In my ever conquering quest to get more people to grow their own fruit and veg, I wrote a series of blog posts last year on individual veggies, fruits and herbs to show everyone just how easy some are to grow.
The series, of five, which delved into runner beans, parsley, strawberries, blueberries and radishes were all chosen because they are very simple to grow and delicious to either use in cooking or eat by themselves.
Now we’re in the midst of a new gardening year I thought I’d create a new series.
Five more posts on fruit and vegetables that are just really simple to grow and can be grown well in the smallest of places.
I’ve grown every single veg/fruit or herb that I post about which means I can guarantee they are easy to grow! It also means that I won’t be posting on lettuce, broccoli, nor redcurrants as I have not been successful with those.
If you want to give any of the choices a go please let me know, and be sure to post your experiences of growing them right below the post – I’d really like to hear from you!
Week 3 – Mint
Herbs don’t get any easier than mint (peppermint), other wise known as mentha piperita (one of the very few scientific plant names I could ever remember in my RHS training).
Once established a good plant can keep you in minty freshness for years.
Why grow Mint?
There are probably loads and loads of reasons to grow mint but there are at least four that I think make mint extra special:
- You can eat it
- You can drink it
- It can encourage more wildlife into your garden
- As an aromatherapy herb it’s uses are wide and ranging from reducing stress to keeping ants and mice away from your home
And of course, having grown mint on and off for a few years I can confidently write that not only is it easy to grow but it’s great in pots making it an ideal crop for balconies and smaller gardens.
Mint is actually a term for about 20+ species of plant. You can get anything from the traditional peppermint to apple mint, curley mint, spearmint…the list goes on and on which increases even more with modern cultivated hybrid varieties. All levels of the smell, the taste and even the flowers can be found, and each species will have it’s own individual uses.
Mint is a native from the wilds of Europe, or specifically Greece, along with Asia and Africa. Dried leaves have been found dating back to 1,000BC in Egypt making it a pretty established plant.
So, how to grow Mint?
Mint is a perennial which populates itself via a dense root system. You can buy mint seeds but as mint takes a while to establish itself properly then it’s often a better idea to either buy a little herb plant from your local garden centre, or, get a root (or several) from an established plant (trust me the owner will be pleased you asked as they sink under the weight of all their mint).
You can plant a pot mint any time during the year.
- Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the size of the plant ,
- Add some feed to the site before planting, such as bone meal
- Plonk the plant into the hole and firm soil around
- Water and leave
- If it starts flowering, cut the flowers off to maintain the foliage
- Water during hot weather only (eve/early morning)
The plant will start to die down over autumn and winter but don’t worry it will come back with gusto the following spring.
Before you go ahead and plant mint just be a little mindful of any other plants near by. Mint is quite happy to grow up and take all the space it can, including other plant space.
To keep it contained in the ground dig the whole plant up, in autumn, and trim the roots using a secateurs. Then replace the plant, ensuring it firmly back in the ground.
Keep the cut roots.
Of course if you have the space, or indeed want the plant to grow up and out then leave it and it will soon make quite an impact on the space with it’s beautiful green leaves (or variegated depending on the variety).
Pests and Diseases
While mint will do well in most sites, it prefers semi-shade because if the plant gets too hot in the summer months mold and greenfly will start to set in.
It suffers from mint rust identified via distorted stems and leaves in spring, along with yellowing spots found on the leaves. If effected dig up the plant, including all roots, and dump it (don’t add to composter). The earlier it’s caught the better.
Spores of the fungus develop in the soil so if you can either replace container compost or take out some of the soil in the ground, around the plant, to ensure the next plant won’t suffer the same fate.
Down the line
A mint plant will last about four years before it needs to be replaced because it tends to get straggly and looses it’s vigor.
Replacing mint is actually a lot easier than just buying a new plant. If you kept those pruned roots and put them in a pot over winter, preferably in a sheltered position they will grow into new plants the following spring. It’s that simple.
Mint can be stored by drying. Cut the leaves off and leave them out to dry on a sunny windowsill. Store in a glass jar.
Of course, if you’re feeling very adventurous then you can make your own aromatherapy oil using the leaves. Although I haven’t tried this myself it doesn’t look too painful to do, and it also involves alcohol – bonus 😉
So what did you think? Was that useful at all or do I waffle too much? More importantly – does it make you want to have a go at growing mint?
Have you made your own mint oil?