Mint In The Garden
When the majority of people think of the word “mint” they think of a breath mint or Christmas candy cane. Others may think of the scent of mouthwash or foot crème, not fluffy, cool-scented green plants to sweeten the air and grace the garden.
The Mint Family
If you are new to gardening, you will want to meet the mint family (Labiatae). The family is wide and far-reaching as mint is a relative of thyme, marjoram, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, horehound, sages, hyssop and a host of other similar herbaceous plants. There are more than 200 different varieties of mint from sweet and savory pineapple mint to peppermint, spearmint, orange, and even chocolate. Perhaps the best known of the mints are peppermint and spearmint, both popular flavoring and scent ingredients a wide range of products. Enjoy researching and seeking out unique varieties of mint that appeal to you.
For centuries, mint has been used to bless, purge and clear the air of devils, demons and odors. Mint was and remains, an important aromatic: bunches of mint tied and hanging upside down in a doorway is said to prevent evil spirits from entering the home. Mint has a history of use in the preparation of fragrant, healing baths. Mint also has astringent properties and helps fight skin infections when applied to a scrape or sore on the skin. Crushed mint leaves, rubbed on the skin wards off insect pests including virus-carrying mosquitoes.
Gardeners are developing new hybrids all the time. Many varieties of mint exhibit colorful flowers, variegated leaves, and a sweet, pungent scent. Flower colors range from pale shades of pink to blue, lavender and white. Leaves may be a deep, dark green, a dappled variegation of lime green and white, and every combination in between. On a visit to a local landscape nursery, you will likely find varieties that range from miniature or diminutive size of a few inches tall to robust and sturdy plants that reach a height of several feet at maturity.
Mint grows best in fertile, nutrient-rich soil with good drainage, preferring a full-sun location. Go online and research mint or talk to your local county extension agent to find out which varieties of mint grow best in your United States Hardiness Zone. Most mint plants do best in USDA zones 3 through 6. However, several varieties will withstand the coldest winters, and others manage to survive through drought and heat.
Most varieties of mint, if provide optimum growing conditions, grow and spread aggressively, crowding out other less aggressive plants and weeds. This characteristic makes many varieties of mint an ideal cover crop to hold the soil on an eroding slope or to fill in under shrubs or trees. Mint is often planted in apple orchards as a companion planting to repel invasive insects that could damage the apple crop. In the home garden mint is often used as an edging where its grow can be controlled or in the rock or herb garden as a signature planting cultivated for culinary use and to attract birds, bees and butterflies to the garden.
It is a fun hobby to grow several different varieties of mint in colorful pots and container where the growth can be controlled, and you have a close at hand supply of fresh mint for the kitchen, bar, and bath.