Days to germination: Try seedlings instead
Days to harvest: Any point when the plant is large enough
Light requirements: Partial shade
Water requirements: Occasional watering
Soil: Loose and fertile
Mint is an easy-to-grow perennial that will provide you with a fresh harvest for many years. Its clean and cool flavor is used in all kinds of cooking but is probably most popular in herbal tea or mint lemonade.
It will overwinter fine up to zones 3, and mint can take the heat down to zone 11. Spearmint does better for southern gardens because it grows better in the heat.
You can grow a whole range of different varieties that have subtle flavors beyond the primary taste of mint. Well-known ones are spearmint and peppermint, but you can also grow pineapple mint, chocolate mint, orange mint or even banana mint. There are more than 600 known varieties to choose from.
Mint is not an herb with any substantive nutritional content, but it is well known as a home-remedy for upset stomach and other digestive ailments.
Starting from Seed
Mint doesn’t always germinate or sprout that well, so most home gardeners start their mint plants from seedlings or cuttings. To start from a cutting, just prop a piece of stem in a glass of water until it sprouts roots. Then plant as you would a seedling. You may even be able to do this with the fresh mint you purchase at the grocery store.
When choosing a location for your mint plants, you should plan on some kind of barrier to keep your plants contained. Mint will spread uncontrollably if you let it have free reign in your garden. Many people grow mint in containers simply because it keeps it from taking over.
Mint grows best in partial shade, especially during the heat of the summer months. If they are growing in full sun, water more frequently to keep the plants from stressing.
Plants will grow to a height of around 2 feet and a width of the same. But once it sends out runners, it will spread further than the original plant.
Water your plants frequently for the first year, but after that they will have a large enough root system that they should only require watering during very dry weather.
Mint spreads by roots and underground runners, so you’ll find that if you grow it in the garden, more plants seem to spring up nearby. A piece of garden trim sunk at least a foot into the soil can help keep the roots confined.
Keep the top of the plant trimmed so that it grows more leaves to the sides rather than growing taller. You will be a better harvest this way.
Due to the aggressive nature of mint, many people choose to grow their mint plants in containers even if their regular herbs are planted in the garden.
After a few years, your plant will grow to match the size of its container and will eventually get root-bound by the pot. You should de-pot your mint and split your plant every two or three years.
A 12-inch pot is fine for one plant, though a larger one would allow for more growth and a much larger plant. You will still need to re-pot it occasionally which can be a more difficult job when the plant is really large.
If you have your mint containers sitting near your garden, watch out that any stray stems don’t grow down to the ground over the edge of the pot. A healthy stem will easily take root, and you can find your mint has spread to the garden.
You can grow potted mint indoors as well, but it can grow a little large for the average windowsill.
Pests and Diseases
Because of their strong smell, mint is seldom bothered by many insect pests. In fact, growing mint around other plants and vegetables can help keep insects away without adding extra pesticides to your garden.
Aphids, spider mites and whiteflies are all small insects that sometimes trouble mint. A strong stream of plain water can usually wash them off though you’ll have to do this every few days. Insecticidal soap sprays can also help repel pests.
Mint can also get rust, a fungus infection that looks like orange-brown patches on the undersides of the leaves. Don’t let the leaves get too wet during watering, and you can treat it with a standard fungicide spray. Don’t harvest any mint for several days afterwards, and wash well.
Harvest and Storage
Harvesting mint is as simple as picking a few fresh leaves off the plant when you want them. Never take more than 1/3 of the leaves on the plant at a time and make sure to allow it time to regrow before harvesting again. If you need more mint, plant several plants to accommodate rather than over-harvest just one
If one plant produces more than you need, trim it anyway or it will get overgrown and future leaves will be very poor in flavor.
Just because mint is a perennial, doesn’t mean that it will survive through heavy frost. A cold snap will kill the aboveground part of your mint, and the roots will sprout again next spring. That means that when you are expecting a frost, you should try to harvest as much mint as possible. The leaves will be ruined by the frost. At the same time, you want to leave enough plant material to cover over the roots for winter protection.
A compromise would be to pick as many mint leaves as you can before the frost, then add a layer of mulch over your plants so that they are protected from the cold. This applies for outdoor container mint as well.
Fresh mint leaves can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days before they start to wilt. Longer storage is best with dried mint. You can use a dehydrator, an oven set on low, or even just hang bundles of mint leaves in a warm well-ventilated room. Air drying can take up to 2 weeks though. Store dry mint in an air-tight container and it will keep up to a year. Mint leaves can also be frozen.