Choosing the Right Mint Variety
When grow mint, choose varieties based on flavour, hardiness, and growth habit. Popular choices include spearmint, peppermint, and apple mint.Consider perennial or annual varieties. Mint that spread by runners like Creeping Mint require more space.
More comprehensive information and care guidelines can be read here.
Preparing the Growing Area
Before planting mint, prepare the growing area by improving the soil’s texture, composition, and drainage. The following steps will ensure mint plants have the optimal conditions for healthy growth:
Loosen and enrich the soil with organic matter like compost. This improves the soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Work 2 to 4 inches of organic material like compost, aged manure, or leaf mold into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Aim for a soil texture that is loose and well-draining. Most mint varieties prefer moist but well-aerated soil. Use a garden fork or tiller to break up any compaction in clay soils. Add coarse sand or perlite to improve drainage if necessary.
The ideal PH range for growing mint is between 6.0 – 7.0. Test the soil PH and adjust with amendments if needed using sulfur to lower PH and lime to raise it.
Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Most mint varieties need full sun to grow and spread vigorously.
Use a drip irrigation system to ensure the soil is kept consistently moist but not soggy. Consider adding organic mulch around plants to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Planting and Transplanting Mint
The ideal time for planting or transplanting mint depends on the variety and growing zone. In general, early spring or fall are the best times when the plants are dormant or just beginning new growth. Here are the basic steps:
Plant cuttings that are at least 6 to 8 inches long. Stick the cuttings 3 to 4 inches into the soil, spaced 8 to 12 inches apart. Ensure the nodes of the cutting are below soil level. Water well and keep the soil consistently moist until new sprouts emerge.
Transplant seedlings or divide clumps of established mint plants in spring or fall when new growth begins. Loosen the roots and pull offshoots from the rhizomes and stems of the parent plant.
Spread the roots of seedlings or divisions and plant them at the recommended spacing for that specific mint variety. Water transplants in well and mulch to conserve soil moisture.
Monitor new plantings closely for the first month, checking moisture levels daily and watering as needed. Cut back any leggy stems to encourage bushier growth. Keep established mint plants well-watered during dry spells, but avoid overwatering.
Essential Care and Maintenance for Thriving Mint Plants
Once established, mint plants are relatively low maintenance but they do require regular care to remain healthy and productive. The following practices are essential to ensuring thriving mint plants:
Water mint regularly to keep the soil lightly moist, but not soggy. During hot summer months, check the soil moisture daily and water as needed to prevent wilting. Established mint plants can often withstand short periods of drought but long-term dry spells will stunt growth.
Use organic mulch like chopped straw or shredded bark to conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and keep roots cooler. Replenish mulch as needed especially after winter. Apply a 2 to 4 inch layer, pulled back slightly from the plant’s base.
Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to promote leafy growth and essential oil production. Fertilize mint plants once annually in early spring right as new growth begins. Overfertilizing can reduce essential oil content and make mint more susceptible to pests and diseases.
In colder zones, cover plants with a protective winter mulch of straw or leaves after the ground freezes. Uncover as soon the threat of hard frost has passed in spring and remove dead and damaged leaves.
Prune mint plants regularly to control growth, remove damaged leaves and improve air circulation. Cut stems back to the ground several times throughout the spring and summer growing seasons.
Harvesting and Preserving Mint Leaves
For optimum flavor and essential oil content, harvest mint leaves as the plants begin flowering. Picking leaves throughout the growing season helps prevent plants from becoming overgrown and woody.
There are two main methods for harvesting mint:
Pick individual leaves as needed for cooking or tea. Use scissors to snip leaves from the top of stems, leaving at least 4 to 6 inches of leafy stem. New leaves will quickly regrow.
Cut entire stems for large quantities. Use pruners or garden shears to cut stems back to a pair of healthy leaves above ground level. The cut stems can be used fresh or dried.
To dry mint leaves, tie trimmed stems in small bunches and hang them upside down in a warm, dark location with good airflow. It will take 2 to 3 weeks for the leaves to be completely dry and crumble easily. Alternatively, lay leaves on a mesh rack and place in an airing cupboard or attic.
For freezing mint leaves, wash and pat them dry. Place the leaves in a layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to an airtight freezer bag or container. The frozen leaves retain their flavor for about 6 months.
Other preservation methods include making mint simple syrup or mint jelly. The syrup and jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.
To maximize production through fall and winter,continue harvesting central shoots from mint plants regularly to promote bushy growth from side shoots with lateral buds. New leaves will continue to form at leaf axils as long as stems remain.
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Frequently Asked Question
How do you take care of a mint plant?
Care for mint by planting it in rich, moist soil. Water when top inch of soil is dry. Prune flower buds to prolong harvest. Cut back before flowers develop. Divide roots every few years.
How do you dry mint leaves?
To dry mint, wash and pat dry fresh mint leaves. Remove leaves from stems. Place leaves in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake leaves at lowest oven temp until crispy, about 30 mins.
What insects or pests affect mint?
Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies and mint rust are common mint pests. Good air circulation and prevention of overcrowding helps reduce pests. Neem oil or insecticidal soap can treat infestations.
Can mint be used in cocktails and drinks?
Yes, mint pairs very well with liquor like rum, vodka, bourbon and gin. It is commonly used in mojitos, mint juleps, and other cocktails. Mint brings a fresh, cooling flavor to drinks.