Growing Mint

Mint peppermint1

Mint peppermintUse mint fresh or dried to flavor vegetables—cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. You can add fresh mint to cold and hot soups and beverages.

There are all types of mint to choose from: spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint, orange bergamot, and apple mint to name a few. Mint has a striking aroma, a sweet warm flavor, and a cool aftertaste.

Growing your own mint is not difficult. You can sow mint in the garden or in a small container to sit in the kitchen window. If a neighbor or friend has mint, anytime after the last spring frost is a good time to take a stem cutting or division and get it started. From seed, mint is ready to use in about eight weeks.

Site. Mint prefers full sun but will grow just fine in partial shade. Mint prefers temperatures between 55 and 70°F (13–21ºC). If you live in a cold-winter region, protect mint through the winter in a container placed under a covered patio, in the garage, or in the kitchen.

Soil. Grow mint in moist, well-drained soil. A container is great for growing mint since mint will spread via its roots and can take over a garden if not controlled.

Planting. Sow mint seed at a depth of ¼ inch (6 mm). Mint seed germinates in 7 to 10 days. The best time to start divisions is before spring growth starts. After spring and the weather warms, root stem-tip cuttings in water or moist soil will be most successful. You can divide mint again in the fall.

Watering. Don’t let mint dry out; keep the soil moist but not wet.

Feeding. Mint is a light feeder; its nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium needs are low. Top-dress your mint bed with compost or well-rotted manure in autumn. Spray mint with liquid seaweed extract a couple of times during the growing season.

Companions. Mint will grow well next to asparagus, carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, parsley, peppers, and tomatoes. Remember it can be invasive so watch to control its spread.

Pests. Control aphids and mites that find your mint with a strong spray of water or with a botanical insecticidal soap; use a floating row cover to exclude beetles and caterpillars.

Diseases. To prevent root and foliage diseases such as rust, thin crowded clumps of mint to ensure good air circulation.

Harvest. Mint will grow to maturity and is ready for harvest about 60 days after sowing. Cut top, tender fresh leaves as needed. To dry, cut stalks just before blooming then hang in bunches to dry. Store fresh mint air-tight containers or dry or freeze it.

Botanical names. Here are the botanical names for some favorite mints: Mentha spp., Mentha piperita (peppermint); Mentha spicata (spearmint); M. rotundifolia (apple mint); M. x gracilis (Golden apple mint); M requienii (Corsican mint, Jewel mint of Corsica); M. x piperita var. cirtata (Eau-de-cologne mint); M. arvensis var. piperescens (Japanese mint).

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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