Fresh mint can enhance garden and foods PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 08:48
A container of mint used as an accent planting (Photo courtesy of Green Earth Media Group)
Mints are fast-growing spreading plants, so you need to give them room to grow without getting in the way. Mint varieties send out runners that spread above and just under the ground, quickly forming large, lush green patches.
Many authorities consider them invasive as they can easily take over any garden spot you choose, so choose wisely. Thus some experts prefer large containers to t confine it. If placed on a patio or near the kitchen door, it will also be handy for use in food preparation.
In the right place, mint makes a sensational, seasonal ground cover. You can also contain mint in tight places such as between pavers of a walkway.
When planted outdoors, it is important to select a damp area in the garden in either full sun or partial shade. Mint prefers fertile soil with a pH from 6.0 to 7.0, and is plenty vigorous on its own but will appreciate a little fertilizer every few weeks, especially if you harvest a lot. It can take over the whole garden if you let it.
Another idea is to surround the planting hole with plastic or metal sheets so that it is truly confined to one area.
You can also mulch around the plants to keep roots moist. Plants will die back in dry soil. Keep plants in check by harvesting the tips regularly and pulling up wayward runners when planted in the garden. Mint's small flowers bloom from June to September; trim these before buds open to keep the plant compact.
One expert suggests to sink the plant in a large flower pot within the herb section of the garden and then every so often, during the summer about once a month, lift the pot so as to detach the root from the surrounding soil. Mints also add a great fragrance to your yard and garden.
Avoid a very heavy soil by then mixing in some bark chippings or pea gravel if your soil is very heavy.
The mint will grow virtually anywhere, but if it's in too much shade, there will be a lot of space between leaves. That doesn't affect the taste,  just the appearance.
Mint is commonly used for tea as a home remedy to help alleviate stomach pain. Because of its strong, sharp flavor and scent, mint is sometimes used as a mild decongestant for illnesses such as the common cold. During the Middle Ages, powdered mint leaves were also used to whiten teeth. Mint can also be used on potatoes and peas, chopped into yoghurt as a salad dressing, garnish for cool drinks and of course, in sauce or jelly to accompany lamb.
When cooking with mint, it's best to use the leaves. Mint stems are tougher than leaves and not as flavorful.
The mint herb comes in many varieties, but the most popular for kitchen use is spearmint. There are also fruit flavored mints such as orange or apple to add to peppermint. A trip to your garden center will provide a good selection. Another simple way to get started with your mint plant is to ask a fellow gardener for a runner. Placed in water and waiting with patience for the roots to grow will eventually provide a start to provide a lifetime supply of the flavorful herb.
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 May 2012 11:33

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