Mint. It's been used for centuries to treat maladies from gallstones to the common cold. There are more than 30 species of mint and all of them have "volatile oil menthol," which is why mint is "cooling." It's also supposed to be incredibly easy to grow -- even here in the desert. For years, I've been told to plant mint in a container, as it's a plant with a deep root system and a tendency to "take over," and become invasive.
Except, mine has never taken over. Ever. No "runners," no spreading...nothing. In the Great Lakes region mint runs amuk. Here in Phoenix in a typical year, my mint does really well for about a month and then turns yellow, shrivels and eventually dies. It's clearly not a problem plant, but a problem owner. So, I consulted a few folks at Baker's Nursery to see if I can't be enjoying mint all summer long.
1.Mint likes a bit of shade and consistent moisture. Wayne from Baker's says to "Water the hell out of it." I was watering about every 2-3 days, but in reality I should be watering every day this time of year....sometimes twice a day. Beware that the leaves will turn yellow if the water levels aren't right.
2. But, don't overwater. Wet roots mean dead plants, so if the soil is still quite damp from the previous watering, don't water. Also, try not to get too much water on the leaves, since the plant can get a bit sunburned if it gets sun before the water dries. You'll also want to make sure you have enough drainage as well.
3. Provide morning sun and afternoon shade. This is where I was likely going wrong. My mint plants had partial shade (ignore the "plant in full sun" instructions on most of the signs that come with mint plants) but they might have been getting too hot in the afternoon, especially since summer weather is upon us.
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4. Grow in a container. I asked about moving my plants to my raised bed, but different types of mint will mix together and mint needs more water than my veggies, so Baker's recommended just keeping it in a container. This way, I can keep an eye on it and move it from the sun as the seasons change.
5. Purchase plants when possible. Mint can be propagated from cuttings, but it's best to start with a new plant. Good thing they had lots of varieties to choose form at Bakers. I took home apple mint and lemon mint. Now, I just need to keep it alive.