The cooling taste of menthol is familiar to many of us. Menthol is an essential oil, which is especially found in mints and gives them their characteristic taste. Peppermint can be picked in summer and easily chewed, infused as an aromatic tea or used to enhance hearty dishes such as soups. Just like many other spices, peppermint is very easy to grow in your garden.
Peppermint from the supermarket or as seeds
Peppermint, similar to basil, is usually available as a fresh plant in the vegetable section of most supermarkets. The most common variety sold there is true peppermint (Mentha x piperita). In principle, you can plant it directly in a pot or a flower bed at home. The other option is to buy seeds at the hardware store and sow your own mint. This of course takes a lot longer, but can be all the more exciting when you later harvest your homegrown mint and use it to refine some dishes.
When to sow peppermint?
Since peppermint is native to Europe, you can grow it in your garden at the temperatures without any problems. For sowing, the last ground frost should already be over. This is usually the case after the Ice Saints at the beginning of May at the latest. If you have a cold frame or a greenhouse, you can of course sow them earlier. It also does well in a pot on the windowsill.
Peppermint only germinates in light conditions and therefore must not be covered. Simply press the seeds gently with your finger against the soil.
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At a temperature between 15°C and 20°C your mint will germinate after about 2-3 weeks and grow diligently. When it is about 10 centimeters (4 inches) high, you can plant it outside without hesitation. While it is still so small, it should be protected from the wind as much as possible. Since it doesn't need too much sun either, you can cover it with a garden fleece, for example, to protect it a bit.
Planting and growing adult mints
A mature peppermint grows best in a soil full of nutrients. If your flower bed is a bit older, you can freshen it up a bit by raking in herb soil or potting soil from the hardware store. The looser the soil, the better your mint will feel. Also, the soil should never dry out. So if it gets very warm in midsummer, do your mint some good and water it properly.
In addition, a root barrier is highly recommended. However, in the first year it is not that important. Further down you will learn more.
Just like Oregano, you should wait to harvest mint until it starts flowering between July and October. At that time it has the most menthol and is the spiciest. In principle, however, you can harvest it all year round, except in late fall and winter. Leave a little more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) of mint so that it has enough strength to survive the winter.
Grow peppermint for several years
If you take good care of your peppermint, you can enjoy it for several years. However, you must be careful of its roots. If your mint is doing well, it will grow long roots and sooner or later overgrow the other plants in your entire bed. If you want to put your peppermint back in a pot in the winter, you can do without a root barrier for the first year. The second year, however, you should definitely use one. Root barriers can be purchased inexpensively on Amazon or at a hardware store.
Since peppermint is a hardy plant, you do not necessarily have to put it indoors or in a greenhouse for the winter. However, after three years at the earliest and five years at the latest, you should move it to another bed so that the soil is not completely depleted of nutrients.
You can clone peppermint very easily by digging it up and separating it along the roots. Of course, it is important that both plants still have leaves and roots. The larger they are, the better their chances of survival. If you want to plant them next to each other, leave about 30 to 40 centimeters of space between them and other plants.
As an alternative to cloning, you can leave a few flowers for the fall when you harvest. Then, in October, simply place a rootstock under your mint and gently shake it so that it throws up lots of seeds. Dry the seeds in a dark, dry place and sow them again next year.
The hardy peppermint is the best source of menthol essential oil and is easy to grow from seed or mature plants in the garden. As soon as the last ground frost is over, you can sow it. However, since it only germinates under light conditions, you should only press the peppermint seeds against the soil and not bury them. From the second year on, you should put a root barrier around the mint to prevent it from overgrowing your garden. The time to harvest is during the flowering period between July and October, when the mint contains the most menthol.