Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Growing Peppermint in the Garden

Photo by: akvalsk

There are several good reasons to grow peppermint in your garden. If you like to grow cabbage, or any member of the genus Brassica family, plant peppermint as a companion plant or just plant some throughout the garden to help keep the white cabbage butterfly out of your garden. Grow peppermint near your roses to keep the aphids away. It also acts as a rodent repellant.

Peppermint has a tendency to spread, so you may want to contain it by putting installing a plastic or metal root barrier into the soil or grow your peppermint in a pot and submerge the pot in the soil. You can buy peppermint plants already growing, or sow the seeds directly into the prepared garden area. The U.S. Department of Agriculture zones peppermint is hardy in ranges from 3 through 7.

Peppermint plants have square stems, reddish in color. The stems and leaves are tinged with a red blush. They look a lot like spearmint, but you can tell them apart in several ways. Peppermint has darker green leaves that are less crinkly.

Peppermint is a wonderful herb used to make tea, or candies. Peppermint oil uses include relieving headaches, removing dandruff, and head lice. Rub the oil on your chest to help with nasal problems or add several drops into a vaporizer. Whenever I smell peppermint, I think of Christmas time and peppermint candy canes.

Peppermint will grow almost anywhere, but if you want your plants to thrive, choose a place that offers some shade during the hottest part of the day. The soil pH can range from mildly acidic 6.1 to mildly alkaline 7.87.   

Dig up the ground in the spring where the peppermint will grow. Amend the soil with 2 to 4 inches of organic compost. Rake through the soil to break up the clumps, remove any rocks, sticks, or hard dirt clods that comes to the surface. Before you leave the garden, turn the rake over to level the soil. 

It is a good idea to let the ground settle for three days to a week. If you need to plant sooner then that, lay a board over the soil where you are going to plant the seeds. Walk across the board to compact the soil. This collapses air pockets in the soil, but doesn’t make the soil too hard for the seeds to germinate.  

Place one seed every 6 inches. You can scatter the seeds over the soil, but then you may need to thin them if you plant them too close together. Lightly cover the seeds so they are 1.4 inch deep. Gently press the soil with your hands so the seed coat is in contact with the soil. This helps in germination. 

Water the newly sown seeds with a gentle spray or mister. It is important that you keep the soil moist at all times, but not soggy. Check the soil several times a day so that is doesn’t dry out.  The seeds should germinate in about seven days. 

When the peppermint plants are 2 inches tall, you will need to thin them so that each plant is about 12 inches apart. Throughout the growing season, gve your peppermint an inch of water a week. Clip off the young tender budding tips for a bushier growth and pinch the flowers off to extend the harvesting season.  Do not harvest any peppermint until the plant is 12 inches tall.  If you harvest sooner than that, you will weaken the plant.  The best time to harvest the peppermint leaves is early in the morning while still wet with dew.

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