A species in mint condition
THERE are many species of plants in the Mentha genus, which we know as mints. Their ease of cultivation and wide range of culinary uses make it one of the greatest tribes in the herb garden.
They are the kind of plants that need very little work for a lot of reward. In fact, there are varieties which have growth so vigorous they are sometimes considered a bit of a weed.
They will thrive in a deep, rich, moist and well- drained soil, especially if it contains a good amount of organic matter.
Both clay and sandy soils can be easily remedied to grow mint, as all that is needed is the addition of a good load of organic matter.
In my opinion, the best material for this is mushroom compost. Simply throw a bag of it on the ground, lightly fork it in and then plant directly into the site.
Annual applications of rotted animal manure will keep the soil invigorated and add good amounts of nutrients for healthy growth.
Since you may be harvesting from mint fairly regularly through the growing season, it is a good idea to water with a liquid feed every couple of weeks. I like to use fi sh emulsion and seaweed but it’s up to you.
They grow most vigorously in full sun but I have found the leaves can be damaged and the plants can dry out in extremely dry seasons, so light or dappled shade is ideal for most garden situations.
By far the most important factor for successfully growing mint is to provide your plant with plenty of water.
This way, you will get good verdant growth, which is perfect for using it fresh in the kitchen.
There are many types of mint that are readily available from the common mint: spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and apple mint, as well as the smaller- leaved and mild- fl avoured Moroccan tea mint.
There is also the local mint Mentha australis, which has a great fl avour and is such a versatile plant that it grows naturally from the dry deserts of the Northern Territory to the southern end of our beautiful state.
All mint varieties will propagate easily, sometimes almost too easily. Simply chop off a section of the plant with a knife or a sharp spade, making sure you take some root with you.
Rust is the main problem you will encounter when growing mint. It usually occurs when the soil doesn’t drain well and the site is poorly ventilated.
It is easily controlled by removing and disposing of affected parts.
Slugs and snails can also damage plants but I have found an evening of gastropod hunting can be very satisfying and will keep their numbers down.
When working on a hot day, somebody providing a jug of ice- cold water with leaves of fresh mint and a slice of lemon will inspire strong feelings of affection, but my favourite use of mint is in the hot, sweet and strong Moroccan beverage which is perfect for any day of the year.