A delicious, fragrant, and flavorful herb, mint makes a great addition to your home garden. Here's what you'll need to know to help your Mint thrive! We created the below video and transcript walking you through:
Glossary of Mint terms
Varieties of Mint available
Starting your Mint seeds
Caring for Mint at all stages
Fertilizer and/or Mulching
Transplanting best practices
Companion Plants do’s and don’ts
Common Problems and Their Solutions
Pests, Diseases and what to do about them
Harvesting and storing your Mint
A low-growing variety that smells and tastes similar to bananas. Like all mints, it’s easy to grow - and as a perennial, it will return year after year. Similar varieties include:
Grapefruit mint A large variety with slightly fuzzy leaves and a sharp citrus flavor.
Strawberry mint A compact variety with small, delicate leaves and a mild, fruity flavor and fragrance.
A creeping variety with frilled leaves that have a strong peppermint flavor.
As its name suggests, this variety has a chocolate-like scent. It has bronze stems that contrast with its fresh green leaves.
A creeping, moisture-loving mind with a really strong mint flavor.
PLANTING MINT AT HOME
Mint plants are extremely hardy perennials.
Although they prefer a spot that gets full sun but will also tolerate some light shade.
Mints are propagated by cuttings or by seeds, but for specific cultivars, or varieties, you can buy established plants from a garden center.
Once you pick up that establish plant, you can then take cuttings from it or divide into smaller plants.
Just be sure to divide and replant in the spring before it starts to grow, or else early in the fall.
Sow your mint seeds a quarter-inch deep, planting 2-3 seeds in each container to make sure they germinate.
Later, you can thin out the extra plants once they start growing.
Keep your soil moist and maintain temperatures near 70°F until your mint seeds germinate - which usually takes about 7-10 days.
USING MINT CUTTINGS
Cut the mint stem just below a node, which is where a leaf grows.
Next, you’ll want to remove all but the top leaves and then stick a few cuttings into a small pot with moist soil.
Make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight for about a week, to give it time to root and adjust to its new environment.
As your mint plants grow, replant them into a larger pot or into the ground, spacing them about 12 inches apart to give them ample space to spread and grow.
In general, transplants should be planted with their roots just beneath the soil surface.
Cut the mint stem just below a node, remove all but the top leaves, then stick a few cuttings into a glass jar with about one inch of water.
Keep your cutting away from direct sunlight and change the water every day. In about a week, roots will start growing!
You’ll then want to replant your mint in a small pot with moist soil.
As they grow, replant your mints into a larger pot or into the ground, spacing them about 12 inches apart to give them ample space to spread and grow.
Transplants should then be planted with their roots just beneath the soil surface.
CARING FOR MINT PLANTS
Since mints have the tendency to grow quite aggressively, they can become invasive in your garden. For this reason, you’ll want to place them in a spot where they can’t interfere with other plants. If that’s not an option, you can try to monitor their spreading root system.
We highly suggest growing your mint in containers that are above the ground. To keep your plants vigorous, we also suggest that they be divided every 3-4 years. In order to maintain their leaf flavor, flowers should also be removed as they appear.
For best results, plant your mint in rich, moist and slightly acidic soils.
Before you do, though, apply 2-4 inches of composted manure and half a tablespoon of an all-purpose fertilizer per square foot.
Work this fertilizer into the top 6 inches of your soil.
If you plant a lot of seeds, you’ll want to thin them—keeping only the strongest seedlings in the pot.
You can use small scissors to snip the weak seedlings so that you don’t disturb the shallow roots of the others.
Mint will need a spot that gets six or more hours of daily sun, to provide enough light for their lush growth. However, containers kept outdoors can tolerate some light afternoon shade.
Containers typically dry out quicker than garden beds, so touch the soil every day and water it when the top 1 inch feels dry.
GROWING MINT INDOORS
After growing your mint in pots outdoors during the warm seasons, you can move these pots indoors.
You’ll just want to wait until after the first light frost, because mint actually benefits from this cold weather treatment.
Frost leads to a rest period, and encourages new growth when moved to a warmer environment indoors.
The best part of growing mint indoors is that you have a fresh supply of mint leaves without having to brave the cold weather to harvest them!
Depending on the variety of mint you’re growing, keep in mind what its habits are.
If it’s a creeping variety, you’ll need to keep it somewhat trimmed so that it doesn’t grow out of the container and onto the ground (where it will root itself).
Remove any unwanted runners and also pinch the tips of the plants back regularly.
Mint produces the best flavor when it has a minimal amount of fertilization.
Mix 1 teaspoon of a slow-release 16-16-16 fertilizer into the soil both before you plant, and then each spring that follows.
This provides enough nutrients for your young plants for a whole growing season.
Straw, marsh hay, compost and leaves provide good winter protection for hardy perennial herbs like your mint.
Depending on the size of your plant, a mulch layer that’s 2-5 inches thick will keep temperatures constant during the late fall and early spring.
This limits the amount of winter damage that can be done to your plants.
As well, mulching during hot, dry periods of the summer can also help maintain soil moisture.
GROWING CONTAINER CONSIDERATIONS
Mint is a wonderful herb, but its invasive habit can make it a pest in your herb bed. Growing mint in pots keeps it contained while still supplying you with a consistent source of fresh, yummy leaves.
Aim for pots that are 8 inches or more in diameter, and 10-12 inches deep. Avoid using shallow containers though, because mint’s roots might spread out of the bottom drainage hole. This can weaken the plant, and can also result in unwanted root spread if your container is sitting near any bare soil.
PEAS AND BEANS: Planting mint around vegetables that are particularly appealing to larger critters (like mice) can help save the crop from any rodent snacking.
CABBAGE, CAULIFLOWER, AND KALE: The sharp scent of mint, even when used as a mulch, deters both the white cabbage moth and flea beetles from chewing through the leaves of any brassica vegetable.
TOMATOES AND EGGPLANTS: Mint often repels aphids and spider mites, which are two of the nightshade family’s greatest enemies.
CARROTS: Mint is also a good repellent of the carrot fly, which lays its eggs around the root end of a developing carrot. Once hatched, those larvae burrow into the vegetable and cause a lot of damage – so planting mint nearby can help save your carrots!
OREGANO AND MARIGOLDS: When grown with mint, oregano and marigold spread an aromatic force field across any vegetable garden - attracting pollinators and deterring pests.
COMMON CHALLENGES…AND THEIR SOLUTIONS
There are a few pests and diseases that can potentially harm your mint. Not to worry – we’ve listed them below, as well as how to either avoid or fix the problem.
APHIDS: These are small insects that appear on the undersides of leaves and/or stems. If the infestation is heavy, it may cause the leaves of your plant to turn yellow and/or become distorted with nasty brown spots. Stunted shoots can also become an issue. As well, aphids secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of mold on your mint plants. No fun!
Solution: If aphids are limited to just a few leaves or shoots, then the infestation can be pruned out. Make sure to check your transplants for aphids before planting and use tolerant varieties when possible. Typically, you can use a strong jet of water to wash them off your plants.
Neem oil, insecticidal soaps, and horticultural oils are also effective against aphids. Just be sure to follow the application instructions on the packaging!
Oftentimes, you can also get rid of aphids by wiping or spraying the leaves with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap (one variation includes adding a pinch of cayenne pepper).
Soapy water should be reapplied every 2-3 days for about 2 weeks.
Finally, reflective mulches like silver colored plastic can help deter aphids from feeding on your mint.
FLEA BEETLES: These are small black beetles that feed on seedlings and jump when they’re disturbed. Their feeding damage can potentially kill your young mint seedlings. Solution: Use a lightweight floating row cover at the beginning of the season to prevent them from becoming an issue.
You can also try a homemade spray using 2 cups of rubbing alcohol, 5 cups of water, and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap. Test out this mixture on a single leaf first, let it sit overnight, then spray the rest of your plant if you don’t notice any side-effects.
Dusting your plants with plain talcum powder can also help, as well as using white sticky traps to capture these pests as they jump.
THRIPS: If there’s a lot of them on your plants, the leaves might become distorted. Typically, leaves are covered in rough little dots and may appear silvery, or else they’re speckled with a black substance.
Solution: Avoid planting your mint next to onions, garlic or cereals where very large numbers of thrips can build up.
You can use reflective mulches early on in the growing season to keep them away from your plants.
Safe insecticidal soaps (usually ones that are made from naturally occurring plant oils and fats) are also effective for knocking down heavy infestations, and they won’t harm most naturally-occurring beneficial insects.
Spinosad and neem oil can also be used to spot treat any heavily infested areas.
You can also release natural predators like minute pirate bugs, ladybugs, and lacewings to manage your thrip infestation.
For best results, make these releases after knocking down severe infestations first – like with a water hose.
SPIDER MITES: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper and can be red, black, brown or yellow in color. They suck on the plant juices, removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which then cause white dots to appear. Oftentimes there’s also some webbing visible on the plant. Spider mites cause leaves to turn yellow and become dry and dotted. Typically, they multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions.
Solution: Spider mites can sometimes be controlled with a forceful spray of water every other day.
You can also try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap to get rid of Spider mites can sometimes be controlled with a forceful spray of water every other day.
CUTWORMS: These pests are usually active at night, cutting the stems of young transplants or seedlings. Then, they hide in soil or plant debris during the day. New transplants or young plants are more vulnerable to cutworms, since their stems are more tender.
Solution: Make sure to remove all plant residue from your soil after harvest, or at least two weeks before planting your next crops. This is especially important if the previous crop was another host like alfalfa, beans or a legume cover crop.
Hand-pick any larvae after dark, or try placing aluminum foil or cardboard collars around your transplants. These collars create a barrier to stop cutworm larvae from feeding o your mint. Simply place the collars around your plants so that one end is pushed a few inches into the soil, and the other end is several inches above ground.
Finally, you can try spreading diatomaceous earth (essentially a soft rocky powder made from the bones of tiny aquatic creatures) around the base of your plants - this creates a sharp barrier that will cut the insects if they try to crawl over it.
MINTRUST: Small, dusty, bright orange, yellow or brown pustules (which are kind of like pimples) will appear on the undersides of leaves. New shoots might be pale and distorted while large areas of leaves will die, causing some of them to drop. This disease can also spread from your mint plants to nearby vegetables in your garden.
Solution: Any infected plants and their roots should be removed to prevent the spread of mint rust. A heat treatment of mint’s roots might also help to control this disease – all you have to do is dip them in hot water (11°F or 44°C) for 10 minutes, cool them in cold water, and then plant them normally.
VERTICILLIUM WILT: A disease that causes mint plants to wilt and die. It’s typically spread between plants when infected plant material is physically moved from one spot to another.
Solution: Water your plants regularly, and when possible, provide them with some afternoon shade. Prune off any dead or dying branches as well. You can often get rid of the verticillium wilt fungus in the soil by using the solarization process. All you have to do is cover your soil with a tarp, which will heat up the top 6 inches (15 cm), enough to kill the fungus.
HARVESTING AND STORING MINT
Mint leaves can be harvested as soon as your plants about 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) tall. Cut the leaves and stems with a sharp knife or scissors. If you’re harvesting whole stems, cut the stem at about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the soil line.
Keep in mind that any new growth will have the most flavorful leaves. As well, any leaves that you plan to dry are best taken just as the flowers begin to appear.
Note: You can boost the pickings you get from mint by removing any flower buds. However, don’t forget that these flowers are enormously attractive to pollinating insects, and they’re actually edible too! If you decide to remove them, try using the flowers to flavor oil and butter, or as a nice salad garnish.
Bunches of mint in a glass of water will keep fresh for 3-7 days. Or, when dry and wrapped in plastic, they can be stored in the fridge for a week.