Mints are hardy perennial plants that will thrive in the right conditions. The joy is that once they are established, plants in the mint family need minimal maintenance. All you need to do is keep harvesting your mint to make sure it doesn’t become invasive and take over your herb or vegetable garden.
But where should you plant mint to make sure it grows well? Generally, mints prefer light soil that is moist but well-drained. They usually do well if you add a bit of compost. Most varieties of mint grow in full sun or partial shade. If it gets too much shade it tends to get diseases like mint rust and powdery mildew.
Where do I put mint in my garden?
In its natural environment, mint grows in marshy areas, on stream and river banks, and on the fringes of woodland. It’s indigenous to many temperate regions, mostly in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
It is a herb, and one of the Mentha species. So, you might assume that it belongs in a herb or vegetable garden. But anyone with any experience growing mint will know that it can take over areas in the garden if it gets the right conditions.
If you cook a lot with fresh mint, in stews, curries, and sauces, this can be a bonus because you’ll never have to buy it again. It may just be hard to come to terms with tossing the excess. Just remember that they have very shallow roots and they are easy to pull out of the soil.
This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t belong in your herb or vegetable garden. But if you do decide to grow mint in your garden you will need to remove the runners that spread out from the mother plant to prevent it from invading other herbs or veggies.
At the same time, the fact that it spreads so readily makes it an exceptionally easy-to-grow ground cover that will add a fragrant, minty aroma to any part of your garden. Even then, you will have to keep cutting it back to control it.
Growing mint between paving stones or alongside pathways works well because you’ll smell its minty aroma when you brush past the established plants.
You will, though, have to trim the runners regularly to keep them looking neat and tidy.
If you grow mint in a pot, you can grow it just about anywhere in your garden, with the pots on the ground or buried so that you don’t even see the pots. This is an excellent way to contain them, though the roots can still escape the pot, so you need to keep it contained with regular trimming.
Where does mint grow best?
Mint thrives in moist, richly composted soil and does best in full sun or partial shade. You want the roots to retain moisture while the mint leaves soak up the warm sun.
You can grow mint in any garden bed, flat on the ground, or in a raised bed. While you want soil moist, it should also drain well.
If mint doesn’t get enough sun it tends to get rust and mildew. At the same time, while most types of mint grow in full sun or partial shade, some variegated types do need to be protected from direct sunlight.
In the U.S. most types of mint grow well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3-8.
How to Choose the Best Spot to Grow Mint
Presuming you are going to be growing mint in a garden bed:
Find a spot where there is rich, moist soil. It prefers soil that has a pH from 6.0-7.0 and doesn’t like to be waterlogged.
Make sure it gets full sun for much of the day, but some morning or afternoon shade.
If you want to grow mint as ground covers, make sure there is lots of space for the runners to spread. But avoid planting with flowers that it can easily throttle.
Whether you plant your mint in containers or directly into the ground, space them 1-2 feet apart.
Cover with a 2-inch deep layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil.
Is mint an easy plant to grow?
Mint is a perennial plant that will keep on growing for 5-10 years. It is also an incredibly easy plant to grow.
There are dozens of different types of mints, most of which are edible, including apple mint, basil mint, and chocolate mint. All of these have distinctively different flavors that are quite different from other mints like spearmint or peppermint.
Neither pennyroyal nor Corsican mint is edible, but both make superb creeping groundcovers under green peppers or tomato vines, or between strawberries, carrots, and even roses.
Pennyroyal is a great mosquito repellant, so pick lots of it and rub it over your kitchen countertop and window sills.
All types of mint are easy to grow from root cuttings. The best time to take root cuttings is in autumn, or spring, at the beginning of the growing season, particularly in areas where the plants die down in winter.
You can also root mint stems in a glass of water. This is a good idea because when you harvest mint it will stay fresh in water for a few days too. So harvest and propagate at the same time!
Your cuttings will start to form roots in 10-14 days. They can be planted out within 3-4 weeks when the root system is strong and healthy.
Tips to Grow Mint
Tip 1: Soil Quality
If you don’t have a soil test kit and don’t know what the pH of your soil is, dig in some rich compost to improve the quality of the soil. Fertilize with a 10-10-10 product in spring and then again during the growing season.
Tip 2: Moist Soil
Don’t allow the soil that mint is growing in to dry out. Rather, keep the soil moist constantly.
Tip 3: Plant in Pots
Because mint can quickly become invasive, sink a deep tub, pot, or bucket without drainage holes into the ground so it doesn’t choke the other plants. If the container has drainage holes, the runners will find their way through the holes and you will have defeated the object of the exercise.
To ensure that it doesn’t become waterlogged, put gravel or stones at the bottom of the container.
Tip 4: Insect Repellent
Mint has a strong smell of menthol and is a natural insect repellent. It makes a great companion plant for tomatoes, squashes, and brassicas like cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.
It also repels mice, spiders, deer, and squirrels.
Tip 5: Homemade Insecticides
Use mint to make natural insecticides. The easiest type is simply a strong mint tea, made by steeping about ¾ bucket of fresh mint in a bucket of boiling water overnight. Next morning, add ½ cup of soap powder and stir well.
Use this to mop your kitchen floor or outside paved areas to get rid of ants. Decant into a spray bottle and use it to repel aphids.
Tip 6: Beneficial Bugs
All types of mint attract beneficial insects including butterflies, bees, wasps, and hoverflies that control aphids naturally. So you can grow it anywhere in the garden, and let some of it flower to attract these pollinators.
Tip 7: Natural Hybrids
Mint cross breeds very easily, so if you have several different types growing in your garden, don’t be surprised if you produce your own hybrids.
Tip 8: Dealing With Diseases
Mint is incredibly hardy, but there are a few diseases that can attack. Here are three of the most common ones, all fungal diseases:
This fungal disease causes small spots on mint leaves that spread and eventually result in the leaves dropping. It spreads very quickly in warm, wet weather.
If you spot anthracnose, remove diseased plants as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading.
Mint rust results in small yellow, orange, or brown pustules forming on the underside of leaves.
As with anthracnose, remove infected plants and destroy them. Do not put them in your compost heap.
If the soil is too wet powdery mildew can show up as a fuzzy coating on the leaves and stems of plants.
Again, remove the infected plants. Let the soil dry out and don’t water until the top inch of soil has dried out thoroughly.
If you have ongoing problems with fungal diseases, treat with an organic fungicide.
Growing mint is very easy. Your biggest obstacle is likely to be keeping it controlled in your garden.
All mints like moist, well-drained soil and lots of light. You can grow it directly in the soil or in pots.
Either way, you will need to keep an eye on the runners that form and trim them now and then. If they spread too far and wide, simply pull out the runners and offer them to friends.
Whether you enjoy a mint tea or cold drinks flavored with mint, you’ll find it satisfying to grow this herb in your home garden.