Mint as ground cover

Planting Mint For Groundcover: How To Use Mint For Soil Retention

Mint has a reputation and, believe me, it’s warranted. Anyone who has ever grown mint will attest to the fact that unless it is contained, it’s likely to overtake the garden. Now that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. How about if you wanted to use mint as a groundcover? Because it is so aggressive, it seems to me that planting mint as groundcover is a match made in heaven. Mint would seem useful to not only fill in empty space but a valuable asset for soil retention.

About Groundcover Mint

Mint has been around and prized for centuries for its fresh scent and flavor. There are more than 600 mint varieties, some with an upright habit and some low growing mint more suitable as groundcover.

Using mint as groundcover really does seem to be a win/win, provided that’s pretty much all you want in the space. Mint spreads quickly and stealthily by underground stems. It can live in a variety of climates and is easy to grow.

As these hardy herbaceous perennials range in height at maturity, you should be selective in choosing which mint you are planting for groundcover. The ideal mint to fill in empty space is the diminutive Corsican mint (M. requienii). Because it grows so rapidly and rampantly, this variety of mint is an excellent choice for groundcover, especially if you are looking for a carefree specimen and have no future plans for other plantings in the area.

If you are interested in planting groundcover to stabilize the soil, mint might just fit the bill. Because mint forms runners, it is an excellent plant for use in area that needs soil stabilization. The densely matted runners will help prevent erosion and sediment runoff. Again, Corsican would be the most ideal mint for soil retention too.

Corsican mint is a mat-forming mint that thrives in sun to partial shade when provided with ample water. And, another bonus, Corsican mint is tolerant of being trod on by the kids and dogs. The only affect when gently crushed is it releases a pleasant minty or sage-like aroma.

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When it comes to mint, a gardener’s cup runneth over — in more ways than one.

If you’re like me, this flavorful herb brings to mind mojitos and juleps. And if you’re like my dad, you think of this invasive plant overrunning half the yard many years ago.

Photo by Gretchen Heber.

Mint (Mentha spp.) is a well-loved culinary herb grown by many gardeners for the aromatic flavor it brings not only to beverages but to many main dishes and desserts, as well.

Gardeners also recognize this perennial herb as an aggressive grower that can take over the north forty quicker than you can mix up a cocktail.

It grew in the yard of a house my family rented when I was a child. And my dad, the primary gardener in our family at the time, was terribly allergic to it.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

He would go out and try to pull it up or mow it down, and then come into the house utterly miserable, sneezing up a storm, eyes red and running, white handkerchief pressed to his nose.

Lucky for me, I learned from that experience to always put my mint in pots, so it doesn’t take over the yard. And also luckily, while I did inherit my father’s abnormally low blood pressure, I didn’t end up with his allergy to Mentha.

Ready to get growing? Here’s what’s in store:

Adios, Cockroaches

Native to Asia and the Mediterranean, this aromatic herb was brought to North America by English settlers. Commercial production began in Massachusetts and New York before marching steadily westward toward the Pacific Northwest, where it remains an important commercial crop in Oregon and Washington, as well as Idaho.

And while mint does like the moist growing conditions those states provide, gardeners from all over the country can grow this herb, if they dump enough water on it. More on that in a bit.

Most are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3-8. I’m in 8b, and without fail, sometime in about mid-July, when I’m off on vacation and the house sitter fails to remember to pour a bathtub of water on my pots of mint, they burn up, and that’s that.

But enjoying kitchen-handy mint is always wonderful while it lasts.

The leaves of this herb have a serrated edge and can be smooth or fuzzy, and come in all shades of green, solid or variegated.

One commonality: all mints have the square stems typical of the Lamiaceae family. Mentha produces tiny white, pink, or purple flowers.

While humans are quite enamored of this herb, many animals and insects are not. It is known for repelling cockroaches, spiders, ants, mice, and deer.

You Must Be Kidding

Mentha has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. For centuries, it’s been used to treat a number of health issues, including gastrointestinal distress and respiratory illnesses. Mint tea is sometimes consumed to relieve a sore throat.

In an interesting twist that will surely make my dad snort derisively when he reads this, the herb contains an anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid that has been studied for its effectiveness in relieving seasonal allergy symptoms.

Pepper, Spear, Chocolate — You Choose (And Where to Buy)

Botanists disagree as to exactly how many species of this herb exist, with most landing in a range of 13 to 18 different types. Close to 2000 cultivars are available.

One of the more well-known species is peppermint (M. piperita), a culinary favorite because of its strong menthol flavor.

This plant will grow 12 to 36 inches in height and, like most plants of this family, prefers part sun.

If you’d like to start with some peppermint plants, consider these from Bonnie Plants, available via Amazon.

Bonnie Plants Peppermint

Your herb will come in a biodegradable peat pot that can be planted straight into the dirt.

Another favorite is spearmint (M. spicata). Perhaps with this one, you’d like to try your hand at growing from seeds, which you can get from seedsupplier via Amazon.

Mentha Spicata, 200 Seeds

You’ll get 200 seeds that you’ll want to sow indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost.

Another type that I see often at area nurseries (probably because of its name) is chocolate mint (M. x piperita ‘Chocolate’). They have brown stems and the leaves are said to have a chocolate-mint aroma.

Buy a live plant from Colonial Creek Farm Nursery, available via Amazon.

Chocolate Mint, Live Plant

You’ll receive a well-rooted plant in a 3-inch nursery container.

You might want to grow apple mint (M. suaveolens), which is said to have a fruitier flavor with less pronounced notes of menthol than other Menthas. Get a live plant from The Garden Path, available through Amazon.

Apple Mint, Live Plant

You’ll get a “starter plant” in a 4-inch pot, and you’ll be happy to know that this variety is considered less invasive than its cousins.

Other varieties include English, lavender, and orange.

More, More, More

This herb is easy to grow from cuttings. Choose a strong stem with dark green, fresh leaves. Cut off a 5-inch piece, remove the lower leaves, and cut the stem just below the lowest set of leaf nodes.

Place the stems in a glass of water and put the glass someplace warm, in bright but indirect sunlight. After a few weeks, you’ll see roots, and you can transplant to a container filled with a rich soil mix.

As an alternative, you can dig up runners — rhizomes by which the herb spreads— cutting them from the main plant, and repotting with just the leaf tips above the dirt level.

Hey, Bartender!

This herb prefers part sun, but may tolerate full sun, if you keep it watered. As mentioned above, unless you want your entire neighborhood overrun with Mentha, it’s best to plant in a medium- to large-sized container filled with a rich potting mix.

If you’re opening a mint julep bar and need vast quantities of the herb, plant it in fertile, damp soil.

Mulch pots or in-ground plants to retain moisture.

Thirsty Customers

Mint likes lots of water, so water regularly – unless you live in Oregon, where Mother Nature takes care of hydration for you.

You’ll want to pinch the stem tips frequently to encourage bushiness. I just pop the pinched tops in my mouth for a refreshing kick of flavor.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

If you feel your plant needs it, you may fertilize lightly in spring and then maybe once more during the growing season. Too much fertilizer encourages the herb to flower, which reduces leaf production and flavor, according to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

In the fall, cut back or mow the herb to the ground. Cover with a 2-inch layer of mulch if your winters are harsh.

Pests and Diseases

It’s perhaps unsurprising that these moisture-loving plants can be plagued with fungal diseases, such as mint rust and powdery mildew.

Treat these with a fungicide such as this one from Dr. Earth, available via Amazon.

Dr. Earth Final Stop Disease Control Fungicide, 24 Oz. Concentrate

Aphids, mites, and thrips can also bother Mentha. Blast these little pests off with a firm stream of water, prune out infected plant material, or apply an insecticidal soap such as this one from Safer Brand, available through Amazon.

Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap, 32 Oz.

This 32-ounce spray bottle is ready to use.

Cutworms are another problem that may bother this herb. Treat them with diatomaceous earth.

Reap the Rewards

Mint leaves can be harvested at any time, as you need them. Clip individual leaves or cut off the top few inches of a stem to get full sprigs. The more you pinch, the better off the plant is, so add a couple extra leaves to that cocktail!

Young leaves have more flavor than older ones.

Mint julep, anyone?

To enjoy your crop, why not start off with a Tomatillo-Jito ? This refreshing beverage is a tart twist on a minty classic cocktail.

Also from Foodal, you might enjoy Spicy Pork Tacos with Peach and Corn Salsa, where the herb adds a special pop to the flavorful salsa. Another recipe to try is this classic Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad from Wanderspice, in which mint figures prominently.

For dessert, consider these Creamy Watermelon Mint Popsicles from the Fitchen.

No Sneezing Allowed

Planting easy-to-grow mint not only means adding an attractive plant to your landscape, but also a fantastic flavoring agent for drinks, savory dishes, and desserts.

Unless you live in a rainforest (i.e. the Pacific Northwest), you’ll want to provide plenty of supplemental water, and some regular pruning, and that’s about it.

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Photos by Gretchen Heber © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Bonnie Plants, seedsupplier, Colonial Creek Farm Nursery, The Garden Path, Dr. Earth, Safer Brand. Uncredited photos: .

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

In all the herbs, mint is super easy to grow. You don’t need to be an expert for this. It can be grown both in container and grounds. Most of the gardeners prefer to plant mint in containers to save land space as it covers patches aggressively. But if you plant it with precaution, it can become an excellent ground cover. In this article, you’ll learn how you can plant a fragrant mint bed without letting it spread in unwanted parts in your garden.

Ever pass a field where mint is growing, heavenly breeze waft from it, refreshing and mood booster? Grow a mint bed in your garden and enjoy its fruity-lemony odor.

Tips before Planting

  1. Find an enclosed separate space in your garden to create a mint bed; raised beds of 6 inches height are perfect for this.
  2. If you are not growing it in a raised bed, wrap its spreading by lot of mulching around it or plant it in a confined space.
  3. Mint spreads vigorously it’s highly advisable to restrict its area, planting it in flower beds or vegetable patches is not a good idea as it’ll soak the nutrition in soil and invade your garden like a weed.

Pick a Spot

A weed-free spot, rich with organic content and compost in soil that receive full sun, but shade in the afternoon is ideal for healthy growth. Pick an open windy area where you can sit by to enjoy the aroma when the wind blows through it.

Planting

Grow mint from cuttings or buy a plant or two from a nursery instead of sowing seeds (growing mint from seed is difficult). Mint is hardy perennial in Zone 3-11, comes in varieties for every zone and climate, so choose accordingly.

*Spring is the best season to grow it in colder parts.

Variety

There are many types of mint varieties you can choose from. For colder parts peppermint, orange mint and apple mint are perfect. Pineapple mint and spearmint grows better in subtropics and tropics, other popular varieties are chocolate mint and lemon mint.

Caring

Do regular watering, mint hates getting dried and loves moist soil. Pinch to make it bushier and remove flowers to extend its growing time. Occasional fertilizer in a month is enough.

Harvesting

You can harvest mint leaves at any stage and use it in making mint tea, in salads, with yogurt and in a lot of cuisines.

Conclusion

Raise a mint bed in your garden in a confined space; you’ll love its fragrance. You can also make an herbal lawn of mint (needs regular mowing) so when you walk over it, it’ll release the fragrance.

How to grow mint

From a refreshing tea to a classic sauce for roast lamb and new potatoes, mint is one of the most useful culinary herbs. It’s also one of the best herbs for attracting beneficial insects into the garden, such as hoverflies, lacewings and butterflies.

Advertisement Mint, like most herbs, is best used fresh when the volatile oils are at their most intense. The roots of a mint plant

How to plant mint

Mint is a hardy perennial that’s not really worth growing from seed, as it’s so easy to grow from root cuttings or young plants planted in the spring or autumn. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil in light shade where the roots will stay moist but never become waterlogged.

Most mints are invasive, so you may want to restrict their root run by planting in a bottomless bucket sunk into the ground. Or growing them in a container in free-draining, soil-based compost.

Keep a couple of pots by the kitchen door – one to pick while the other grows.

Dividing congested mint grown in a pot

Looking after mint

For the best flavour, keep cutting mint to stimulate new leafy growth. After flowering is over in late summer, cut back plants to just above soil level and feed with a high-nitrogen fertiliser to encourage a fresh flush of leaves for autumn picking.

In autumn, divide to make new plants. Lift a clump and chop it into pieces using a spade. Discard the old centre and replant the vigorous outer edges. Divide congested pot-grown mint in autumn. Sit containers on pot feet to avoid waterlogging over winter.

How to harvest mint

Mint, like most herbs, is best used fresh when the volatile oils are at their most intense. You can start harvesting as soon as greenery appears above the ground in spring and continue through to the first frosts. Nipping out the tips of the stems will encourage the plant to bush out.

Storing mint

Freezing mint is the next best thing to using it fresh. Wash and shake mint leaves dry, then finely chop. Fill an ice-cube tray with the chopped mint (there’s no need to add water). When frozen, pop the cubes into freezer bags and seal.

Preparing and using mint

Add fresh mint to buttered peas and new potatoes or combine with sugar and white wine vinegar for a classic sauce to accompany roast lamb. Steep a handful of leaves in boiling water, with sugar added to taste, for a soothing mint tea.

Watch this quick 20-second video demonstration from our friends at olive magazine on how to chop fresh mint.

Mint: problem solving

Check plants regularly for mint rust. Look for swollen stems with orange spots on the leaves. Dig up the plant and bin it. Mint rust remains in the soil for at least three years, so don’t plant other mints, tarragon or chives in that spot after infection.

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Fresh mint in winter

Take root cuttings from a mature plant and press them down firmly into a pot of damp compost. Cover with more compost and leave on a warm, bright windowsill to sprout.

Mint growing in an upcycled container

Mint varieties to try

  • ‘Banana’ – has a peppermint taste with a hint of banana
  • Bowles’s mint – mauve flowers and large leaves. Best for making mint sauce
  • ‘Chocolate’ – produces brown leaves that taste like after-dinner mints. It’s non-invasive
  • ‘Lime’ – lime flavoured, dark green/purple leaves and mauve flowers. Non-invasive
  • ‘Tashkent’ – spearminty, crinkled leaves and purple flowers
  • ‘Variegata’ – or pineapple mint has cream-green leaves with pineapple scent. Non-invasive

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