Many years ago I decided to put in an herb garden. Caring for it is my favorite part of gardening. The bees adore the flowering herbs, especially the hyssop and the fragrance is beyond description. I can spend a full afternoon just puttering in it. But all is not perfect in my little Paradise. Mistakes I made in the first heady days of preparing the soil and planting the first herbs have come back to haunt me. The mistakes are all in the mint family. Peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, they name is labor.
It could have been avoided had I only listened to those older and wiser. “Keep it contained”, they said. “It will spread”, they said. “You might regret this”, they repeated over and over. Did I listen? I did not. I planted the tiny sprouts envisioning iced spearmint water slaking my thirst in the summer and lemon balm tea soothing my sore throat in the dead of winter. I did not envision spending hours, days, actual weeks pulling out miles of roots and runners as the mints threaten to take over the yard.
You may well be standing in line at the greenhouse right now, prepared to plunk down actual money for a 2 inch pot of some amazing mint that smells great and looks so innocent. It is time to think twice. If you want mint (and you actually do want it) you need to take some precautions.
- Get a large container.
- Find the spot you want that container to sit before you fill it with soil. Trust me. Mints will take sun, shade and nuclear winter. It isn’t fussy but a little sun is good.
- Drill some drainage holes in the bottom. As it’s impossible to kill this stuff this step may be unnecessary but humor the gardener in me and pop a few holes in there.
- Line the bottom with some sort of hardware cloth that promises to contain the root system. It will fail eventually but you should get a year or two out of it before the mint wins and pokes a root through a microscopic hole. Remember. The mint always wins
- Fill the container with soil. Do not spend a fortune on all organic, top-of-the-line potting soil. Mint is a weed. It thrives on a certain amount of neglect.
- Drop in your plant.
- Water it.
That’s it. You will have a good harvest and not curse every spring when you have to prepare you herb bed.