thrive in almost all conditions. However a mulch of bark or leaves will keep the plant happy; it will provide nutrients and lock in much-needed moisture for the roots. After the plant has started to flower the leaves will stop growing. It’s important therefore, to remove any flowers that appear to keep the plant producing leaves right up until autumn.
Dealing with Mint Pest and Diseases
Mint is not susceptible to a wide range of pests and diseases but can be affected by rust. This can be a deadly infection for mint plants. Mint rust is simple to deal with. Simply carry out the following steps to clear out the disease:-
- If you notice orange blobs on the underside of your mint leaves remove the leaves immediately.
- If many leaves are affected it’s best to chop the plant down to ground level and burn it. Fresh leaves should grow without infection the following spring.
- Alternatively, remove the entire plant and start again (if you grew your pot in a container then remove the soil and clean the pot with a disinfectant before replanting).
Harvesting mint is very straightforward. Simply cut the leaves when needed, using a pair of scissors. Cut from the top of the plant (this will encourage new stems to shoot out from the sides). Never remove all of the leaves from the plant; this will hamper its growth.
Growing Mint in Containers
Mint is particularly suited to container growing, and will grow happily in potting compost. Water the plant if the pot dries out and feed with an organic liquid plant food once a month during the growing season.
Mint is a delightful herb to grow in the garden and has many uses in the kitchen. It is easy to grow and returns every year to provide you with fresh leaves to add to new potatoes, fresh peas, and turn into a delicious mint sauce.