Whether you are a beginning or veteran gardener, you should find an area to grow mint. It’s one of the easiest herbs to grow, and it sends out runners quickly to spread and form lush, fragrant patches. You can contain it by growing it in pots, harvesting the tips regularly, and pulling up the far-reaching runners. You can also plant it between rocks and pavers to prevent it from taking up too much space.
While there are many types of mint, the best known are peppermint, spearmint, sweet mint, and chocolate mint. All can be used as complements to dishes such as fish, poultry, lamb, and a variety of vegetables. They work well in certain alcoholic drinks—mint juleps and mojitos, for example—and are a tasty addition to other beverages like tea, punch, and lemonade.
Here’s how you can grow your own:
1. Purchase a mint seedling
Mint is difficult to grow from seed, so it’s better to buy a mint seedling or small plant from a nursery or garden center. If you have a friend or neighbor who is already growing mint, ask them if you may have one of their plant’s runners. You can then carefully dig it up and transplant it.
2. Plant your seedling in a pot or in the garden
Containers are the most popular way to grow mint. It can’t spread out of control, and you can keep it close to the house for when you need it. If you choose to pot it, use one that’s 12 to 16 inches in diameter, and plant the seedling with the roots just below the soil line. Add vermiculite to the soil to help it stay moist.
3. Give it a sunny location
Whether you plant your mint in the garden or in a container, choose an area in which it will get morning sun and partial shade in the afternoon. Mint thrives in moist soil, so you don’t want it drying out in full sun all day. If you plant it indoors, make sure you place it on a windowsill that gets adequate sun.
4. Water your plant often
You’ll need to water your mint plant frequently during its first year. The soil should be damp but not soaked. Add light mulch around outdoor plants to keep the soil moist and the leaves clean.
5. Trim the top of your plant
Trimming this way encourages the sides to grow full and subdues the plant’s height. Also, pinch off the plant's flower buds when they appear to extend its harvesting season.
6. Be on the alert for pests
While the powerful odor of mint keeps most insects away, you might occasionally see spider mites, flea beetles, or other pests. Good soil and proper air circulation should be enough to keep your mint plant healthy, but if you see bugs, rinse them off with water or wash them with an insecticidal soap.
7. Harvest from late spring through the early fall
Harvest no more than a third of the leaves at any one time. Then allow them to grow back before taking more. Get as much as you can before the first frost. Mint is a perennial, and the roots will survive the frost and come back strong in the spring.