Mentha

Common name: Mint

Mint is a hardy perennial herb that is relatively easy to grow in the garden or in containers.

It can be used in a variety of dishes including roast lamb, salads.

A sprig in the boiling water when cooking peas or potatoes also goes well.

Mints require well drained, fertile soil and a sunny or partially shaded situation.

If growing in pots do not plant more than one species per pot if you wish to retain separate flavours.

See below for different types / flavours.

Mint can be quite invasive so they are often grown in bottomless containers to restrict their growth, however it is important to mention that over confined plants will eventually die.

Therefore it is advisable to take cuttings regularly to cater for this situation.

If purchasing plants by mail order, unpack immediately on arrival, and water thoroughly, then place them in a sheltered, airy position out of direct sunlight for a few days to allow the plants to acclimatise.

New plants can be produced from seed.

Cultivation

Week 18: Plant any of the mint varieties in a warm, sunny border, or in an enriched soil-less compost if growing in a container.

Mint roots/rhizomes can spread extensively in the border, to control this, set the plants in a bottomless bucket (or similar) sunk into the soil.

Renew the compost every second or third year.

Alternatively, lift and divide established plants and replant.

Week 20: Take basal cuttings and place them in a cold frame to root.

Plant them out into in final quarters when rooted, or plant up in pots till planting out time, saving a few for winter use.

Alternatively, take root cuttings;

Uncover roots and select thick roots with obvious nodes, cut off a section of this root ensuring it has two growing nodes.

Trim the root either side of the nodes and plant them length ways, about 50mm (2”) deep in pots of potting compost.

Allow 3 pieces to a 150mm (6") pot.

Grow them on at a temperature of 13°C (55°F) cuttings will show growth in approximately two weeks.

Week 40: To provide fresh during winter months, remove sections of established plants, and plant up into pots, and grow them on at a temperature of 13°-16°C (55°-60°F).

Aftercare:

Mint requires little attention and will thrive in almost all conditions.

However an organic mulch applied as new growth appears will provide nutrients and lock in much-needed moisture for the roots.

After the plant has started to flower the leaves will stop growing.

It’s important therefore, to remove any flowers that appear to keep the plant producing leaves long into the growing season.

Harvesting:

Simply cut the leaves when needed, using a pair of scissors.

Cut from the top of the plant this will encourage new growth and make for a bushier plant.

Never remove all of the leaves from the plant, this will weaken the plant and at worst: kill the plant.

Pests and Diseases:

Mint can be affected by rust which is seen as orange pustules on the underside of the leaves.

No fungicides are available to home gardeners to combat this disease.

In mild attacks prompt removal of the affected leaves may keep the disease from spreading.

In more severe attacks it is advisable to chop the plant down to ground level and burn it.

Hopefully the plant will regrow the following season without any signs of infection.

Alternatively, and probably the best course of action is to remove the entire plant and start again.

If the affected plant was grown in a container then remove the compost and clean the pot with a disinfectant before replanting.

Mildew can cause problems especially to hairy mints.

Cut back affected plants to 50mm (2”) high and feed with liquid fertilizer.

Types of Mint

Apple: Grows to 900mm (36") high

As the name suggests it is an apple scented mint with woolly leaves and pink to white flowers.

Used in a wide range of cooking.

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Ginger: Grows to 600mm (24") high.

This green and yellow leafed plant, has a spicy, fruity fragrance, and is lower to establish than most mints.

It can be used in fruit salads and tomato dishes.

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Moroccan: Grows to 600mm (24") high.

A hardy spearmint flavoured mint with a creeping habit.

Used in mint sauce and jelly.

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Peppermint: Grows to 600mm (24") high.

This plant has a creeping habit and the leaves are often tinged purple and it sports pale pink flowers.

Used in teas and iced drinks.



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Pineapple: Grows to 600mm (24") high.

A sweet fruity fragranced plant with variegated leaves, that seldom flowers.

Used in a wide range of cooking.



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Spearmint: Grows to 600mm (24") high.

A sweetly scented creeping plant with bright green wrinkled leaves and purple/mauve flowers.

Used in mint sauce.





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