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Loving Your New Mint Plants
All types of mint (including sweet mint, spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint) are fast-growing, spreading plants, so you must give them a place to spread without getting in the way, or plant them in a pot. Mint sends out runners that spread above and just below the ground, quickly forming large, lush green patches. In the right place it makes a pretty seasonal ground cover. You can also contain mint in tight places such as between pavers of a walkway where your feet will brush against the leaves to release its fragrance.
Soil, Planting, and Care for Mint
First, start off strong by planting young Spearmint and Peppermint plants purchased from MintPlant.com. Plant mint in the spring, or in the fall in frost-free climates, setting seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart. Try growing mint in a pot where you can keep it in check and handy near the kitchen for a constant supply of sprigs. To keep mint from taking over space needed by other plants, you may want to plant it solo in a 10″ pot, then plant the pot in a larger container or even in the ground. Give the pot a turn every week or two to keep roots from escaping through the drainage holes.
If you simply must plant mint directly in the ground (if you’re using it as a ground cover, for example), select a damp area in your garden or yard in either full sun or part shade. Mint prefers fertile soil with a pH from 6.0 to 7.0.
Mint is plenty vigorous on its own and unlike other plants, does not require fertilizer. Be sure to keep the soil moist via regular watering and add mulch around the plant to help slow the evaporation of all that crucial moisture.
To help keep plants in check, harvest the tips regularly and pull up wayward runners. Mint’s small flowers bloom from June to September; trim these before the buds open to keep the plant compact. Although slightly frost tolerant, the top of mint will eventually die back in winter except in zones 8 and south, but the root are quite hardy, surviving into zone 5 (some varieties even into zone 3). Lift and replant your mint every 3 to 4 years to keep your patch’s flavor and scent strong.
Troubleshooting when Growing Mint
Although mint is a rugged plant, when it is young it is vulnerable to whiteflies, blackflies, spider mites, snails, and slugs.
How to Harvest Mint
Harvest mint leaves at any size by pinching off stems. For a large harvest, wait until just before the plant blooms, when the flavour is most intense, then cut the whole plant to just above the first or second set of leaves. In the process, you will remove the yellowing lower leaves and promote bushier growth. Three such harvests per season are typical for mint.
How to Use and Store Mint
Fresh mint leaves are a nice complement to lamb, fish, poultry, and vegetables such as peas, new potatoes, and carrots. Mint also blends well with green or fruit salads and beverages such as punch, lemonade, and tea. Two very well-known drinks, mint julep and Cuban mojito, both depend on spearmint for their cool zest. Freeze mint in cubes for iced tea. You can also preserve it in vinegar or dry it for potpourri or sachets.