Mint is a versatile herb that not only spices up a range of eats and drinks, it is also a sought-after ingredient for essential oils, healthcare and cosmetic products. India, China and the USA are among the largest producers of mint and mint related products globally.
Sweet mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon mint, apple mint and peppermint are among the more popular varieties.
Spearmint is the preferred variety to use when cooking. Pot this plant in your kitchen and you’re sure to use it frequently.
For certain varieties of mint, growing the plant from its seeds isn’t possible; instead, use a seedling from a nursery or use plant propagation. When propagating, ensure that the cutting is long enough for roots and branches to sprout; and if growing it first in water, ensure that the water is changed every 3-4 days to avoid rot.
Even though mint is a resilient plant, it is best to plant it right after the frost for optimal growth. Add mulch to lock in moisture and protect the roots of the plant.
They are easy to look after and with proper care, can live for many years. Make note however, this plant, is an invasive one! It competes for resources with its neighbours, and it spreads far and wide when growth isn’t restricted.
When planting in a flower bed, decide beforehand if it’s going to be alone or if there are going to be other plants too. In case of multiple plants, start by submerging a container in the flowerbed such that the rim of the container is above soil level. Plant the mint in this container so that the growth of its roots can be controlled.
Position the plant in such a way that it gets the morning sun and partial shade for the rest of the day. The soil must be damp but not soaked so test the soil with fingers to determine dryness. If placed in direct sun, water the plant more often.
Restricting the height of the plant ensures that the plant and its leaves grow fuller. Trim the flower buds before they flower, to retain strength of scent and flavour in the leaves and also to ensure that the plant doesn’t grow out of control.
Thanks to the strong scent, most pests stay away from mint. There are still some insects and a fungus called Rust that is attracted to the underside of its leaves. Use a fungicide spray or insecticide soap for the leaves affected.
Mint leaves can be harvested at any time after the plant starts to grow out. Ideally, cutting branches that hold the leaves allows harvested leaves to remain fresher for immediate use, and simplifies the air-drying process.
Except when winter’s coming, try not to harvest any more than a third of the plant at a time. During the winter however, the roots may survive but everything above the ground will wilt, so you might as well harvest all its leaves and add some mulch too.
Bundle the harvested branches (with leaves) secured by string or rubber band to air-dry them properly. When dried, you may pluck the leaves and store them in ziploc bags or airtight containers.
If your mint plant has grown into a big plant over some years, it is advised to de-pot and split it into multiple smaller plants.
Other than the fact that its roots would have gotten cramped in the limited space they have, a benefit to re-potting is that it strengthens the scent and flavour of the plant.