Mint is a very beautiful and fragrant herb that has a nasty habit. This habit is it is very invasive. It spreads through runners under the ground and through stem cuttings. The best approach when it comes to mint is to control it by a barrier placed in the ground, growing it in a container or creating a system that incorporates the best of both worlds. The later approach that is referred to is to grow it in the ground in a simple but stylish way. This is accomplished by making your own mint container.
This container is made of a clay flue liner that is cut into several different lengths that range from 6 inches to 12 inches. Once the clay flue liner is cut, add any desired decorations such as paint to the flue container. Also paint the name of each type of mint that will be planted in these flues.
Move the prepared flues to the desired garden space where the mint will be planted. Fill the flue containers 3/4 full with half good potting soil and half compost mix. Mix the soil with a hand spade.
If mint has been bought, simply cut away the plastic pot and tease the roots with the fingers. Check the individual flue and make sure that the name on the flue matches the mint that is about to be planted. Then make a well in the potting soil mixture and place the mint inside. Add any additional soil to the flue to make sure that the roots of the mint are completely covered.
If another gardener donates the mint that is going to be used for this project, make sure that wild onion or garlic is not in the mix with the mint. Both these weeds can contaminate the mint and change the taste of anything that is prepared with the mint. But if the mint is wild onion and/or garlic-free the planting process is the same as above.
Once the mint is planted, add 1 tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Water the soil well until moisture is seen coming out the bottom of the flue container.
To help the mint become a bushy mass of green delight, simply pinch the top two sets of leaves off each branch of the mint plant. Put these leaves in the compost bin or wash them off and put them in your mouth for a quick pick me up.
Mint grown in these flue containers will not need to be transplanted for at least two years and will not be contaminated with wild onion and/or garlic.
Harvesting mint needs to happen in the early morning shortly after the sun rises and before the plant begins to bloom. During this time, the oils in the mint are at their optimum point. To extend harvest time, always pinch off the blooms before they open.
Mint comes in several different varieties. Pennyroyal is a mint that is not edible but is used to keep insects out of the home. This occurs when the plant is planted around the fountain of the house and/or sprigs are placed in cabinets. This mint is easily identified because the leaves look like little needles. Lemon mint is a medium green. Leaves of this mint can be mixed in lemonade to add a twist of flavor to an old standby, dried and added to potpourri or used to freshen the skin. Variegated ginger mint has yellowish splashes of color on a green backdrop. The name of this mint describes the taste as a minty ginger. Apple mint has a hairy appearance with a bright green color and smells just like a cut apple.
The most commonly know mints are the spearmint and peppermint. Spearmint leaves are dark green with edges that are covered in jagged teeth that run down into a point. It can be found in many desserts, teas and in Middle Eastern Cooking. Peppermint, on the other hand, has leaves that have smoother jagged edges along with that unmistakable aroma of candy canes. This mint is used to make a tea that settles upset stomachs and a famous drink called the Mint Julep.
To make a hyper-local Mint Julep for that upcoming Derby Party, start by picking the springs of mint early in the morning. Place the freshly picked springs in a glass of water and place in the refrigerator.
When ready to make the Mint Julep, gather one Collins glass, four sprigs of mint, 2 ½ ounces of bourbon whiskey, 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons water, crushed or shaved ice, and a straw. Place mint powder sugar and water into a Collins glass. Crush mint in the glass and fill with crushed or shaved ice. Add the bourbon to the glass and top off with additional ice if needed. Garnish with another mint spring and serve with a straw. Then sit back and enjoy your hyper-local Mint Julep.
This year try your hand at growing mint and making your own hyper-local treats. The world and the party will thank you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.