Monday, July 11, 2016

Tips for Growing and Containing Mint

Growing mint in the home garden is a delicate dance between desire and frustration, delight and horror. Plants in the mint (Lamiaceaefamily are tough as nails, and seemingly driven to conquer the world. Here's how to contain mint before it contains the rest of your garden to one small square foot.

The mint family includes popular favorites such as spearmint, apple mint, peppermint, and many, many other types of mint. Mint is so prolific, and crosses easily with others in the mint family, that different mints planted within your garden can actually mingle their genes and produce unique and distinct offspring. That explains why a dear friend of mine, who lamented leaving his exceptionally pungent patch of mint behind in New Jersey when he moved to Virginia, was right when he said he could never find the exact same scent in mint plants here. It's possible he had a unique hybrid right in his yard, or one of the dozens available on the commercial market that may not have made it to our local garden centers.

Mint spreads mostly by runners, however, and not by seeds, and it will spread, far and wide. In fact, mint can even tunnel under fences, barriers, and other things you put in its way.

Experts at the Cooperative Extension recommend that if you wish to keep your mint contained, you container it - that is, you plant it in a container. You can sink the container into the soil to grow it in your garden without it spreading throughout and swallowing everything in its path.

Mint loves full sunshine, but can survive in partial shade. They tolerate a wide range of soil types and can survive drought. Pinch leaves or snip them off and dry them for use in teas and other cooking projects later in the year. Don't worry about over-harvesting your mint. It laughs in the face of adversity.

If you do find your mint patch taking over the yard, you may need to pull it out and pot up just enough to tide you over. Any little bit of stem or root left in the ground will find a way to grow again. (Ask me how I know). Be careful, thorough, and resigned to the fact that you may need to repeat the process of digging it up for several seasons until it gets the hint that it's no longer wanted.

Mint is easy to grow but can be a pest. If you love it, however, nothing beats the scent of freshly crushed mint leaves rolled between your fingers. To me, it's the scent of summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment