Mint goes in sweet dishes like chocolates, in refreshing summer drinks, as mint chutney they buddy up with the appetizers and chaat and also make the biryani flavorful. There are at least 25+ varieties of mints. I think the number is much higher. The most famous ones are peppermint or our regular mint and spearmint. I’m growing a number of herbs in my backyard garden. This is a regular mint, the peppermint, and this other one with a little bit darker or purplish leaves is chocolate mint. You can see how the plants are growing beautifully. They both have very different flavors. The chocolate mint that I have is much stronger and has a spicier flavor compared to that of the regular mint. It almost tastes like gum.
Last year, somehow, I lost my mint plant during winter. But, I had some seeds saved. I tried to germinate seeds multiple times. Not a single one germinated. Later, I found out that growing mint from seed may not always work since sometimes the seeds are sterile so they don’t germinate. Also, the plants that you grow from seeds may not have the same flavor as the mother plant. So you might get some other variety that you don’t want. That leaves us with the best option to grow these plants and that is to grow them from cuttings. It is the easiest way. Let’s find out some tips and tricks to grow this herb in abundance.
Why is it a bad idea to plant mint in the ground?
Now you might feel tempted to grow mint in the ground but let me warn you that mint is a very aggressive plant. It not only creeps on the ground but the runners also grow underground and soon you will notice mint plants taking all of your raised bed or part of the garden. Just like grass, mint is easy to start but very tough to control and remove. So avoid growing it in the bed with other plants unless you want to grow only mint and nothing else.
When to Start Mint Plants?
The best time to start mint plants is early spring or late winter. Mint is quite a frost tolerant plant. It may appear to die during winter but usually comes back in spring as soon as the temperature starts rising up. It is hardy in zones 3–8 unless the weather takes an unexpected turn and you have an unusually extreme winter. But even if you lose your plants, no worries as you can easily grow them from cuttings.
Growing temperature for mint
Mint likes cooler temperatures and grows the best in a temperate climate. The optimal temperature is between 55–70 °F.
I got this bunch of fresh mint from the grocery store. Pick a bunch that has strong stems like this one. You can see some of the stems are already growing roots from where the leaves are attached to the stems. New leaves also grow from the same spot. Sometimes when you keep these stems loosely covered in a plastic bag in the vegetable section of the refrigerator, they start growing roots.
Remove all the bottom leaves from the cuttings except a few maybe just a pair of leaves on the top and drop the stems in water. Keep them near a window or under a grow light to get them some light. You can change the water regularly to prevent the stems from rotting. In about a week, the cuttings start growing roots and you can then plant them in a container.
Soil for Mint
The soil mix for mint has to be loamy, spongy, and well-draining. Mint loves moisture. The pH should be between 6–7 ie slightly acidic. You can add equal parts of Peat moss/coco coir, compost, and potting soil. For drainage, you can add some perlite or sand to the mix. You can see here, I’m growing mint in several containers but this one is growing the best. The potting mix is the same in all these pots. Do you wonder why the plant in this container has bigger leaves compared to the other pots? You can see here the shape of the pot is slightly converging near the opening and that is causing the soil to retain moisture better. These other two containers are open, even though I water them every day, the moisture gets lost and the soil is not consistently moist.
Under the rim of the pot, a nice microclimate is created and I believe it allows the runners to grow more upward growing branches and hence the fuller pot and bigger leaves. And you won’t believe it but this is a simple plastic pot that is used for Halloween decorations. I purchased it after Halloween for some DIY project. It is working great for my mint plants.
Why mint growth slows down?
You might notice that after about 2–3 months mint stops growing like it was growing when newly planted. What you should do at this time is take the plant out and check the roots. Roots quickly fill up the pot and use all the nutrition. I take the plant out once it is time for repotting, trim the roots considerably. Then I either repot the plant in new soil or amend the soil by adding fertilizer and compost to the existing soil and repot. Or, you can divide the root ball and grow some more plants. So space is also very important for mint plants.
Fertilizers for Mint
Mint is a heavy feeder. It loves regular feed of any all-purpose fertilizer preferably organic fertilizer. I avoid using fish fertilizer for mint because it smells bad for a few days and I can’t harvest the leaves during that time.
Pruning and Snipping mint Plants
Like basil, you need to keep snipping off the ends to make the plant look fuller and well-shaped. Otherwise, the runners will start falling down from the pot. The leaves of mint are perfectly placed opposite each other in pairs. This alternate arrangement gives the plant a very neat symmetrical look. The leaves contain volatile oils that give mint that special medicinal aroma. Chewing mint leaves gives a cold sensation because mint oil contains menthol. The upward stems grow up to 1 to 1 ½ foot tall.
In about 3–4 months or as summer approaches the stems start growing more upwards and they produce flowers. The leaves become smaller. This is called bolting. To delay the bolting, you can move the plant in a semi-shade location or under some tree to keep it cool during the summertime. That way you can harvest those big leaves for a longer time. Once the plant bolts, the leaves become smaller like this basil is doing now. Mint flowers are a group of flowers in a spike-like structure. They are also very fragrant and are treats for pollinators. Bees and butterflies do not leave these plants alone.
Pests on Mint
Now you might think that because mint smells so strong, it shouldn’t get any pests but you know what a number of pests attack mint. I remember one year, slugs also infested my mint plants that were growing in the ground. Putting mint in the ground was a mistake and I didn’t know it back then. Other than slugs, there are aphids, some caterpillars, nematodes, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. Mint also gets fungal and viral infections. Keep the soil clean, remove the dead and infected leaves regularly and try to invite beneficial insects in your garden instead of using pesticides frequently, even the organic ones. Remember we don’t want to kill the good insects. Usually, I do not rush to apply any pesticides because beneficial insects follow the pests and that is how I see different types of insects in my backyard.
Harvesting Mint Leaves
Harvesting mint leaves. You can pinch off the new tops or prune the stems regularly as you need the leaves. New leaves will keep growing.
Now let’s see some health benefits of Mint
- Peppermint leaves are used as a traditional remedy for insomnia. About an ounce of leaves are boiled in the water and the decoction is used as a bedtime tea for sleep troubles.
- Mint oil is also a traditional remedy and used for relieving body pains and also stomach pain due to colic.
- Mint is believed to improve digestion. And mint leaves are used in many summer drinks and chutneys.
- Appetite stimulant
- Mint leaves are part of the Indian chai masala. Both fresh and dried leaves are used to flavor Indian-style tea.
- Natural mouth freshener. Chew on mint leaves and you don’t need the store-bought mouth fresheners. They contain menthol.
And that’s it for now. I hope you find this video useful if you decide to grow some mint.
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