GARDENING WITH DEBBI
ONE of the most versatile and flavoursome of all herbs is mint.
Known botanically as Mentha, there are many different species and many hybrids and cultivars distributed around the world.
They are known for their aromatic aromas and flavours. But not all mints taste the same. Some to try include; - Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) which has the strongest mint flavour.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) has large leaves with a mild flavour and can withstand higher soil moisture.
- Lemon mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata) has a citrus taste.
- Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) has a fresh apple mint flavour and grows up to a metre tall and wide.
- Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’) has a chocolaty taste and fragrance. It has dark green leaves, purpletinted stems and grows to a metre in height with a wide spread. It can be a problem if not kept under control.
- Orange mint (Mentha piperita f. citrata ‘Orange’), has bright green leaves lightly tinged with red. The foliage has a citrus flavour and fragrance.
Most mint plants are perennial with underground and above ground stems. They grow easily and spread quickly. For this reason they are considered invasive though some mint species are more invasive than others.
Take precautions when planting mint with any other plants, in case the mint takes over.
To keep mint under control, grow it in a separate garden bed, or plant in deep, bottomless containers sunk into the ground, or grow it in pots and tubs.
Mint thrives in moist well drained soil and tolerates full sun to part shade.
To keep the plant in peak condition, harvest or tip prune frequently and remove the flowers as soon as they appear.
This encourages shorter bushier growth and the newer, younger leaves have the most flavour. Divide mint every few years. Mint propagates easily by cuttings. Take a 10 - 15cm cutting with roots attached and plant horizontally in the soil.
Growing from seed is unreliable as the plant may not grow true to form.
To avoid cross pollination space plants as far apart as possible.
FRESH: Mint can be a handy addition to your garden, but must be kept under control.