Mint is a versatile plant that can be used in many food and drink recipes. There are many varieties of the hardy herb, which can be eaten or planted to provide an excellent ground cover.
How to Grow Mint
Mint plants are hardy perennials that seem to have a will to take over the world. The plants spread fast and can be a nuisance if left unchecked. Be sure to plant mints in areas where you it is okay for plants to take over. You can also grow mints in confined areas or in containers.
There are many varieties of mint, including peppermint, spearmint, bergamot, apple mint, pineapple mint, orange mint and meadow tea. Peppermint is perhaps the most common variety and can be identified by its purple leaves. Mint stems are square, making it easy to identify the plants, which can grow from one to three feet in height.
Mints will grow in a variety of soil types, but the plants do prefer loose, fertile soil in which they can easily spread. Mint plants grow close to the surface by sending out runners, also known as stolons. The runners will grow underground as well as on the surface. Mints can be planted throughout the growing season.
Mint plants, which will grown in both sunny and shady areas, are easy to find. Because they are so prolific, anyone who grows mints will be glad to give you a clump to plant. Garden stores usually carry at least one or two varieties of mint plants. Seeds are also easy to find. Mint seeds can be sown directly in the ground outdoors after the danger of frost is past. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Seeds can be started indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost.
Mints can also easily be propagated from cuttings. Take a three or four-inch cutting of stem from a mature plant. Remove the bottom leaves and place the stem in a container of water and place it on a windowsill. It won’t take much more than a week for the new plant to establish roots.
Growing mint plants require a minimum amount of work once established. The hardest task is keeping the prolific plants from taking over the yard or garden. Routine cutting of the plants to use in your favorite recipes will help keep it from spreading to unwanted areas.
Mint can be harvested anytime throughout the growing season. Mint plants tend to poke through the soil not long after the danger of frost is over and they will grow until frost temporarily kills off the growth.
Uses for Mint
One of the most common uses of mint is iced tea. You can make a tea by steeping the stems and leaves in water. Some folks prefer to use mint tea full strength. Others may prefer to dilute it with black or green tea varieties.
Mints are also used commercially to flavor many items, including candies and mouthwash. You can make mint jelly, which is often served with lamb dishes. Mint also makes a great garnish.
Mints have medicinal qualities as well. Add peppermint oil to your bathwater for a relaxing soak. Mints are said to help digestion and curtail nausea, colds, sore throats and headaches.
Want to learn more about growing and using mint?
Visit Mother Earth News to read more about growing peppermint in your garden.
Read this PDF newsletter featuring mint as the herb of the month to learn more about growing mint plants.
Brewing Iced Tea with Fresh Mint from University of Nebraska–Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Looking for mint recipes. Visit Simply Recipes for all the recipes including mint.