Peppermint, spearmint, the common garden mint, chocolate mint, eau-de-cologne mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, strawberry mint, wild mint and even cat mint… there’s a mint for all and sundry and far too many to mention here.
Mint is a hardy, highly aromatic, spreading perennial that grows 30-60cm high, depending on the variety.
Exceptions are Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) and Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), which are smaller-leaved members of the mint family and only grow to about 6cm high.
These are excellent to grow as groundcovers between pavers, where their lovely scent will be release when walked on.
The Growing Conditions and Requirements for Mint:
- Plant your mint in moist, well drained and composted soil, preferably in a position where it will be exposed to full morning sun with light shade in the afternoon. A position in full shade is not desirable as plants become more prone to fungal diseases. Plant about 25cm apart.
- Mints are vigorous growers and they will rapidly spread their runners and take over a bed if left to their own devices! It is therefore best to contain them in troughs, pots, tubs or hanging baskets. Ensure that the containers have adequate drainage and use a good quality potting soil mixed with water retention granules or clay aggregate to ensure that your mint stays moist.
- When planted in a bed, root invasion can be contained by digging a trench of about 30cm deep and lining the sides of the trench with 33cm wide strips of thick black plastic. Mix the soil removed with a generous helping of compost and bonemeal and use it to plant the mint at the same height as it was in the pot. Water well and keep moist.
- Sow Seeds year almost round from November to July, avoiding August, September and October.
- Another option is to plant the mint in a pot and sink the pot into the ground. Trim the runners around the pot regularly to prevent it from taking over.
- It is better to separate different varieties of mint as the more vigorous growers tend to take over, suppressing the less robust ones. Mint also cross-pollinates easily – to avoid this, cut the flowering heads when they appear in summer.
- Mint must be kept moist and need regular watering especially during the hot, dry months. If planted in containers, they will need daily watering.
- Feed mint plants in pots with a water-soluble, all-purpose organic fertilizer when they start growing in spring and every 6 weeks after that until autumn. Mint in beds can be fed with a slow release organic 8:1:5 or 6:3:4 fertiliser spread around the plants in spring and again in mid-summer. Water well after fertilising. If you already have an established herb garden, Atlantic Fertilisers Bio Ocean can also be added on top of the soil as it is a slow release fertiliser and will break down when watering.
- On the Highveld mint will usually go dormant or die down in winter. Put them in a greenhouse or indoors on a sunny windowsill to overwinter. Mint can also successfully be dried or frozen to ensure a continuous supply. Harvest stems for this purpose in early summer before flowering starts. Cut existing shoots back at the start of spring to encourage new, lush growth or replace with new plants.
- It is advisable to lift and divide or replace mint every 3 years. If possible, plant in a new position or in fresh potting soil to prevent diseases from spreading.
Mint has a very strong aroma and helps repel and control aphids and other insects on neighbouring plants.
If flowering heads are not cut back mint will attract beneficial insects like wasps and hoverfly that will, in turn, control aphids.
Grow mint near tomatoes, chamomile, peas, peppers and members of the cabbage family.
Parsley and mint don’t get along. One of them will not thrive if planted together.
Uses for Mint
Mint, like most herbs, love to be picked. The more you cut to use, the more they will reward you with fresh, new growth.
Mint can be added to vegetable dishes, salads, fruit salads, salad dressings and oils, juice, tea, dips (think tzatziki and hummus) and sauces. Of course, no decent leg of lamb should be served without a fresh mint sauce and without mint your Mojito will simply lose its mojo!
Mint tea, taken after a meal, will aid digestion and soothe away the day’s stresses and tension.
Mint is also a fantastic palate cleanser and soothes stomachs in cases of ingestion or inflammation.
Mice dislike the smell of mint – so plant them in areas you suspect they might frequent.
DID YOU KNOW?
Pennyroyal was used on sea voyages to purify casks of drinking water.
Catnip, the “happy herb” most cats looove, and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) are also members of the mint family.
There are two mint species indigenous to South Africa, i.e. Mentha longifolia and Mentha aquatica (wild water mint).
You can find the following Mints varieties in the herb section at Lifestyle Home Garden (seasonal and stock dependant):