Real Men Sow

Potting Up Mint, Much to the Relief of the Herb Garden

mintOh, mint, there are so many reasons to love you. You’re a fine looking plant, and your fragrance is gorgeous, especially just after a rain shower. You come in lots of attractive varieties, like my favourites, spearmint and apple mint.

You’re such a culinary treat, and you’re so easy to grow. Whether I’ve bought you as a young plant, or taken divisions, you’ve got stuck in straight away. And all the care you ask for is a liberal trim of your stems to ground level at the end of the season.

You’re not a fussy plant, and you’ll grow pretty much anywhere. I’ve seen you escape my friend’s courtyard, via a sturdy brick wall, and take hold of a corner of the car park behind them in just one summer.

The Problem with Mint
Anyway, enough of my ode to mint, because despite the long list of qualities, therein lies the problem. The plant is so invasive. Make the mistake I did, and plant a healthy mint straight into a bed, and you’re in trouble before you’ve got time to say ‘goes lovely with new potatoes’.

I’d go as far as admitting that the way my spearmint dominated the herb garden last summer actually unnerved me. There were big, twisty roots all over the place, like something out of a sci-fi film. They’d spread several metres, under and on top of the soil, and the plant was strangling the bed, crawling all over everything else.

Drastic measures were required, so the plant came out and I set about trying to remove all the roots from the bed. An hour later the area appeared to be clear, so I took an executive decision to have a cup of tea and tell myself that every single root was now lying in a pile on the patio.

Confining to a Pot
However, I can’t fall out of love with mint, despite its aggressive manner. I still want these plants to grace my herb garden as much as any other.

The rather rudimentary solution to this problem comes in the form of a good old division, followed by planting into a pot to stop the spread of roots. I cut off clumps of the healthier looking roots (ones with a little greenery are best) to go into my pot. I did this in Autumn, but Spring is a good time to divide and repot as well.

Fill the pot with half soil, half compost, and then plant a few of the clumps in the pot. I put 4 in a 30cm pot. Cover the roots with another layer of compost, just leaving the leaves poking out. The roots will quickly establish themselves in the pot and the mint will return in no time at all.

Annual Repotting
I’ve integrated my pot into the herb bed as a feature, and I’m sure I could almost feel the other herbs in the bed breathe a collective sigh of relief at the sight of the pushy spearmint being confined to a pot.

The plant will require repotting every year, as it will quickly become rootbound, but this annual job is a small price to pay for having a beautiful mint plant that won’t try and take over the world.

Oh, and don’t put the excess mint roots into your compost. They’ll love that environment, and the last thing you want is a predominately minty compost.

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  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!March 19, 2013 at 8:04 pmReply

    This was the first garden lesson I ever learned, 20 years before I ever planted my first seed. As a child I remember my neighbor talking about mint, and how it had taken over her small planting beds. Fast forward a couple decades, and I’ve only once put a mint in the ground, encircled by a buried pot. That did not contain the mint, and even though it only escaped a few inches, it worried me enough to keep all of my mints in pots now — and I have many different varieties. Repotting each year? I’m almost afraid to try that, as the one that’s been in the same pot for 5 years seems just fine and plenty vigorous. :)

  2. Jono

    JonoMarch 19, 2013 at 8:57 pmReplyAuthor

    I reckon everyone has learned that lesson Alan, its like a rite of passage!

    Interesting about your potted herb still doing okay. The other potted mints I’ve seen have looked to be suffering from all the trapped roots?

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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