Mint Can Definitely Have A Place In The Garden

Yes, mint is an aggressively spreading herb and can quickly take over a garden, but with tons of benefits, I find the extra effort to grow this plant worth it.

by Michelle Bruhn
PHOTO: Michelle Bruhn

I’m going to share a secret with you … I grow mint in the ground. Gasp! I recently found out this is a very divisive statement. But I’ll invite you to look at the big picture before jumping to conclusions.

First off, I’ll invite you to consider this topic within a “my-garden-my-choice” frame of mind.

My Testa-Mint

I love experimenting in my garden, so I planted a clump of mint dug up from my parents’ place into our “chicken yard” maybe eight years ago. The chickens kept it in check as they munched and scratched around it. And I used that patch of mint mostly for their bedding.

A few years ago though, we expanded the vegetable garden into that space. I half-heartedly dug up the roots, knowing full well I’d never get them all. We decided to plant a hügelkultur bed full of strawberries right over a part of it.

The mint lives on right with the strawberries and I’m far from worried about eliminating it. Plus, my chances are about as good as eliminating creeping Charlie. So far, the strawberries are holding their own, as long as I manage it.

Read more: Forage wild strawberries for a springtime treat.

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Embracing Mint

I’m choosing to embrace the mint instead of fight it. For me this looks like:

  • I get to harvest a ton of mint all summer  for infused mint water. Plus, I can dry tons of mint for winter herbal teas.
  • I spend a few extra minutes every week pulling up plants from my pathways.
  • I spend an hour or so two to three times a year pulling mint roots from my garden beds.
  • I pay attention to the strawberry plants that my mint coexists with.
  • I use extra mint in my chicken coop bedding.

Read more: Mint is seriously cool!

I know this way of gardening isn’t for everyone, or for every garden space either. But in some spaces and some gardeners, it’s a match made in heaven. 

I’m embracing the chance to pay attention and try to help the plants find a balance so they can coexist peacefully.

Mint does a wonderful job at coexisting with raspberries and blackberries, as it grows in dry shade where other plants really struggle. And a few of my friends actually grow it in the ground as a ground cover of sorts. They prefer it to clover and grass.

Now, one place I would not plant mint is near (like anywhere near) your compost pile. You don’t want those roots getting mixed in and spreading them all over your garden!

I’d just hate for you not to experience the joy of mint—or bee balm, lily of the valley or other aggressive spreaders—just because you’re afraid. 

Sure, plant mint in a pot, and sink it to help overwinter. But grow new plants and learn from them.

I’m in a relationship with my garden. There’s give and take to this gardening world, and that’s the beauty.

So, dare I ask … do you grow mint in the ground?

By Michelle Bruhn
Forks in the Dirt

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