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Where to Grow
Mint is ideally suited to container culture and will grow happily in good quality potting compost. They are so easy to cultivate the trick is not to get them to grow, but to restrict their growth. Mint is one herb that spreads quickly by runners. Attention throughout the year is minimal. Water if the compost is drying out and feed with an organic plant food throughout the growing season.
Mints are perennial herbs so established and well maintained plants reward you every year. Don't leave container grown plants in exposed positions in the winter months as the roots are likely to be affected by severe frosts.
We have been trialling using mints in our larger summer hanging basket planting displays (14" baskets) to assist in the control of unwanted hanging basket pests (mint plants attract ladybirds which eat aphids) and have been encouraged by the response.
Mint leaves in hanging baskets also improve the aromatic quality of the basket and at the same time provide a quality supply of fresh mint leaves. Keep the mint well trimmed so it does not invade your overall display.
In the Garden
The mint plant will thrive best with some sun and partial shade in a well drained but moist retentive soil. The soil should not become waterlogged. They prefer a slightly acid soil in the range of 6.0 - 7.5 ph.
In the garden, mint is a good companion to cabbage and tomatoes. Mint deters cabbage worms and deters aphids from nearby plants. Add fresh mint leaves to water in the birdbath to keep the water attractive for birds.
Useful advice for growing mint in the garden would be to establish the mint plant firstly in a container which will restrict the root growth and then sink the container into the garden in your chosen position. Label well so you can keep a track of your planting and mulch well to protect from severe winters.
Don't bury the labels, otherwise you will need to resort to the "sniff" test the following year!
Mint varieties you will want to grow in your garden are:
Chocolate Mint for desserts
Spearmint for cooking
Peppermint for drinks and desserts
English Lamb Mint for a Classic Mint Sauce
Ginger Mint for salads
Orange Mint for sauces, stuffings and fruit salads
Variegated Apple Mint is a superb addition to hanging baskets and patio containers with its variegated cream-edged pineapple scented foliage.