Managing Mint and Toddlers

Mint is like a busy toddler: they need room to run but are best contained, and they can really wreak havoc if left to their own devices.  Although, need 5 minutes?  Tell the toddler they can pull all the mint out and they can put it in their mouth.  Then fence them both in and toss in some buckets.  Jackpot.

When I googled “mint in Ontario garden“, I was surprised.  I expected to at least find one heading that read: “Top 5 Plants you’ll Regret Planting“.  Mojito recipes appeared as expected.  Instead there are lovely whimsical articles about mint for tea, mint for medicine, and how to propagate mint.  How to propagate mint!??  Try looking at it.  It will follow you home, through the river, your neighbours gardens, and into your yard.  There is a Vinyl Cafe story about Dave bringing home a variety of mint from Mexico and it quickly taking over his, and his neighbours, backyards.  I can’t find a direct link to listen to it online, but with a little digging you just might be able to have a good laugh today.

When we moved into our first home in 2013, the only plant in the front garden beds was mint.  And if we hadn’t smothered it with landscape fabric and boxed it in with a stone border, it would again be the only plant in the gardens because it would be strangling the new plants we have installed.  Nonetheless, the mint is thriving through the cracks in our efforts and for that, I am slightly grateful because we have some mint.  But for one cup of tea I yank up a long arm of it to make sure it doesn’t gain a foothold again.   I suspect that if we move, and the new owners don’t keep it under control, it will again be the only plant in these beds in 20 years. 


More importantly, there is mint by the river.  And more importantly, if you plant mint in your garden this year, in 5 years it will be all over your garden in large plantings with tons of runners and it will have first dibs at the nutrition in your soil.  So even if you create space for other plants by pulling out some mint, the mint nearby will starve those plants and the fresh roots you have just broken will thrive into more new runners.

I know, it smells lovely when you’re working in it, so does lavender.

Sadly, I find mint does not do well in pots.  Due to it’s need to send out runners, it becomes root bound and stops thriving.  Some people have had good success containing it by planting a rhizome barrier around it and giving the mint room to roam within the barrier.  Ben at Fiddlehead Nursery has recommended aluminum flashing that I believe is 10 inches or so tall, so you bury it nice and deep because the mint runners don’t go that deep.

Also importantly, if you have planted mint in the Cook Community Gardens you have not abided by the agreement that you signed.  It specifically states “No Mint”.  Please do your best to remove it, and every little root segment, because each tiny root segment becomes a new plant with many runners.  That is how you propagate mint.

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