Mint is a genus of the broader mint family, Lamiaceae, which also includes other beloved family members like rosemary, oregano, sage, lavender and thyme. Although this hardy perennial can become invasive in the garden, it can very easily be controlled by regularly pulling out the runners or by growing them in containers.
Besides wanting to take over your yard, mint is actually a very beneficial addition to any kitchen garden. Here’s why!
Why mint is a must:
- Colourful mints like pineapple-mint (Mentha suaveolens) and ginger-mint (Mentha x gracilis) make lovely groundcovers, especially around fruit trees, perennials and even roses.
- If mint is allowed to flower, it produces bright blooms that attract wasps and hoverflies to control aphids.
- The flowers also attract pollinators like butterflies and bees to your fruit and vegetable crops.
- Mint is an excellent addition to salads, vegetables, jellies, sorbets, dressings and dips. And who doesn’t love a sprig of fresh mint in a glass of ice cold water on a summers day!
- Mint has numerous medicinal properties and has been used for centuries to aid with indigestion or upset stomach. A herbal tea is often made to calm or soothe anxiety and essential oil produced from mint has antiseptic properties.
- Mint is a strong-smelling plant and therefore acts as a natural insect repellent. Plant them as companions alongside tomatoes, cabbages, kale, carrots, onions, brussels sprouts and radishes to deter pests.
*Tip: By planting mint in containers you are able to position your mint wherever you decide to plant your crops.
Grow mint in a container to contain its vigorous growth
How to grow your own:
Soil - Plant mint in richly composted, moisture-retaining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Also, cover the soil with a little bit of mulch to keep the soil moist. Mint should also bed fed regularly with organic fertilizer, especially when grown in pots where nutrients may leach out when watered often.
Soak - Mint is a thirsty herb so keep the soil moist at all times by watering regularly.
Sun - Plant your mint in a sunny location or place containers near a sunny windowsill. Mint also tends to get mildew or rust if they get too much shade.
Space - Mint is prone to spreading so you really only need two mint plants, however, if you choose to plant more, space them about two feet apart.
Secateurs - Prune by removing old stems throughout the growing season, this will encourage newer shoots to grow. Cut the plant down to the ground at the end of the growing season when the leaves are turning yellow or brown.
*Tip: Mint can be regenerated after winter by planting out root cuttings during spring. Grow the new plants in a different spot so as to get rid of diseases from the previous season.
Common mint varieties:
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) - Named this because of the apple-fragrance released from its hairy apple-green leaves. This plant grows approximately 30 cm in height and produces mauve flowers during summer. It can be used to make a mint sauce and is also perfect for adding fresh flavour to cold deserts like sorbet.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) - This is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. It has an incredibly pungent with a high menthol content.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) - Spearmint has lax, tapering spikes of lilac, pink, or white flowers. Compared to peppermint, spearmint has a delicate flavour and fragrance, often described as sweet.
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata') - Leaves of this cultivar are variegated with creamy white instead of the solid green of the species. The leaves have a pineapple fragrance, although not particularly strong and are more just somewhat sweet and fruity.
Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’) - It can grow up to 45 cm tall with dark green-brown leaves. A favourite to add to deserts because of the chocolate fragrance.
Basil mint (Mentha x piperita f.citrata 'Basil') - It can grow to approximately 60 cm tall and has to be pruned when it gets woody. It produces pale purple flowers during the summer. This mint is wonderful for making a delicious pesto and can also be used to flavour oils and vinegars.
Ginger mint (Mentha × gracilis) - A cross between spearmint and corn mint. Ginger mint leaves are best when used fresh.
Harvest just before mint flowers, when its aroma is at its peak!