How does mint grow

The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Wild Mint is an erect or ascending native perennial forb, growing to 2-1/2 feet high on 4-angled green hairy stems that have little branching. Sprawling of the stems is common.

The leaves are opposite, stalked, ovate to lanceolate (widest below the middle) in form with toothed margins, pointed tips, well defined vein patterns and may be smooth on the upper side but usually with fine hair on the underside. Leaves and stems are aromatic. Leaf pairs are 90 degrees rotated from adjacent pairs.

The inflorescence consists of dense whorl-like axillary clusters of flower heads that appear above the axils of the upper leaves – but not at the top of the stem. These clusters are distinctly separated from each other on the stem. In the mint family this arrangement is called a ‘verticillaster’ where the flowers look like a whorl arrangement but are actually in cymes that rise from the axils of opposite green hairy bracts. Only a few flowers in each cyme open at one time.

The individual flowers are tubular, from 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and irregular in form. The petals of the corolla vary in color from white to light purple or pink. The upper lip of the flower is divided into two lobes or just notched. The lower lip is singular or subdivided into 3 lobes. There are four stamens and a style which protrude from the corolla tube, the base of which inside has long white hair. The green to purplish calyx is usually hairy with visible darker veins and the tip has awl shaped or triangular lobes. The calyx tubes of the flowers are often shorter in length than the length of the stalk of the adjacent leaf.

Seeds: Fertile flowers produce a small nutlet containing one brown oval seed, 1mm long, that has a small pointed tip. The small seeds need light to break dormancy so should be surface sown. Seeds do not need cold stratification.

Varieties: See notes at bottom of page.

Habitat: Wild Mint is a common mint family plant of moist meadows and moist areas around marshes and streams. It grows from rhizomes and spreads by rhizome growth, forming colonies. Full sun is preferred, partial shade tolerated.

Names: In Eloise Butler’s day this variety was simply known as Mentha canadensis. The genus, Mentha, is named for the classical mythology Greek nymph Minthe, who was unfortunate enough to be turned into a mint plant by Persephone (Hades wife) so Minthe could avoid seduction by Hades, which was something Persephone feared Minthe wanted. The species, arvensis, means ‘of the planted fields’ which is a habitat the plant can be found in, hence the alternate common name of Field Mint.

The author names for the plant classification are: First to classify was ‘(L.)’ which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. For the variety – ‘Kuntze’ is for Otto Kuntze (1843-1907) German botanist, who edited the collections in Berlin and Kew Gardens and then published Revisio Generum Plantarum which laid out new rules for nomenclature which were rejected at the time, but some acceptance came long after his death.

Comparisons: While other cultivated mints have the same aroma, Wild Mint is distinguishable by the whorl-like arrangement of flowers, separated along the stem, without a group at the stem top. Two other similar looking species, but always with white flowers, are Northern Bugleweed and American Water Horehound. Both are found in the Garden. The most closely related Minnesota species is the Hairy Wood Mint, Blephilia hirsuta, but that is only found in the wild in 5 SE Counties. It has more hairy leaves, larger corolla lobes, the lower corolla lobes have dark purple spots, and there is a verticillaster at the top of the stem also. See also Downy Wood Mint, Blephilia ciliata, which is not native to the State but similiar to B. hirsuta.

Plant Database

Glase, Terry

Mentha arvensis

Mentha arvensis L.

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

Dense whorls of tiny, white, pale pink, or lavender, bell-shaped flowers nearly hidden by the opposite leaves in hairy leaf axils on the square stems of a branched, minty-smelling plant.

One of the few native mints, this aromatic perennial has glands containing essential oils, and the leaves are used as flavorings in sauces, jellies, and beverages. The genus name Mentha comes from Mintho, mistress of Pluto, ruler of Hades. His jealous queen, Proserpine, upon learning of Mintho, trampled her, transforming her into a lowly plant forever to be walked upon. Pluto made this horrible fate more tolerable by willing that the more the plant was trampled, the sweeter it would smell. The 4-lobed and nearly symmetrical clusters of flowers along the stem distinguish this so-called true mint from many others that have flowers in slender spikes at the stem tips or in upper axils.

From the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf: Green
Flower:
Fruit:

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Purple
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep

Distribution

USA: AK , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , NB , NL , NS , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Throughout North America, except from Florida west to Louisiana and Oklahoma, and Arctic.
Native Habitat: Moist places, especially along streams.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium

Benefit

Use Food: This aromatic perennial has glands containing essential oils, and the leaves are used as flavourings in sauces, jellies, and beverages. (Niering)
Warning: The fruit of this plant is toxic and may be fatal if ingested in large quantities. It is especially dangerous to children.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

Region: AGCP AK AW CB EMP GP HI MW NCNE WMVE
Status: FACW FACW FACW FACW FACW FACW FACW FACW

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241).Click herefor map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network – Corvallis, OR

Bibliography

Bibref 1294 – The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Mentha arvensis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Mentha arvensis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Mentha arvensis

Metadata

Record Modified: 2013-06-24
Research By: TWC Staff

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Field Mint Information: Learn About Wild Field Mint Growing Conditions

What is wild mint or field mint? Field mint (Mentha arvensis) is a wild mint that is native to the central part of the United States. The scent of this wild mint growing in a field is often so strong you can smell it long before you can see it. Keep reading for field mint information and learn about wild mint growing in your garden.

Field Mint Information

Native Americans used to drink field mint tea as a remedy for colds, and it’s still used today for teas and flavorings for food. It’s an unusual-looking mint plant, with a square stem that grows from 6 to 18 inches tall with tufts of flowers puffing out around the stem every few inches.

As with other types of mint, you can pick mature field mint leaves first thing in the morning for the best flavor. Enjoy them fresh chopped in iced tea, sprinkled on a salad or mixed into a variety of dishes. Dry the leaves for long term storage. You can enjoy mint tea from fresh or dried leaves.

Wild Mint Growing Conditions

Planting wild mint begins with choosing the right patch of garden in which to plant it. This plant does not like to get dried out, so sandy soils aren’t the best environment in which to grow your field mint. Dig a good quantity of compost into sandy soils to help keep the soil moist.

Make sure your proposed planting site includes full sun, or almost full sun. It can tolerate light shade, but not dappled sun, like underneath a tree.

Like any other mint plant, the care of field mint plant isn’t so much a question of keeping it healthy and alive as it is of keeping it held back. Mint is one of the most invasive plants you can put in your garden and can take over an entire yard in a matter of a few years. The easiest and least expensive way to prevent this from happening is by planting all mint plants in containers and never putting them in the garden itself.

Use a rich potting soil and a large pot to allow the mint to spread out a bit, and keep the flowers deadheaded to prevent them from seeding onto nearby soil.

Plant field mint seeds in the fall after the leaves have fallen from the trees, or store them in the refrigerator vegetable bin for at least three months before planting them in the spring. Plant the seeds by sprinkling them on top of the soil, then watering them in. Seedlings should sprout in about a week.

The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years to the Chinese, Greek and Romans. Many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking — think of squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian food. Adding flowers to your food can be a nice way to add color, flavor and a little whimsy. Some are spicy, and some herbacious, while others are floral and fragrant. The range is surprising.
It’s not uncommon to see flower petals used in salads, teas, and as garnish for desserts, but they inspire creative uses as well — roll spicy ones (like chive blossoms) into handmade pasta dough, incorporate floral ones into homemade ice cream, pickle flower buds (like nasturtium) to make ersatz capers, use them to make a floral simple syrup for use in lemonade or cocktails. I once stuffed gladiolus following a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms — they were great. So many possibilities…

Eating flowers safely
So. As lovely as eating flowers can be, it can also be a little … deadly. Not to scare you off or anything, but follow these tips for eating flowers safely:

  • Eat flowers you know to be consumable — if you are uncertain, consult a reference book on edible flowers and plants.
  • Eat flowers you have grown yourself, or know to be safe for consumption. Flowers from the florist or nursery have probably been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
  • Do not eat roadside flowers or those picked in public parks. Both may have been treated with pesticide or herbicide, and roadside flowers may be polluted by car exhaust.
  • Eat only the petals, and remove pistils and stamens before eating.
  • If you suffer from allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually, as they may exacerbate allergies.
  • To keep flowers fresh, place them on moist paper towels and refrigerate in an airtight container. Some will last up to 10 days this way. Ice water can revitalize limp flowers.

1. Allium All blossoms from the allium family (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) are edible and flavorful! Flavors run the gamut from delicate leek to robust garlic. Every part of these plants is edible.
2. Angelica Depending on the variety, flowers range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose and have a licorice-like flavor.
3. Anise hyssop Both flowers and leaves have a subtle anise or licorice flavor.
4. Arugula Blossoms are small with dark centers and with a peppery flavor much like the leaves. They range in color from white to yellow with dark purple streaks.
5. Bachelor’s button Grassy in flavor, the petals are edible. Avoid the bitter calyx.
6. Basil Blossoms come in a variety of colors, from white to pink to lavender; flavor is similar to the leaves, but milder.
7. Bee balm The red flowers have a minty flavor.
8. Borage Blossoms are a lovely blue hue and taste like cucumber!
9. Calendula / marigold A great flower for eating, calendula blossoms are peppery, tangy, and spicy — and their vibrant golden color adds dash to any dish.
10. Carnations / dianthus Petals are sweet, once trimmed away from the base. The blossoms taste like their sweet, perfumed aroma.
11. Chamomile Small and daisy-like, the flowers have a sweet flavor and are often used in tea. Ragweed sufferers may be allergic to chamomile.
12. Chervil Delicate blossoms and flavor, which is anise-tinged.
13. Chicory Mildly bitter earthiness of chicory is evident in the petals and buds, which can be pickled.
14. Chrysanthemum A little bitter, mums come in a rainbow of colors and a range of flavors range from peppery to pungent. Use only the petals.
15. Cilantro Like the leaves, people either love the blossoms or hate them. The flowers share the grassy flavor of the herb. Use them fresh as they lose their charm when heated.
16. Citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat) Citrus blossoms are sweet and highly scented. Use frugally or they will over-perfume a dish.
17. Clover Flowers are sweet with a hint of licorice.
18. Dandelion Read more about dandelions here: Backyard Forage for Dandelions.
19. Dill Yellow dill flowers taste much like the herb’s leaves.
20. English daisy These aren’t the best-tasting petals — they are somewhat bitter — but they look great!
21. Fennel Yellow fennel flowers are eye candy with a subtle licorice flavor, much like the herb itself.
22. Fuchsia Tangy fuchsia flowers make a beautiful garnish.
23. Gladiolus Who knew? Although gladioli are bland, they can be stuffed, or their petals removed for an interesting salad garnish.
24. Hibiscus Famously used in hibiscus tea, the vibrant cranberry flavor is tart and can be used sparingly.
25. Hollyhock Bland and vegetal in flavor, hollyhock blossoms make a showy, edible garnish.
26. Impatiens Flowers don’t have much flavor — best as a pretty garnish or for candying.
27. Jasmine These super-fragrant blooms are used in tea; you can also use them in sweet dishes, but sparingly.
28. Johnny Jump-Up Adorable and delicious, the flowers have a subtle mint flavor great for salads, pastas, fruit dishes and drinks.
29. Lavender Sweet, spicy, and perfumed, the flowers are a great addition to both savory and sweet dishes.
30. Lemon verbena The diminutive off-white blossoms are redolent of lemon — and great for teas and desserts.
31. Lilac The blooms are pungent, but the floral citrusy aroma translates to its flavor as well.
32. Mint The flowers are — surprise! — minty. Their intensity varies among varieties.
33. Nasturtium One of the most popular edible flowers, nasturtium blossoms are brilliantly colored with a sweet, floral flavor bursting with a spicy pepper finish. When the flowers go to seed, the seed pod is a marvel of sweet and spicy. You can stuff flowers, add leaves to salads, pickle buds like capers, and garnish to your heart’s content.
34. Oregano The flowers are a pretty, subtle version of the leaf.
35. Pansy The petals are somewhat nondescript, but if you eat the whole flower you get more taste.
36. Radish Varying in color, radish flowers have a distinctive, peppery bite.
37. Rose Remove the white, bitter base and the remaining petals have a strongly perfumed flavor perfect for floating in drinks or scattering across desserts, and for a variety of jams. All roses are edible, with flavor more pronounced in darker varieties.
38. Rosemary Flowers taste like a milder version of the herb; nice used as a garnish on dishes that incorporate rosemary.
39. Sage Blossoms have a subtle flavor similar to the leaves.
40. Squash and pumpkin Blossoms from both are wonderful vehicles for stuffing, each having a slight squash flavor. Remove stamens before using.
41. Sunflower Petals can be eaten, and the bud can be steamed like an artichoke.
42. Violets Another famous edible flower, violets are floral, sweet and beautiful as garnishes. Use the flowers in salads and to garnish desserts and drinks.
This updated article was originally published in 2012.

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Storing Fresh Mint

Wrap the mint leaves gently in a dampened paper towel.
Place the mint in a plastic bag, not sealing all the way so that air can circulate. Do not wrap tightly; trapped moisture will cause the herbs to mold.
Or
Trim the ends and place in a glass filled with about 1” of water. Cover with a loose fitting bag and refrigerate. Replace water when it gets cloudy.

Drying Mint

Cut the mint about 1/3 down the main stem, including the side branches.

Dehydrator
Wash lightly in cold running water. Drain thoroughly on absorbent towels or hang plants upside down until the water evaporates. Strip leaves off the stalks and remove blossoms. Follow directions for your dehydrator.

Natural Air Drying
Dry in the dark by hanging bunches upside down in paper bags. Choose a well ventilated, dust-free area (although the bags will help keep out dust and other surprises). Leaves are ready when they are dry and crumbly, in about 1-2 weeks.

Oven Drying
Use low heat (less than 180 degrees). Spread leaves on a cookie sheet for 2 to 4 hours. Leaves are ready when they are dry and crumbly.

Microwave Drying
Place the leaves on a paper towel and microwave for 1 to 3 minutes, mixing every 30 seconds. When completely dry, leaves may be crushed (I use a food processor) or stored whole in airtight containers (canning jars, for example). Check daily for moisture – if you see any, repeat the drying process. Herbs will mold quickly if exposed to moisture. Store the mint in a cool, dry place, away from light.

Freezing Mint
Ice Cube Method

  1. Pick through the fresh mint, removing damaged leaves and tough stems and rinse. Gently spin dry or pat dry between two kitchen or paper towels.
  2. Chop the mint leaves (remove stems) and place 1-2 teaspoons into each compartment of an ice cube tray, filling about halfway.
  3. Top off with water and freeze.
    Once the cubes have frozen, remove and store in an air tight freezer bag or container in your freezer, up to 3 months. Don’t forget to label and date.

Baking Sheet Method

  1. Follow step one from Ice Cube Method
  2. Place leaves on a baking sheet and freeze 2-3 hours
  3. Place mint into freezer bags, label, date and store in freezer up to 3 months

Vacuum Sealer Method

  1. Follow step one from Ice Cube Method
  2. Make a bag from the roll material large enough to hole the sprigs of mint and allow space between the herb and final seal. Seal one end.
  3. Label bag with contents and date
  4. Place herb sprigs in bag
  5. Place bag end into the sealer and vacuum seal, following manufacturer’s directions

Using frozen mint: Mint ice cubes can be used in sauces, teas and soups. To use the frozen mint as fresh, place the cube in a glass until melted and strain through a sieve to remove the mint from the water.

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How to dry your own basil, mint and tarrogon from fresh garden herbs (directions, recipe, with photos and free)

Imagine how your dishes will taste this winter if you have your own garden herbs to add to them. Its easy to dry or freeze some for a year-round supply of good quality herbs! Here’s how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. You don’t need any special equipment: air drying or room drying is the easiest, as well as, most inexpensive method for preserving herbs. Moisture evaporates slowly and naturally during air drying, leaving the precious herb oils behind. Dehydrators are useful if you want to dry large quantities of herbs or you have high moisture herbs such as basil. Only use a microwave oven as a last resort for drying, as microwaves literally cook the herbs producing very poor quality. A better choice is a warmed (but off) oven.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • fresh Basil, Tarragon, Lemon Balm or Mint – any quantity.
  • Oven OR a room dehumidifier
  • Ziploc bags, glass or plastic containers, OR Vacuum food sealer with bags

Instructions

Step 1 – What to look for

The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower. This is when the leaves have the most oil, which is what gives herbs aroma and flavor. Different varieties of herbs flower at different times of the season, so look for buds or newly opened flowers as your clue for harvesting. But, if your herbs have already flowered, they can still be harvested and dried. It’ slightly better to cut herbs in mid-morning when the leaves are dry but before the hot midday sun, but early evening is also good!

Step 2 – Cut the herbs

Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut large stems or branches from mature plants. Gently shake each branch to remove insects. Examine each branch and remove old, damaged or diseased leaves.

Step 3 – Rinse and dry the herbs

Rinse each branch in cold water and dry with towels or paper towels to remove all visible water. Wet herbs tend to mold which destroys the whole bunch.

Lay the leaves on a paper towel, single layer without allowing leaves to touch. Cover with another towel and another layer of leaves. Five layers may be dried at one time using this method.

Option 1: in a food dehydrator

Food dehydrators are made just for this purpose, so they’re obviously ideal.

Just spread the herbs out on the racks, leaving space between them for the air to circulate, and only one leaf thick on each rack.

Dehydrators (see this page for more info, models and prices of food dryers) are faster, easier and more useful if you want to dry larger quantities of herbs or you have high moisture

Option 2: Oven dry

As mentioned earlier, basil, tarragon, lemon balm and mints have high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly.

Dry in a very cool oven (high temperatures will result in tasteless herbs). Basically, just turn the oven on to “warm” (140 to 200 F) (or 65 degrees C to 93 degrees C, gas mark 1) for 20 minutes, then turn it off and pop in the herbs.

Option 3: in front of a dehumidifier

If you have a dehumidifier, I have found that spreading the branches loosely on a cake cooling rack (which allows the air to circulate) and placing this by the outlet from the dehumidifier, where the warm and very dry air exits the dehumidifier works great, and much faster!

Step 5 – Dry the herbs to the correct moisture content

Leave undisturbed overnight and check them in the morning. I find that they dry out in a day or two, as long as they are not piled on top of each other. If you are using the oven method, just turn it on to “warm” again for another 10 or 15 minutes twice per day.

As the leaves are dry, check for any signs of mold growth. Toss the entire bunch if it becomes moldy and try again.

Step 6 – Separate the leaves from the stems

Strip dried leaves from stems and discard the stems. Crush the leaves if desired, but whole herbs retain their flavor longer than crushed, ground or rubbed herbs. I wait until I use the herbs later, to crush them.

Step 7 – Storing the herbs

Store dried herbs in small airtight containers away from the light. Zip closure plastic bags, colored bailing wire jars and ceramic crocks can be used for storage. My preference is FoodSaver vacuum bags – it removes all the air, so the dried herbs retain more of their flavor. TIP: If you don’t own a vacuum food sealer to freeze foods, place food in a Ziploc bags, zip the top shut but leave enough space to insert the tip of a soda straw. When straw is in place, remove air by sucking the air out. To remove straw, press straw closed where inserted and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove straw.

Be sure to label and date each container.

Store herbs in a cool, dry, dark place (away from sunlight). Dried herbs keep for years but for best results use within a year. Most herbs will diminish in flavor with age and a larger amount will be needed to achieve the desired flavor in cooking.

Tips

To release the full flavor, crush whole herb leaves or use a mortar and pestle to grind, just before adding to the recipe.

When using dried herbs, add to soups and stews during the last half-hour of cooking or follow recipe directions. Be creative and add dried herbs to flavor your favorite foods.

A vacuum-sealed FoodSaver bag is on top at left. You can see how the FoodSaver really sucks out all the air, so the herbs won’t dry out or get freezer burn. That means the food inside will last many times longer. I’ve been using them (and their predecessor in the marketplace, Seal-a-Meal) for many years. If you’re interested, here’s where you can get one.

Sweet Mint

Light requirements: Full sun to part shade. Protect plants from hot afternoon sun in southerly zones.

Planting: Space 18 to 24 inches apart.

Soil requirements: Nutrient-rich, moist soil is ideal, although mint grows in nearly any type of soil. Amend soil with organic matter, such as compost.

Water requirements: Mint thrives in moist to slightly soggy soil. Consider planting mint near downspouts or in low, damp spots in your yard.

Frost-fighting plan: Mint is perennial in zones 3 to 11. Plants tolerate light frosts, but eventually die back to the ground in all but the warmest zones. If you need plants to survive a light frost, cover them with a frost blanket. Protect newly planted seedlings from late spring frosts.

Common issues: Mint can quickly overrun a planting bed, spreading by above- and underground stems. Keep it in check by planting in containers or beds bordered by sidewalk or driveway, or by planting in partially submerged pots in planting beds. Leaf flavor turns bitter when flower buds appear. Mint is generally pest-free.

Harvesting: Pick mint leaves at any point in the growing season. For strongest flavor, harvest leaves at midday when essential oil concentrations are strongest. Gather individual leaves or clip leafy stems. Plants branch freely from just below where you snip stems, so place cuts to prune and shape plants.

Storage: Store mint stems at room temperature in a water-filled jar; use within a week for freshest flavor. Stems root easily in water. For longer storage, dry or freeze leaves.

For more information, visit the Mint page in our How to Grow section.

Mint growing

Introduction

The mints belong to the genus Mentha in the family Labiatae (Lamiaceae) which includes other commonly grown oil-yielding plants such as basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, pennyroyal and thyme. Within the genus Mentha there are several different species, varying in their appearance, aroma and end use. The most common ones are spearmint (M. spicata), peppermint (M. × piperita), eau-de-cologne mint (M. × piperita var. citrata) and apple mint (M. rotundifolia). All are low-growing plants, readily sending out runners, or stolons, which develop new roots and shoots at the nodes. Under good growing conditions, stems will generally reach 1 m in height.

Description

Spearmint (M. spicata). This is the most common mint grown commercially in New South Wales as well as in home gardens. Leaves are smooth, bright green and elongated with a pointed end. Flowers are a pink to lilac colour and grow in clusters on the ends of the stems.

Peppermint (M. × piperita). This is a low-growing plant that has small, pointed, dark green leaves with a purplish tinge. Peppermint is the most commonly grown species for oil production.

Eau-de-cologne (M. × piperita var. citrata). This mint has a very strong, sharp perfume. It has smooth green, oval-shaped leaves that are tinged with purple.

Apple mint (M. rotundifolia). Not a commonly grown mint in New South Wales, it is very flavoursome and characterised by its strong apple taste and perfume. The leaves are light green, soft and downy, with a rounded shape.

When identifying mints, remember that all varieties will cross-pollinate, making sorting them out difficult. If varietal purity is to be maintained, each one must be grown in isolation.

Climate

The mints will grow in a wide range of climates as shown by their popularity in home gardens all over Australia. Ideally, they require plenty of sun, growing best in the long midsummer days of the higher latitudes. For this reason, the Australian mint industry has developed mostly in Tasmania, particularly for oil production. Ideal growing temperatures for mint are warm sunny days (25°C) and cool nights (15°C). This is why, in the hotter climates, mint generally grows better in the more shaded areas of the garden.

Soil

Mints do best in deep, rich soils of friable texture high in organic matter. The preferred pH range is from 6.0–7.5. A high water requirement means that soils must be deep and well drained while holding plenty of water.

Planting

Mint can be propagated either vegetatively or by seed. Vegetative propagation is achieved by digging up plants in late winter–early spring and dividing them into runners with roots, then replanting. This will prevent the plants from becoming root-bound and prone to disease, ensuring strong, healthy plants for the new season.

Planting distance will vary with the type of mechanical equipment used to cultivate and manage the crop. A suitable row spacing is 50 cm with runners planted 10 cm apart within the rows. Using this system, three rows can be planted to a raised bed. As plantings develop, rows will become a continuous mass of mint.

Nutrition

Mint requires a well-balanced nutrition program. Experience has shown that an annual dressing of animal manure will supply a good balance of major and minor elements. Care should be taken not to supply excessive amounts of nitrogen. Approximately 10 t/ha of good quality fowl manure applied midwinter will provide a reasonable nutrient program. If soil pH drops below 6.0 it may be necessary to apply dolomite or lime to raise the pH to the desired level.

Irrigation

For maximum production, mint requires large amounts of water compared with other crops. To keep soil moist during periods of high evaporation, plantings should be irrigated at least twice a week. During the growth period in summer, plants can require up to 1500 mm of water.

Weed control

Weed control in mint crops is important to ensure that there is no contamination by foreign plant material at harvest. The selection of planting areas with low weed populations and a good kill of weeds prior to planting is important. Due to the lack of herbicides registered for use in mint in New South Wales, hand weeding is the most effective form of weed control.

Diseases

Mint rust is a serious disease that attacks the common mint species. The use of disease-free planting material and a sound rotation with other crops will help control it. Rust affects the leaves and shoots and if not controlled will quickly defoliate the plant. Plants can be flamed with a propane gas burner in spring to destroy diseased material before new shoots appear.

Pests

Mint can be attacked by a wide range of pests. The main ones are loopers, leafrollers, slugs, snails and aphids.

Harvesting

The intensity of flavour and aroma in the mint plant is dependent on the level of essential oil in the plant. Oil content is at its maximum at the commencement of flowering. Harvesting is best done early in the morning when the plants are turgid and before any temporary wilting occurs.

If mint is to be fresh it is best cut with shears or a sickle bar mower and bunched. It should then be kept moist, and cooled prior to marketing.

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