Herbs are a great initiation into home gardening. One of my favorite herbs to grow is mint. Prior to learning the recipes that I write about on this blog, I mostly used mint for the occasional mojito and thought of it as a "sweet herb". However, it is frequently used for savory dishes in Greek cuisine, the beef meatballs and zucchini feta fritters being just two of many dishes that call for mint. Given that a packet of fresh mint from the store costs around $2.50 and dried mint isn't carried by most grocers, planting fresh mint in our yard was a no-brainer. However, while it may be a no-brainer, I have learned that where you plant your mint, matters.
As a newly initiated gardner, I still have a lot to learn. In addition to referencing my favorite gardening sites, I rely heavily on the knowledge of the staff at my local nursery or farmers market. Unfortunately, back when I planted the mint three years ago, I didn't realize the value of these resources. And so, during one of my trips to the home improvement store, I picked up a pot of mint. Following my purchase, I returned home and excitedly planted the mint in the space allotted for my herbs.
Every year, I marveled at the resilience of the mint. Neither the lack of care during our summer trips to Greece or the regular ransacking by my two young children seemed to phase the plant. Given my regular need for fresh mint, I was grateful that the plant appeared indestructible. Then, a few weeks ago, I made a trip to my local nursery to pick up some more herbs to add to the garden. While there, I thought I would ask how one differentiates spearmint from peppermint. As it turns out, the only way to differentiate them is from their scent. I mentioned that I had mint in our garden and couldn't recall which variety we had planted. This is when the lady kindly asked where I had planted said mint. When I told her it was in the ground with the other herbs in my garden, she proceeded to inform me that mint is typically planted in a pot and planted on its own, as its roots will strangle any other plants it is potted with. I agreed with her that the mint was surprisingly robust and had an impressive ability to expand its habitat; mine having recently popped up a few feet away, close to our hydrangeas. As I continued to consider this new information, it occurred to me that the mint might have been responsible for the mysterious death of its aloe neighbor. The prospect that the same could happen to our hydrangeas set off the alarm: dig up the mint asap and get it into a pot!
Given that mint can resurrect from portions of the root left in the ground, it took a good hour to dig up the plant, taking care to remove all parts of the root system. It may take two or three years to fully eradicate, but I am confident that this "garden squatter" is now under control.