Peppermint iced tea, hot tea, on lamb-just to name a few common uses of peppermint. Mint family plants root vigorously when allowed to grow freely and can be invasive. Grow them in containers to keep them in check!
Mint may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or planted as a potted plant.
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- Sow mint seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost in spring using a seed starting kit.
- Sow seeds ¼ inches deep in seed-starting formula.
- Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 3 pairs of leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Planting in the Garden:
- Select a location (out of the way or in a container due to rapid spread) in full sun or part shade with good rich, evenly moist soil. Consider that mints can be vigorous spreaders and may be best grown in containers or raised beds.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Set the plants 18 inches apart. Or plant in containers in a commercial potting mix.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- To encourage a flush of new growth, cut the stems back to the ground after the plants flower.
- To propagate, divide the plants in spring or fall.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Harvest leaves as needed. Right before flowering cut stems one inch from the ground. After cutting plants back you can get a second harvest the same season.
- Fresh or dried, spearmint, peppermint, and apple mint leaves make a healthful and delicious tea. Add the fresh leaves and flowers to salads and desserts.
- Mint may be dried or frozen or preserved in vinegars. Mint is great for jams and jellies.