When Good Mint Goes Too Far

You may have heard that mint is best planted in containers; that if left uncontained, it goes invasive.  Let me show you what mint will do when left to its own minty devices!

This is the flagstone pathway I built, OK placed, a few years back.  I love it because it lets me walk barefoot into the garden 20 times a day.  There’s no cement underlay, just fabric underneath that’s supposed to keep weeds at bay.  As you can see, that fabric is no match for mint.

the path overtaken... by mint. and black eyed susan vine. and even some chives.
the path overtaken by mint. and black-eyed susan vine. and chives…

The greenery here is “apple” mint — a sweetish, slightly fruity-tasting, fuzzy variety — a wonderful mint, but one which I never meant to plant anywhere near this area — yet here it is, doing it’s best to take the place over.  There’s some black-eyed susan vine in there too — see the pretty pink flowers?  Also invasive!  Plant one vine, and each of the many lovely flowers it drops will produce very viable seeds.  Perfect if you’re looking to cover a back fence, but a real pain in the middle of the garden.

So what prompted this mint situation?  A few years ago, the grapevine now gracing our trellis shared a half-barrel container with a variety of herbs, among them — you guessed it — my favorite apple mint.  When the grapevine failed to thrive in its container, I replanted it at the base of the trellis, taking great care (ha!) to remove any tiny bits of mint roots that were intertwined in the grape roots.  So much for “great care”, because some tiny bit of root did in fact get planted, and though I did make some (fairly feeble) efforts to pull out the mint as it grew and multiplied, eventually those roots found their way into the fertile soil under the flagstones (probably the best soil in the whole garden, since that’s where the earthworms hang out).  The march of the mint was on!

one little, two little, three little mint tips... leads to four little, five little, six little mint tips!
one little, two little, three little mint sprouts… leads to four little, five little, six little mint sprouts!

So, we’ve got a case of invasive mint.  It’s growing fast; but since I’m the one who has to deal with it, it’s not going anywhere fast.  Having a mint forest underfoot kind of annoys my accountant husband, who like to see his flagstones-and-pebbles neatly in rows.  I’m more willing to accept, and want to work with, a garden that’s a bit out-of-control.  It’s boring being in control all the time, and frustrating trying to be in control all the time.  So, I just pull out mint that is growing too far (it will NOT be allowed into the garden beds!), and cut off the sprouts when they get too tall.

The absolute upside of growing mint over a sizable distance is the proliferation of mint “tips”.  They’re the best part of the mint; the newest, prettiest leaves, perfect for eating or as garnish.

Our Pippa is a mint-tip connoisseur. Only the freshest and finest of leaves will do.
Our Pippa is a mint-tip connoisseur. Only the freshest and finest of leaves will do.
lemonade
lemonade “with benefits”!

A glass of delicious homegrown mint-enhanced lemonade is just the thing after a morning spent managing mint!  Find my (extremely locally) famous recipe for Apple-Mint Lemonade here.

Take a leaf out of mint’s book, and

Grow Where You Are Planted.

: )     Jen.

Peak garden

Our May grey has gone away, and June gloom has given way to abundant sunshine… and a profusion of blooms!  It’s late June, and it’s a glorious time to be in the garden; peak time, in fact!

The beginnings of real heat means the sun-lovers in the garden — tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkins — can really start to take off. But it means that the rest of my backyard — the grass, the wildflowers I’ve loved all spring, everything — will be forced into survival mode.  There’s only so much water I’m able — and willing — to give them.  We’re in a drought, and although I could increase my watering and still be in compliance with regulations (which are amazingly weak), it’s more satisfying to let nature take her course.  Brownish-green is the new green around here, and I’m getting used to it.

So I’m spending a little extra time outside today, not that any excuse is required; pruning back some overblown spring stuff, quietly putting Pippa’s sun-bleached mostly-forgotten plastic toys in the recycling (the less toys, the merrier for Mom)… and mostly, appreciating “peak garden”!