Yesterday marked harvest number four out of my circular herb bed.
- Lemon Balm
That’s not too shabby, right?
Last year, I started a small crop of peppermint in the back of my bed. It didn’t do a lot, so I assumed it died off over the winter.
Wrong! It exploded this year, and now I not only have peppermint, but I also have some spearmint growing that I planted this year.
There’s so much you can do with mint – and it is truly one of those plants that does best when you ignore it (which is really what I’m all about when it comes to gardening).
Here are ten things you need to know about growing mint.
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1. Mint has a storied history.
Mint has been around for longer than you could probably ever imagine. Some people argue that it’s virtually impossible to find it growing in nature in its original, untouched form, because it’s been cultivated by humans for so long.
However, there are a ton of Biblical references to mint that suggest it was one of the first-ever herbal remedies. It was used as a tithe by the Pharisees and it was also used as a fragrance in ancient Athens.
It was found in the earliest toothpastes in the 1300s, and was used as a digestive aid in the sixteenth century. Brought to the New World by the Pilgrims, mint has a ton of medicinal purposes. Which leads us to the next point…
2. It’s really good for you!
No matter what kind of mint you consume or use – whether it’s spearmint, peppermint, or another kind of mint – it’s super good for you. Here are some of mint’s many health benefits:
- Soothes an upset stomach with the cooling effects of menthol
- Improves circulation and relieves inflammation
- Encourages healthy digestion, reducing the symptoms of constipation and diarrhea
- Treats bad breath
- Fights the cold and flu viruses
- Reduces fever
- Increases mental clarity and focus
- Relieves stress
- Encourages healthy skin, hair, and nails
- Has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties
- Promotes relaxation
Mint is a natural treatment for so many health problems – it’s no wonder why it’s a common ingredient in teas, oral care products, and other items.
While mint can be used for a whole host of conditions, it’s not recommended that you consume excessive quantities of mint if you are suffering from acid reflux (mint can increase your symptoms of heartburn) or are pregnant. As always, consult a doctor with any questions before you begin consuming mint as part of your health regimen.
3. There are several varieties you can play with – for best results, choose a few!
There are several varieties of mint that you can grow. The most popular include chocolate mint, spearmint, sweetmint, and peppermint – but that list is definitely not all inclusive. They all have similar growing requirements but can be used in radically different ways in the kitchen.
These are some of the most popular varieties of mint you can grow:
- Chewing Gum mint
- Pineapple mint
- Grapefruit mint
- Apple mint
- Pennyroyal mint
- Red Raripila mint
- Corn or Field mint
- Chocolate mint
- Orange mint
- Lavender mint
- Calamint Licorice mint
- Basil mint
- Ginger mint
Remember, mint grows really aggressively – so you might want to buy small quantities of seeds of each type and then see which ones you like the most! You likely won’t have any trouble getting them started.
4. Mint can take over rapidly – and even become invasive!
All mint grows in the same way, making it an ideal candidate for the lazy gardener! However, it spreads rapidly, so you will want to keep it confined to a pot or raised bed whenever possible. It grows by forming runners that spread above and directly below the ground. It forges large green patches and makes a gorgeous ground cover. You can also plant mint in tight spots, such as around a walkway, to create a luxurious aroma.
Because mint grows so aggressively….
5. …mint can (and should) be grown in a container.
Most types of mint grow exactly the same under the same growing conditions – meaning you can grow multiple cultivars of mint side by side. All require full sun to partial shade as well as moist well-draining soil.
Since mint is so invasive, many people choose to grow mint in raised beds or in containers. This will help keep the plants contained and under control.
If you are planting several varieties of mint, plant them several feet apart at the bare minimum – but ideally at opposite ends of the garden. Mint can cross-pollinate with other varieties, meaning you might end up with some weird scents or flavors in the resulting plant.
In some cases, it might be easiest to grow mint in a container indoors. That way, you will have ultimate control over the outcome of your plants. Make sure your plants receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day and are cultivated in pots that are roughly eight inches in diameter and about a foot deep.
If you choose to grow mint in a container, you may have some minor problems related to fungal growth. Fungal issues are always more common in houseplants but you can help reduce these by watering at the base of the plant and harvesting it frequently.
You may need to replant or take cuttings of your mint every few years to prevent it from becoming overgrown in the container.
6. Mint is a rugged plant – but you might need to watch out for some pests.
Mint repels most pests with its strong scent, and is commonly grown as a companion plant for plants such as:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bell Peppers
- Chili Peppers
There are very few plants that won’t grow well when planted near mint. Just keep in mind how easily mint spreads, and otherwise, you should be fine.
However, you might notice certain pests and diseases affecting your mint plants. These include:
- Verticillium Wilt
- Mint Anthracnose
- Spider Mites
- Root Borers
- Root Weevils
- Flea Beetles
- Mint Rust
Almost all of these problems can be prevented and treated by providing your plants with good air circulation and well-drained soil. This will prevent most foliar diseases. If you notice insects on the plants, you can get rid of them by hand.
Aphids are the most common pests to affect any garden, but particularly a garden with mint. Aphids can be removed by rinsing the pests off with a harsh spray of water. This should be done early in the day, and if you’re maintaining a good watering schedule, you can double up on the chore by watering your plants at that time, too.
7. You can start with transplants or sow seeds directly into the ground.
You can plant mint in the spring or even in the fall if you live in a frost-free environment. When you transplant seedlings, you should space them about 18 to 24 inches apart. Try to plant on a cloudy, windless day, and check on your plants regularly.
I recommend planting mint in a location where it will receive plenty of regular sunlight, although it can also tolerate some shade. It will need to be in a slightly damp area, but I’ve never had a problem with allowing it to dry out from time to time, too. It’s the perfect herb for someone like me, who goes through periods of forgetting to water her garden and then being really diligent about watering for like…a week.
I do recommend planting your mint in fertile soil, however. You should add aged compost to the soil three weeks before planting to improve the texture and nutritional value of the soil. Mint prefers a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 – if you don’t want to test your soil with a soil test kit (which I recommend), just add balanced compost to help keep things level.
Mint grows just fine on its own, but even better when you remember to water it regularly! Consider installing in-ground soaker hoses in your herb bed to provide consistent doses of water. I would also recommend mulching around the base of the plants. This will slow the evaporation of the moisture and also help to prevent weeds from appearing.
I’ve found that weeds are rarely a problem in my mint bed – the mint just grows too aggressively. However, I recommend using the sheet mulching technique to help prevent any problems. It will save you a ton of time during the busy summer months, too.
8. Mint thrives on neglect.
Mint is an incredibly rugged plant that generally dies back in the winter and comes back each spring. A frost-tolerant plant, it grows well in most conditions and there’s not really much that you need to care for it. Just be sure to harvest it regularly!
9. You can harvest mint all season long.
Mint can be harvested at any time, but it’s a good idea to get yourself on a regular harvesting schedule so that it doesn’t get too out of hand. You can harvest the tips regularly and also remove wayward runners. Mint will produce small flowers between June and September -you should try to trim these off before the buds have opened, which will keep the plant producing.
Mint is frost tolerant but does usually die back in zones cooler than eight. Many varieties of mint will overwinter and reappear in zones as cold as zones 3! I have a large patch of mint here, in zone 4, that I didn’t think would make it through last year’s harsh winter – but lo and behold, it did – and it’s taking over the rest of my herb bed!
You should lift and replant your mint every few years. This will help limit some of the invasive behavior and also keep the scent strong and viable.
When you are harvesting your mint leaves – which can be cut at any time – you should wait until just before the plant blooms and then cut the whole plant above the first r second set of leaves. This will remove the yellowing, older leaves to promote bushier growth. You can usually get several harvests of mint in one season.
10. Mint has a ton of uses in the kitchen.
Mint has a place in any cook’s kitchen, and with a variety of culinary and medicinal benefits, I think it’s an herb everybody should grow, too. It attracts pollinators and helps repel pests in the garden. It’s also delicious when placed atop fish, lamb, poultry, and vegetables.
My favorite use for mint is to use it in a tea. I make my own tea bags by placing dehydrated mint leaves between coffee filters and then securing them with twine. You might also consider using mint in classic drinks like mojitos and mint juleps!
I find it easiest to dehydrate my mint and then store it in Ball jars but you could also freeze your mint. Either way, the flavor holds up quite well in storage.
Here are some of my favorite mint recipes:
- Mint Simple Syrup
- Mint Brownies
- Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
- Mint Tea
- Chocolate Mint Smoothie
- Mint Sauce for Lamb
- Greek Grilled Chicken
So there you have it! Everything you need to know to grow your own mint. Get started now by picking up some seeds here.
What other tips do you have for growing mint? Subscribe to our email newsletter for regular tips and tricks on homesteading – wherever you are. You can also follow us on Instagram (@jrpiercefamilyfarm) and Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm) for frequent updates. Happy homesteading!
Want to learn more about gardening? Check out these articles for further reading.
- The Best Tips for Growing Chamomile in Your Garden
- Do I Really Need To Eat Organic?
- 12 Tips for Keeping Your Garden Organized
- 8 Reasons Why You Need a Hoophouse or High Tunnel On Your Farm
- The 25 Herbs You Should Be Growing At Home Now