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Country Gardens: Growing mint

Mint is one perennial everyone should have at least one plant of. Even if you just grow it in a pot and plant as an annual. You can use it for tea, many salads and drinks throughout the summer. Dry the leaves to have mint tea all winter long.


This persistent perennial, which comes in a great number of types and flavors, usually grows 2-3 feet. Mint prefers moist soil and shade and a little sun. If you want to grow a variety of mint plants, be sure to place them in separate parts of the yard, such as around different sides of the house to avoid cross-pollination problems. Select a good reputable nursery to buy your seedlings from.  Mint doesn’t come from seed, so you’ll need to start from rooted cuttings or plants in the early spring. Use big containers; otherwise your mint will sprout everywhere. If you want to plant your mint in your garden, contain it in plastic pot embedded in the earth.  This will contain the roots in that pot. If you see roots starting to pop over the top then you need to pull the roots, to get them out of the ground as soon as possible. Pinch back flowers to encourage bushy growth. For best results, cut your mint low in mid-June and before the first frost.

To start more mint plants, cut off a sprig and put it in a glass or jar of water.

The sprig you choose doesn’t need to have a lot of leaves. Almost every sprig will do. When cutting a sprig, cut about an inch above a junction of leaves and stem. This way new branches will grow just below that place.

Put the sprig in a glass full of water. Do this for a few sprigs so you’ll end up with more than one plant. You can put more than one sprig in the same glass.

Now it’s time to wait for the roots to grow. After about a week, small white roots may appear under water. Wait longer, so the roots have a decent length.

Also add water to your glass when you need to. When the cuttings are full of roots then plant in a smaller plastic pot and wait until the plant is well established before you place it in your garden.

What types of mints are there? There are endless varieties of mint. The following are just a sampling of varieties: Banana, grapefruit, red-stemmed apple mint,  spearmint, pineapple, scotch, Lavender,  sweet lemon, curly, Mitcham peppermint, apple, candy, Lebanese, Kentucky colonel, blue balsam, ginger, chocolate, lime, orange, Himalayian silver peppermint. Give a couple a try and see what you prefer. The spearmint is a good old standby. Spearmint happens to be my favorite mint type.

There are a few common problems with mint, but for the most part they are a fairly healthy and disease free plant to grow. Caterpillars can usually be handpicked. They are repelled by wormwood spray or insect spray.

Rust appears as bright orange markings on the foliage of herbs such as mint and chives. Destroy all affected foliage. Do not place diseased plants or foliage in the compost bin. If a mild commercial copper spray does not curb the disease, destroy the plants.

Traditionally, peppermint essential oil has been used to treat indigestion, headaches, colic, gingivitis, irritable bowel syndrome, spasms and rheumatism. This volatile and potent essential oil has very diverse uses because of its many properties. It relaxes muscles; has antiviral and bactericidal qualities; increases stomach acidity (to aid digestion); is an analgesic and counterirritant; and is a carminative (eases intestinal cramping). Peppermint is a general stimulant. A strong cup of peppermint tea circulates quickly and acts more powerfully than any liquor stimulant.

Send us your garden questions by mailing them to McLeod County Extension, Attn: Garden Questions, 840 Century Ave, Hutchinson MN 55350 or email rcschlueter@yahoo.com.

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