Stand back! Mint (Mentha) produces quickly and can be invasive in ideal conditions. As a result growing mint is perfect for the beginning gardener. One of the most popular herbs, it is known by its square stems and aromatic leaves. Plants are hardy perennials often attaining 3 feet in height.
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 soil, dig in plenty of compost. Avoid using animal manures with weed seeds since weeding becomes difficult in an established mint patch.
How to Plant:
Although they 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. 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.
Mint leaves can be harvested regularly and enjoyed throughout the summer. It is 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 a dark, well ventilated room for two weeks or more.
Insects and Disease:
Several insect pests are common on mint, including aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles and spider mites. 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 pick infected leaves and apply organic fungicides (copper, 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.