Monday, August 19, 2013

MINT 101

 Mint is hands down the best beginner container plant. You should probably never ever plant it directly in your yard because it's a beastly parasite, according to all accounts. Our little plant is of the "Kentucky Colonel" variety and true to his roots, he has kept us in mint juleps all summer. I didn't grow him from a seed, but bought him as a small plant at Logan's Trading Co, my favorite local gardening store. Here are a few tips I learned in my first season growing mint:

1. Plant in a container, one large enough to accommodate the mint plant's aggressive growth. I got this wrong at first, and had my plant in a 10 inch pot which was way too small. The poor thing looked pretty sad after a month, so I decided to bump it up to an 18 inch pot and that worked out much better. I probably could have gone even larger, but 18 inches gave the plant enough room to grow that I was able to glean several generous harvests over the season. A general rule of thumb: if your plant looks sad, do something differently. 

2. Feed your plant. I fed this little guy about once a month, and could alway tell a marked difference in his growth afterwards. This is especially important in a container because the soil isn't being naturally regenerated by the earth. I used the general organic plant food and it worked wonderfully.

3. Strategically prune. Early on in my research I found some tips on pruning which were extremely helpful. When your plant is a wee little guy and starts growing wildly, you can clip branches strategically to encourage the growth of one area or to regulate the shape of the plant into something more resembling a bush than a scraggly weed. If you chop off the head of a strong growing branch, it will start putting its energy into forming more branches off shooting the main branch. This gives you a bushier plant, and more leaves in the long run.

1. Over watering will kill your plant. I fell right into this trap early on, thinking I needed to be extra careful in our hot southern climate to make sure the poor guy didn't get thirsty. Turns out my over-nuturing had the opposite effect. A good rule of thumb to remember is that mint is extremely hardy so it really doesn't need a ton of attention to thrive. It's a great beginner plant because if you mess up and do something wrong, it'll generally bounce back pretty well. 

2. Over pruning will make your plant really sad. But fear not! if you do crazy over harvest your mint, it'll bounce back. I speak from experience on this one as well. When we first got the plant I could. not. wait. for a mint julep. So I chopped it almost down to nothing and for a while there thought I'd surely killed it. But miraculously a week later the little fighter came back to life with vigor and we've had many mojitos and juleps since. I usually try to pick off the larger leaves where you can see a new little leaf is growing in right behind it. That way I'm taking off leaves that were about to fall off anyway.

Here are a few photos of my plant. The flower popped up a week ago, signaling the end of my mint season is near. So sad. 

And here's what will one day be the fruit of your labor, an ice cold Mint Julep:

1 comment:

  1. Was looking for the type of mint plant I have home and it is a Kentucky colonel Spearmint. Enjoyed ur article. It was very helpful.