Mojitos at a moment’s notice? Yes, please! It turns out that mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow at home. In fact, your biggest problem when growing mint might be how to reign your plants back from taking over your entire garden.
Tasty and versatile, mint is also unfussy about its conditions. In fact, wherever you plant this Mediterranean native, it usually thrives. As a potted plant or addition to an herb garden, mint really can’t be beaten. Mint’s fragrant leaves are delicious tumbled in drinks, added to salads and even as an exceptional homemade ice cream flavor.
However, despite its abilities to grow with ease, there are some tried and true methods that simply work better for growing mint. If you’re ready to produce an exceptional crop without putting your other plants at risk, read on to learn to secrets of growing this stellar herb.
Start Growing Mint
There are several different ways to grow mint, including from seed, in containers and through cuttings and root runners.
When and Where Should You Grow Mint?
As one of the easiest plants for beginner gardeners to grow, mint is a hardy perennial that can grow just about anywhere. Though it grows best in full sun, it’s also a simple process to grow mint in containers indoors. So long as you start your last seeds at least two months before the expected frost date, you can grow fresh mint throughout your growing season.
Starting Mint From Seed
Though it’s quite simple to grow mint from seed, you will have little idea what the plant will look like in the long run because mint plants tend to cross-pollinate with each other and produce hybrid seeds. Some varieties, like peppermint, are almost impossible to grow from seed. This isn’t a problem for everyone, but if you want to grow a specific variety of mint, it’s usually best to start with a transplant or cutting.
If you decide to grow mint from seed, you can start your plants indoors roughly seven weeks before the last frost and transplant them outdoors to have a thriving mint supply all summer long. Mint seeds should be thinly spread on potting soil and left uncovered because they need light to germinate. In most cases, germination should occur within two weeks if you keep the temperature between 68 and 75 degrees. Once the plants have their second set of leaves, they are ready to be moved outside.
Cuttings From Pre-Existing Plants
If you have a source of thriving mint plants, the easiest way to start some new ones is to grow them from cuttings. Simply cut a four-inch sprig about ½ inch above a junction in the branch. You can pull off any leaves in the bottom few inches and place the sprig in water, making sure that none of the remaining leaves are under the water line. Usually, after a week small white roots will appear, and a week after that the cutting is ready to be planted in soil.
Plant a Runner
By definition, runners are the long stems that grow away from the main mint plant as it spreads throughout the surrounding area. However, you can use these rooted stems to start new plants if you carefully dig them up and plant them where you want them. It’s an effortless way to get your mint started.
Growing Mint in Containers
It’s never safe to assume a small amount of mint will remain in place in your garden, as this herb is notorious for dominating its growing space. For this reason, many gardeners choose to grow their mint in containers in order to stop it from taking over.
Once a transplant has been planted in a pot, it’s best to keep it in a place with plenty of sunlight. Make sure that you keep it in a place where you’re likely to remember to put it to use, like the kitchen windowsill.
Planting Mint Outdoors
If you decide to risk the invasion and plant mint in your garden, the best time to do so is in the spring. Mint isn’t too picky about its soil conditions and can thrive in pH levels ranging from 5.6 to 7.5. In most cases, it grows best in rich, well-drained soil that gets full sunlight throughout much of the day. Organic fertilizer can be a big help for mint plants, but be sure to avoid using any type that might contain weed seeds, as weeds can quickly overtake a young mint patch.
When you plant your mint, it’s best to plant the rooted sprig just below the tip of the soil. If you plant multiple seedlings, be sure to space them at least fifteen inches apart in order to give them enough room to grow. As the plants grow bigger you may need to thin them down farther.
Watering and Mulching Requirements
After you first plant mint, it’s a smart idea to keep it well watered through the first year. Try to keep the soil consistently damp without soaking it and keep watch to ensure that the water is draining adequately. Mulch can serve a dual purpose in a mint bed, as it helps to keep the soil from drying out while also preventing mint from spreading too far out of control. Mulch can also be used to insulate your plants throughout the winter so that they can better withstand freezing temperatures.
Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations
The biggest benefit of mint (its ability to thrive in almost any environment) is also a negative when it comes to the kinds of plants it can grow next to. Never plant your mint in a place where plants need to compete for space and try to create natural barriers around it in order to impede it from taking over.
However, there are some pest-control benefits with keeping your mint crop close to the rest of your garden. Peppermint and spearmint are beneficial to cabbage and other brassicas because they repel the cabbage fly as well as ants and cabbage loopers.
Common Pests and Diseases For Mint
There aren’t too many disease problems that mint gets affected by, though certain types of fungus can pose a problem. If you see orange-brown patches on the bottom of your leaves, your plant is suffering from rust and should be treated with a fungicide. Verticillium wilt and mint anthracnose are also common insect problems for mint, though they can be kept at bay if you keep your plants watered and ensure there is good air circulation between each plant.
Only a few insects can stomach the strong smell of mint enough to attempt to eat the leaves, but if you have a problem with aphids or flea beetles, you can spray the leaves down with a soap spray to encourage them to leave.
Harvesting and Storing Mint
Once your mint plants have been growing robustly for a while, you can harvest them throughout the summer season for immediate enjoyment. Mint leaves tend to be most potent when picked in the early morning, and the plants can be harvested by simply snipping off stems when you want them. In fact, mint picks up its growing pace the more you pick, so there’s little reason to worry about over-harvesting, though it’s good practice to always leave at least a third of the plant untouched.
In order to store mint, you can freeze or dry it with little effort. To air dry mint, simply bunch together bundles with a rubber band and hang them upside down for several days. Once the stems and leaves are crispy and completely dry, you can pull off the leaves and store them in airtight containers.
At the end of the growing season, be sure to harvest as much mint off your plants as you can. The roots should survive the cold with little problem, but the above-ground growth will die off when the cold sets in.
Saving Mint Seeds
Mint might not normally be grown from seed, but it’s still possible to collect seeds from your favorite plants anyways. When the flowers on your mint plants have turned brown and dry, the seeds are ready to be harvested from them. All you need to do is crush the flower heads between your hands so that the chaff separates from the seeds.
Keep in mind that mint plants are cross-pollinated. If you want your seeds to remain true to the parent, make sure your crops are kept far away from other mint varieties before they flower.
Choosing the Best Mint Seeds for Your Conditions
There are over 3,500 different varieties of mint on the market today, though there are a few standout varieties that most gardeners prefer to plant. Below are some of the top mint varieties you can easily grow at home.
- Apple Mint: Alternatively called “woolly mint”, apple mint has fuzzy, serrated leaves and is a great addition to iced drinks.
- Ginger Mint: Smelling strongly of spearmint, ginger mint has beautiful bright yellow stripes on its leaves and is delicious in melon salads.
- Peppermint: Well known for its spicy fragrance, peppermint also is full of medicinal benefits that make it well worth growing at home.
- Spearmint: Similar to peppermint, spearmint has bright green, pointed leaves that have a more mild flavor.
Additional Growing Tips for Organic Mint
Mint might be a simple plant to grow, but there are a lot of different ways you can tweak your experience to get better results. Below are some top tips to help you get your mint growing to its full potential faster.
- Mint grows quickly, so it’s smart to cut it back heavily in order to keep it at a manageable size.
- When trimming your mint, trim off the top of the plant to keep it growing bushy, not leggy.
- Mint seeds are poisonous if eaten, so be sure to keep your seed packets far away from children and pets that might be looking for something new to try.
- To extend your harvest time throughout the season, a pinch of mint flowers when they appear.
- If you want to keep your mint contained in the garden, try growing it in a bottomless container. This allows the roots to go deep into the ground for maximum nutrition without allowing space for the stems to spread.