How to Start Growing Mint in Your Herb Garden

Different Ways of Growing Mint

mintIf you are thinking herb gardening, one of the most useful herbs you can grow is mint. 

Mint has been used for hundreds of years to help obscure bad smells, assist recovery from illnesses, repel insects and to prepare flavor-some food and drinks.  These are just some of the very different ways to use mint, and the applications are just as relevant today as they have been throughout history.

Growing mint isn’t difficult . It can be grown from cuttings and seeds, but your local garden center or store is bound to have several varieties of mint for sale – this is the easiest way to make a start growing mint.

This article is all about growing mint. I have also included some suggestions on ways to use it at home.

The article covers the following areas:

  • Types of mint-
  • Growing mint from cuttings
  • Growing mint from seeds
  • Harvesting & preserving mint
  • How to use your mint

Types of Mint

A 16th Century monk Growing mint - Peppermint Herbcarried out a lot of research on mint plants. He managed to identify over 600 different varieties of mint, many of which you have difficulty tracking down today. 

Here’s a list of mint varieties s that are fairly easy to get hold of today. If you can’t find them in your local garden center you’ll be able to buy them over the Internet

The following mints can be easily purchased as plants or seeds

Corsican mint, spearmint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, and ginger mint.

These mints can be purchased as seeds

Cat mint, penny royal, lemon mint and wild mint.

I’ll not attempt to describe all these different types of mint here.  

If you’re really interested in mint you might like to carry out some research and find out more about the mint plants I’ve named.  They’re the ones you are likely to come across most often.

At the end of this article I’ll give you some suggestions on how you can use spearmint, peppermint, apple mint and penny royal in and around your home.

Growing Mint from Cuttings

If you are thinking of growing mint from cuttings you will need a mint plant to propagate from. If you haven’t already got one you will need to find a neighbor who will give you some cuttings from his or her garden.

Take your cuttings from the root or stem of the mint plant or divide the whole plant into two or more smaller plants.  A good time to do this is in the spring or the autumn.  Most mints grow very vigorously and are easy to propagate from cuttings. You can get some more tips and advice on propagating from cuttings by reading my article on Growing Herbs from Cuttings.

Growing Mint from Seed

Mint Seeds from AmazonFirst you’ll need to buy the mint seed. You should be able to do this locally, or use Internet to find mint seed suppliers (Amazon is always a good choice).  Sow your seeds in seed trays using a suitable soil-less potting compost.

I get on best with seed trays that have multiple separate compartments for sowing seeds (go to my article on Growing Herbs from Seed for more information).  Try and sow one or two seeds in each compartment. Use lids to keep the compost moist.

Whatever type of container you choose to use make sure you have a layer of compost about one inch deep.  Make it really moist and then sprinkle the seeds on top.  Cover them with a thin layer of the compost, and then put a piece of clear plastic or glass on top (the seed trays I mentioned include a plastic cover).

Cover your container with a newspaper until the seeds germinate (just a few days if its warm), and keep the soil moist. When germination has occurred remove the cover and keep the young seedlings in a fairly warm area – but not in direct sunlight.

Harvesting and Preserving Your Mint Herbs

Harvest your mint leaves before flowers appear (start in early spring if you already have plants).  Try and harvest your growing mint in the morning when the essential essences of the mint plant are at their most intense.  Cut a handful or so of leaves each time, but leave sufficient leaves on the plant so that it can continue to grow and produce more leaves for future harvests.

One of the nice things about having a herb garden is that you can always your herbs fresh. However, it’s possible to preserve mint by drying or freezing the leaves, or by preserving them in oil or vinegar. Find out more by reading our article on Preserving Herbs.

Using Your Mint

As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, there are lots ways in which you can use the mint you grow. Apart from using it in your cooking, trying using it in some of the other ways suggested below.

In Cooking:

  •  Make mint (spearmint) sauce (it goes well with roast  lamb)
  •  Add mint (spearmint and apple mint) leaves to new potatoes and peas
  • Make mint and chocolate ice cream and mint sorbet

Drinks:

  • Make mint (peppermint) tea
  • Make mint julep and raspberry and mint yogurt drinks

Medicinal:

  • Use mint (spearmint) oil on a handkerchief to help with colds.
  • Make herbal poises and invalide bouquets.
  • Macerate  mint (peppermint or spearmint) leaves and use them as a rub for migraines and other aches and pains. Maceration is a process of softening or breaking into pieces using a liquid such as olive oil.

Garden:

  •  Grow mint (spearmint) near roses to deter aphids
  •  Grow mint plants near dog kennels to repel flies.

Start Learning More about Growing Mint

My list of the uses of mint is far from complete. In it I have only introduced you to the uses of just a couple of types of mint.  Start using a couple of the types of mint I’ve mentioned above. I’m sure you’ll soon find you want to grow more. I have two large pots that I use for growing mint, and these now contain five different varieties of mint.

By far the greatest pleasure of mint is being able to pick fresh mint leaves early in the year to use in some favorite recipes or perhaps in a refreshing glass of mint tea.

Happy herb gardening,

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