When life gives you lemons………. you know how to care for your lemon tree properly! Lemons have so many uses, from cleaning solutions to lemon meringue pies. They are generally heat loving plants, but you can grow them in containers and greenhouses as well. Read on to get your 15 tips for growing a healthy lemon tree with a high yield.
1) Lifetime of a Lemon Tree
Since a lemon tree will not typically breed true from seeds, most lemon trees you find have been propagated by grafting. Lemon trees will take between 3 – 5 years to produce fruit, but they are long lived trees. A well cared for plant can live between 50 and 100 years. You will probably find that the production decreases in older trees though.
2) Varieties of Lemon Trees
These varieties can be grown outdoors in zones 9 – 11. Dwarf trees are the best choice for container gardening.
Meyer Lemons are excellent for container growing. They are a cross between a table lemon and an orange that originated in China. They will produce some fruit throughout the year, but most of the fruit is harvested in the winter. The fruit is sweeter with less acid than other lemons.
Ponderosa Lemons will fruit and bloom at the same time. Fruits can be left on the tree ripe for several months. They will fruit year-round and have large fruits that almost resemble a grapefruit in size.
Eureka Lemons have nearly no thorns. They bear fruit and flowers throughout the year. They are seedless and have a tangy citrus flavor. These are one of the most commonly found varieties.
Lisbon lemon trees are almost as big around as they are tall. If you grow them in containers you can prune them to a narrower shape. It is an heirloom variety with a thick, smooth skin.
3) How many lemon trees do I need?
You only need one, as they are self-pollinating. You do not need insects to pollinate the trees. Also, you will not need to hand pollinate the flowers.
4) Temperatures for Lemon Trees
Lemon trees, like all citrus trees, like it hot. The ideal temperature for setting fruit is between 70 F and 85 F. The lowest nighttime temperature should be between 50 – 55 F. Trees will become damaged when temperatures drop below 29 F.
5) Soil for Lemon Trees
The optimal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5. When planting in containers use a good soilless potting mixture. This will be mostly perlite, peat moss and vermiculite.
6) Lighting Needs
When planting outside place the tree in an area with 6 – 8 hours of full sunlight. Indoors you can try to place the tree by a sunny window or use supplemental lighting. LED lighting would be a good choice. You should run your lights for at least 8 -12 hours.
There are fertilizers specifically for citrus. Citrus requires a fertilizer high in nitrogen. You can use a liquid, granular or slow release fertilizer.
Lemon trees typically do not require pruning. You do want to remove any diseased or dead branches. For bigger trees you can prune for better light penetration.
9) Watering Your Lemon Tree
You should water lemon trees in containers often. Keep them moist, but not wet. Lemon trees don’t like wet feet. Be sure to use soil that drains well. Stick your finger into the soil 2”. If it is dry, it is time to water.
For lemon trees growing outside you will not need to water as often. The lemon trees have a large feeder root system. If you scratch the surface of the soil under the plant, you will find a network of feeder roots. If you keep the lemon trees outside well mulched it will help to retain any moisture.
Although lemon trees are relatively trouble free, you may encounter these problems. If you encounter these problems and are not sure how to diagnose them properly you can take a leaf to your county extension agent and they will help.
Dropping Leaves – This may be caused by overwatering.
Fruit drop – This may be caused by the fact that there is just more fruit than the tree can support. It could also be due to improper watering, improper fertilization, disease, insects or too vigorous pruning.
11) Growing in A Greenhouse
Keep the temperature above 50 degrees in the greenhouse. Once the temperature outside has reached 55 at night you can move the plant outside for the summer. Keep in mind that your tree will probably be in a 10-gallon container at least. Make sure to have a container that is on wheels to facilitate the move. Also, keep in mind that some greenhouses have narrower doors. Be sure that you will be able to move the plant in and out of the door that you have.
12) Growing in the Ground
Picking an area that has well drained soil is critical. Also, be sure to get a spot that gets at least 8 hours of full sun every day. Pick your variety based on your climate. Also, make sure that you will have room for the mature tree when planting. Do not overcrowd.
13) Growing in Containers
You should always use containers with drainage holes. But you need to be aware that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground generally. Lemons like a lot of humidity. You can supply this by misting your trees daily or by placing pebbles in the saucer the pots drain into. You can also run a humidifier in the dry winter months when the heat is running in your house. The pot size will determine the plant size. Use a 10 – 15-gallon pot size. You should buy dwarf varieties to grow in a container.
14) Storage of Lemons
We have all seen the beautiful baskets of fresh lemons hanging in the kitchens on TV. This is a great way to store lemons if you are going to use them in less than a week. I don’t seem to go through them that fast. I just place my cleaned lemons in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.
Lemons can be juiced, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The juice can also be stored in a freezer in ice cube trays. I then place the ice cube trays in a sealed bag. This gives you some portion control when it is time to thaw the juice.
The zest can be removed and place in a sealed jar or frozen.
15) Usage of Lemons
Well, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or you can use the zest and juice in many ways in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love a lemon meringue pie? They are great squeezed over many dishes to brighten the flavor. The list goes on and on.
Lemon juice can be used for cleaning many different items. It can be used from cleaning your glass shower door to being used to polish copper and brass.
Lemons can also be used to help eliminate odors.
Lemons are fun and easy to grow. These plants will last a lifetime once you get them growing properly indoors and out.
Like many others, tomatoes are my very favorite thing to come out of the garden. There are so many different things you can do with them. Not to mention the yummy taste. My husband used to kid me that I could probably live on just tomatoes and crusty bread with butter. Yep, that sounds like a perfect meal to me! During harvest season I eat fresh tomatoes with just about every meal. Many people think they are difficult to grow, but that is not the case.
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Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and even tobacco. They were once considered to be poisonous. But, thankfully, that was soon dispelled.
Most varieties of tomatoes require nighttime temperatures of between 55 F and 75 F to set fruit. There are a few exceptions that set fruit at cooler temperatures for colder climates. At temperatures above 95 the fruits will stop setting. Most varieties will take between 50 – 90 days to harvest. That is why tomatoes are typically started indoors or purchased as plants at a local nursery. I much prefer to start my own seeds as I can choose the varieties I like. The nurseries will have a limited selection with just a few popular varieties.
There are determinate and indeterminate varieties. Most of us have indeterminate tomatoes in our garden. They can grow from 6′ to 12′ high. They will have blossoms, immature fruit and mature fruit all on the plant at the same time. They will continue to produce until the first frost. Determinate varieties are usually 3′ to 4′ high and are great for container gardening. They will produce their entire crop usually within a 2 week period.
Heirloom tomatoes are seeds that are kept from year to year. Most of them are saved because of their desired characteristics. These may be passed down from family members, or saved commercially. Commercial heirloom seeds are seeds that have bred true for over 50 years. They are considered open pollinated, which basically means that they will breed true. I find that my heirloom varieties do not seem to be as acidic as non-heirloom varieties.
Tomatoes should be planted in the Spring when all danger of frost has passed. Some of us in the South are fortunate enough to have a second tomato planting in the fall. In my zone 8 we plant the second crop from the beginning of July through August 15th.
Plant in the full sun. Tomatoes need a full 6 hours of sunlight to produce. This is especially crucial in Northern climates. If you are in a Southern area with harsh summer sun your plants will grow and produce even if they have a light afternoon shade. Don’t ever plant your tomatoes where the morning sun will be blocked. Space your plants according to the directions on the seed packet or the stake in your purchased plant. I typically space my tomatoes at 3′ apart. This gives me room to pick even the ones on the back of the plants.
I know this next part will sound weird, but I have been planting my tomatoes this way for 20 plus years. Remove all of the bottom leaves off the plant. Bury the plant with the stem running sideways. I just dig a hole with my hands that has a gentle curve to it. I have seen people just lay the tomato in a shallow trench laying sideways with just the very top of the plant above the ground. This will give you a great root system as the roots will grow out all along the buried stem. Don’t worry about the top, it will straighten up in the sun in a day or two. With that huge root system you have a much healthier plant that is stronger and able to get more nutrients. This all equals a better harvest.
Tomatoes will grow tall, so be sure to plant them on the North side of a bed where they will not cast shade on the rest of the garden. Also, you will possibly have cages that will cast a shadow. Do not plant tomatoes near corn, dill or potatoes. They do not grow well together. You can plant them near peppers, basil or leaf lettuce.
Tomatoes can be grown in a greenhouse, in a hydroponic system, in pots, indoors, even upside down. And yes, I have used the upside down containers. And yes, they do work well. We used them for a couple of years and they produced just as many tomatoes as our plants in the garden.
Tomatoes need to be staked, be put in cages, or even grown up a trellis. They need support. Plus, you want to keep your fruits off the ground where they are more susceptible to pests, disease and damage.
You can or cannot remove the suckers. I personally don’t bother with this. But, reportedly the suckers do not bear fruit, so they are just a drain on the resources of the plants. You will find these where the branch comes off the stem. They will be a small shoot growing out just above the branch. These are removed simply by pinching them between your fingers.
Tomatoes need consistent watering. That is why I prefer to set them up on a drip irrigation system. They need 1 – 2 inches of rain per week. Water deeply to about 6″ to 8″ below the soil level. Do not water if the plants are still wet. Only water when needed. You can test this by sticking your finger in the soil next to the plant. Always water in the early morning.
Tomatoes may present with blossom end rot. This is a blackish, rotten looking spot on the bottom of the tomato. This may be caused by inconsistent watering. It will sometimes just go ahead and correct itself. You can still eat the tomatoes, just cut this undesirable part out.
Cat facing is another tomato abnormality. It will show up as an abnormally shaped fruit sometimes with scar like tissue showing. It is usually caused by temperature stress while pollination is occurring. Again, just cut out the ugly part and eat the rest.
Tomato hornworms are a problem sometimes encountered by us all. These are gross, but they are easy to get rid of. That is if you can find them. They are the same color as the leaves and have a tendency to blend in really well. If you have them you will know it. You will see piles of bug pooh below your plants. You will also see big holes in your leaves. If you see these 2 signs go on a hornworm hunting expedition. Alert for the squeamish. You may want to skip this next sentence. The best way eradicate these pests is to simply squash them. Sorry, that is the best way.
This is the fun part. Tomatoes can be picked when they are green for fried green tomatoes, chow chow and other recipes calling for green tomatoes. I still like to wait until they have just a little pink blush on their shoulders. They will just be starting to show the slightest hint of color. Otherwise you should wait until your tomatoes are ripe to pick them. Just grab hold and don’t squeeze too tight. Always store your tomatoes on a counter top out of direct sunlight. Don’t put them on a windowsill. Never, ever, ever put a tomato in the refrigerator. This will just ruin the flavor. If you have to pick tomatoes before they are ripe for some reason, you can put them right side up (like they come off the plant) in a brown paper bag on a counter top. They will ripen in the bag.
Tomatoes can be sliced fresh and sprinkled with a little salt or sugar. Or hey, you can eat them plain if you want to! They are great to make sauces. They dehydrate well. They even freeze well. And, let’s not forget canning. You can make plain tomatoes or tomato and pepper mixtures. I do all of these preserving methods for my tomatoes.
Tomatoes are no more difficult than any other garden plant to grow. Give them the proper conditions they require and they will do great! I find that I always have plenty of tomatoes to eat, preserve and share. What are you waiting for? Plant a tomato or two today.
How to Select the Perfect Topsoil for Your Home Garden
Topsoil for Your Home Garden
If you’re thinking about planting a garden this spring, it’s important you select the best top soil. Selecting the perfect topsoil for your home garden is the first step in ensuring that your garden will be all that you want it to be. Topsoil is crucial in having a plentiful garden. The nutrients in topsoil allow your plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and even grass to grow. With the right selection you’ll have topsoil that’s going to make your garden shine.
The Darker the Better
Topsoil is typically considered the top 2-8 inches of soil. It’s the part of the soil that is the richest and most-life giving for plants. It’s made up of mostly various silts, decomposed plant matter, clay, and sand, and that’s why it’s so good for your plants. This is the part of the soil that will make your plants grow.
The best top soil is always the darkest. Choose a topsoil that is really rich in a dark brown or black color. Typically the darker the soil, the richer it is in organic matter which means it’ll contain life-giving food for your garden plants. Earthy dark soil is the first step in the process of creating a lovely home garden.
Choose Loose Topsoil
Not only should topsoil be dark in color, but it also needs to be a variety that is loose and easily permeable. The topsoil is where worms, bugs, and other critters like to burrow and dig and this allows plant roots to grow deeper and lets water seep in. Choose a topsoil that feels loose in consistency so your watering efforts will be effective.
Too much lumpiness and you’ll have an uneven garden bed and ineffective soil. The soil should be loose and easily tilled. Tilling your topsoil is important for a productive home garden. If it’s too hard or clumpy, tilling won’t be as easy and you won’t yield your desired results. When you’re gardening, the right nutrients need to be able to easily glide through the topsoil and hit the roots of the plants.
Don’t Settle for Cheap
There’s a lot of topsoil varieties that come at a cheaper cost because they are mixed with other debris that won’t help your garden. Avoid topsoil that have small rock particles, other plant roots, and substances. This will interfere with the healthy growth of your garden.
Invest into a topsoil that costs more but will make your garden grow and flourish. You can easily find topsoil at most home repair and garden stores. Ask a garden associate to help you decide which topsoil is best for your garden. Some topsoil bags will be labeled with different information to help you decide.
Know How Much You Will Need
Topsoil is an important resource for the health of your home garden. Make sure that you know how much topsoil you will need. You can do this by making sure you have taken the proper measurements of the size of your garden. If you’ve just planning on having a small garden or flower bed, you won’t need as much soil. If you’re looking to yield a plentiful harvest and expand your garden, having enough topsoil is extremely important. Know your dimensions and work from there.
Although topsoil is normally considered the top two inches of soil, again it can range all the way to 8 inches deep. Most gardeners will use more topsoil than just the standard two. Your garden can use topsoil that is 7-8 inches deep which means you will need to factor in the amount of topsoil to be purchased. If you’re just looking to grow your grass, then you can use up to 6 inches of topsoil.
Topsoil is sold in bags and in bulk. Usually with bulk orders you’ll have to make special arrangements. If you do buy topsoil in bulk, it is not priced like regular bags, but rather by the cubic yard. Also, varying topsoil is available based on factors like the area you live in, and a particular soil availability in that area. Sometimes the town or village office locations will occasionally leave bulk piles of topsoil for local gardeners for free. Look out for these opportunities in spring and summer.
Take Lawn Edging into Account
When it comes time to plant your garden and use topsoil, be sure to take account of any lawn edging around your garden bed. Lawn edging creates crisp and clean lines around your garden so it’ll be separated from the rest of the lawn area. It’s a great way to ensure that grass won’t reach in and mix with your topsoil. Because grass, weeds, and shrubs grow very quickly, make sure you have enough topsoil to continue proper upkeep of your home garden.
There’s a lot of different lawn-edging landscaping techniques. You could choose to surround your garden or flower bed with sidewalk pavers, steel or aluminum edges, or plastic edges. When using metal edges, make sure to wear shoes when you’re walking around your garden or you could easily get a cut.
You can install edges around your garden by digging a trench all around your garden as the first step. Next, you will want to use stakes and the materials mentioned above to secure the material into the ground so it’s not easily uprooted. Be careful not to create garden edges too closely to where you have planted roots. Skilled lawn care workers can also easily install these edges for you or you can look on the web for tutorials on proper installation.
Your lawn edges will need maintenance as time goes on. When trimming overgrown or unruly grass around your garden, it’s inevitable that some pieces may fall into the topsoil and mix. It’s important to have topsoil on hand to refresh the top inch or two after trimming. Having a lawn edge is definitely a great preventative method but you still need to make sure you’re maintaining the edges of your garden when necessary.
If you hire a company to take care of your lawn and garden, make sure the workers know to replenish topsoil. Have them use topsoil that’s of high quality, dark, rich, and free of debris.
Topsoil Top Points
To summarize, select the perfect topsoil for your home garden by choosing dark and nutrient-rich soil. Make sure it’s loose and easily tillable. Invest in soil that may cost more but will have better long-term effectiveness. Know your garden dimensions and have enough to cover the necessary depth. Lastly, upkeep your garden with lawn edging and replacing topsoil after trims and lawn work.
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Like most things in my life, I like my asparagus prepared simply. I love to just steam it lightly. Then I take some extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, a touch of salt and some freshly shredded parmesan. I toss everything together and that is it. I am getting hungry just thinking about it. Unfortunately, the harvesting season for asparagus is for such a short period it is hard to enjoy it all year long. But, the good news is that if fresh asparagus is blanched and frozen, it will preserve well.
Asparagus is typically thought of as being green. But, there are purple hybrid varieties as well. Don’t get too excited about this. If you cook the purple asparagus it will revert back to the green color. That is not the case for white asparagus. It is most desired because it is considered less bitter and more tender. The white color is obtained by keeping the asparagus covered with dirt while it is growing. There is no exposure to the sun so there is no photosynthesis which produces chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is what causes the green color.
This plant is a perennial, which means that it lives more than 2 years. Actually it will last a lot longer than that. A well maintained asparagus bed may live up to 15 – 20 years.
The plants grow 39″ to 84″ tall.
Asparagus is approximately 93% water.
Plants are either male or female. Female plants produce a red berry which is poisonous. They will appear after the fern like leaves are already open.
There are some hybrid varieties available that only produce male plants. These hybrids are also resistant to some of the more common diseases that plague asparagus such as Fusarium or crown rot.
Asparagus does not like to compete with weeds. Be sure to keep your bed weed free.
Asparagus will only grow in zones 4 – 8. You can plant this from seeds, but it will add an additional year onto the time to harvest. Most people will plant crowns. These are 1 year old dormant plants that can be purchased from seed companies. Yes, they are more expensive than the seeds, but considering the lifetime of the plants, I would opt for getting to harvest a year sooner. This is a plant that does extremely well in a raised bed growing situation.
Crowns should be planted in sunny, well drained, loose soil in the Spring and in the Fall in some warmer climates. In the Spring you should plant outside 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost date. It prefers a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. You should test your soil first and amend before planting if needed. To plant dig a trench that is 12″ to 15″ wide and 6″ to 8″ deep. If you are planting multiple rows they should be 3′ apart. Soak your crowns in water for 15 – 30 minutes before planting to be sure they are hydrated . Place a small mound of dirt in the bottom of the trench. Place your crown on this. Be sure to fan out your roots around the crown. Fill in you trench . Water immediately after planting. Cover your bed with mulch to help control weeds and maintain moisture levels. Do not use straw as it may contain seeds.
Asparagus grows best in temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees F.
Production is inhibited at temperatures of 50 degrees F or lower.
Keep your beds weed free.
Do not over water as this plant does not like wet roots.
Keep any mulch off of the plants as it may cause rot.
Fertilize before the spring growth and right after harvest
Use a fertilizer high in Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) and lower in Phosphorus (P)
cut back stalks to the ground in fall
During the first year you should maintain the plants per their requirements. But, you will not harvest during the first year. During the second year you can harvest lightly. The third year is when the bed starts to come into full production.
Plants should be harvested when they are 6″ to 8″ tall. You should not harvest plants that are under 1/4″ in diameter. With ideal growing conditions this plant will grow rapidly. You should check for plants to harvest daily during the short 8 week harvest period. You should cut the plants at the soil level using an asparagus knife.
Asparagus can be steamed, boiled or blanched, roasted, stir fried or it can be eaten raw. Asparagus can also be preserved by freezing or pickling. It is simple to prepare. The woody ends must be removed. To find where this is you would simply hold each end of the spear and flex it. The best way to do this is to just break it while you are bending it. You can however pile up the whole batch and use a knife to cut off the bottoms. Asparagus should be thoroughly rinsed under water before cooking or eating.
This plant is high in many vitamins, but it has very few calories. It is a good source of antioxidants and has been known to help lower blood pressure. Plus, it is simple to prepare and oh yeah, tasty. Go out and plant some asparagus today!
Best selling gardening tools – we participate in affiliate programs
Best Selling Garden Products
As winter is coming to a slow end, I am getting more and more anxious to be out in the sun working in my garden every day. You may have seen me say this before, but I just don’t do well in the cold, dark, sunless days of winter. I have managed to sneak out and get a few things planted. I have snow peas, radishes, cilantro, lettuce and carrots starting to grow. But that is all for now. So, I spend my time inside still wishing for Spring to hurry up and get here. I have my seed catalogs so worn out from perusing them and wishing that I decided to take a look at what some of the best sellers in gardening categories are online. I went to Amazon and went to their best sellers list. I went through the gardening categories one by one. I eliminated pest control and items like that and have come up with a list of best sellers of the most interest to gardeners. I am going to go out and take a good inventory of my tools and see what I need to replace this year.
Composting Category – This is the number 7 best seller – Garden Compost Bin Tumbler
I have never used a tumbling composter. I just use a homemade wooden bin type structure. But, this has a 4.3 out of 5 rating on Amazon. I have read the reviews and most people seem to love it. It appears that the instructions aren’t the best, but most say it tumbles easily and it makes compost faster than a bin does. Also, several people mentioned that this cut down on pests such as flies and gnats. Anyone have any experience with one of these? If so let us know what you think in the comments.
Gloves and Protective Gear – This is the number 1 best seller – Thick Kneeling Pad
Now this is something that I can relate to. My knees always hurt when I garden. This pad has great reviews. It has 4.6 stars out of 5 with 1335 reviews. That says a lot for it right there. Although I do prefer the pads with stands to help you get up and down. Any gardener with hurting knees should have one of these.
Greenhouses and Accessories – This is the number 2 best seller – 4 Tier Mini Greenhouse
We sold the Juliana 4 tier racks for over 10 years at www.advancegreenhouses.com. This is a different brand as the Juliana stands are no longer available. But, I can tell you that everyone who had one loved them. We would have reorders year after year. It wasn’t because the stands didn’t hold up. People just wanted to add more and more stands to their porches every year.
Gardening Tools – This is the number 1 best seller – pH, Moisture and Light meter
It is very important to know the pH, moisture content and sunlight level for your garden. If you have a problem and you aren’t sure what it is it will be harder to fix. With this meter you can pinpoint your issues and work to correct them.
Outdoor Gardening Carts – This is the number 1 best seller – Collapsible Cart
Gardeners always need a cart. And what better than a collapsible cart for easy storage. Pull your garden tools, plants to be put in the ground, even the kids in this great cart. This is top rated at 4.6 out of 5 starts with a whopping 3759 reviews.
Plant Covers – This is the number 2 best seller – Tunnel Garden Cloche
These are great season extenders. Get a head start on the growing season in the Spring, or extend the growing season in the fall.
Pots and Planters – This is the number 1 best seller – Grow Bags
These grow bags give your roots plenty of room to grow. The pots are breathable so they keep the plants warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. They are easy to move around and will last a good long time.
Potting Benches and Tables – This is the number 1 best seller – Kneeler Seat
These are great. As I mentioned before I love these kneelers that double as a sitting bench. I find that the support from the “legs” help me to get up and down easier. And, your knees will definitely thank you for this extra support and protection.
Lawn and Garden Watering – This is the number 2 best seller – programmable timer
I am all about timers and automating things like watering. No need to rush home from ball practice or some other special event in order to get your garden watered on time. Plus, your garden and plants will thank you. They are happier with regular timed watering. Inconsistent watering can lead to problems such as blossom end rot.
Watering Cans – This is the number 9 best seller – Steel Watering Can
I much prefer to have irrigation systems set up, but occasionally you will still need a watering can. You may have one plant setting off by itself where it just would not be practical to run a system. Besides, I like the old fashioned look of this watering can. It kind of reminds me of something my Grandma would have had.
Tools are a necessity for our gardens. Please be sure to take good care of your tools by cleaning them and placing them back in storage after finishing with them for the day. Time to go out and check the potting shed and see if you need to replace any for this years growing season.
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Mint, it is tasty, it is easy, it is fun to grow. A few years back we lived in a small town that had a family owned nursery. One of their specialties was different types of herbs. They grew them in 4″ pots and sold them for $2 each. So, it was not only fun to experiment, it was also pretty darn inexpensive. I remember one day we were kicking around seeing what was new. The patriarch of the family came over to talk to us. He was saying that it was pretty boring living in a family of botanists. He said the conversation at the dinner table consisted of new varieties and how plant trials were growing etc. It sounded like lovely dinner conversation to me. But, I guess I was born with dirt on my hands.
What is Mint?
Mint is a perennial herb that is very easy to grow. (A perennial is a plant that lives more than 2 years.) In fact if it is not kept in check it may become invasive. It has a square stem with opposite leaves. The roots of mint are shallow and easy to pull out. The plant has runners under the ground. These will come up as new plants.
What types of Mint are Available?
There are quite a few different flavors of mint available. There are pineapple, chocolate, orange, spearmint, peppermint and lemon balm. I have personally owned all of these plants. It is amazing how much they smell like pineapple, chocolate and orange. They are easily identifiable. Just pick a couple of leaves and rub them between your fingers.
How do you plant Mint?
Mint can be started from seed, but it is about a 90 day time from planting to harvest. Plus some of the mint seeds do not have a high germination rate – meaning not all of the seeds you plant will grow. Most people choose not to do this as the plant is so easy to propagate from cuttings. You can take a cutting off your mint plant, take off the leaves towards the bottom, and place it in a glass of water, or dip it in some rooting hormone and then plant it in soil. You can even cut the runners which have a new plant formed and place that in soil to grow.
How do you grow Mint?
Plant your mint in soil that drains well. They should be placed 18 – 24″ apart. It will grow in full sun, or in morning sun with afternoon shade. Some people chose to plant their mint in a pot inside another pot when growing in a container. That keeps the mint from taking over the entire pot. You should keep your plants in control by pulling or cutting any volunteer plants that are not wanted. You can either discard of these, or you can pot them up as new plants. Be careful where you discard your mint, as it may just end up growing there. You can either selectively harvest only taking leaves when wanted, or you can do a full harvest 2 – 3 times a year. I would do a full harvest when I am planning on dehydrating or storing the leaves in any other manner, or using them for jam, etc. The young leaves will have more flavor than the old ones. You should harvest before the plant flowers, although the flowers are usually edible as well. Be sure to keep the tops pinched off for bushier more compact plants.
Mint is also a great plant to grow on a windowsill. It would be an excellent first plant for a child learning gardening. You can start it in a glass of water so you can watch the roots grow. Just think how fun that would be!
Avoid using too much fertilizer as this will cause the plant to flower sooner. You are looking for the leaves with these plants, although the flowers are pretty.
Mint should be planted outside after the last frost of the season. The roots will survive the winter into zone 5 – 8 . The plants should be trimmed and heavily mulched. The tops of the plants may live in zones 8 – 10. They are slightly frost tolerant. Or, if you want to use your mint year round you can just dig some up, plant it in a pot and take it indoors for the winter.
What can you use Mint for?
Mint has a lot of different uses. Of course mint leaves are great in drinks such as ice tea. You can also use spearmint for a mint julep and any of the flavored varieties for a mojito. Some mints have medicinal properties. They can be used as a digestive aid or a breath freshener. You can use mint in pesto, in baking, to make extracts, jams, sauces, in salads, etc.
Benefits of Planting Mint
Mint can attract beneficial insects to your garden such as predatory wasps. These cut down on the caterpillar and grub population, as they feed them to their young. Mint also may repel mice, ants, flies, spiders and deer.
Once you have started your mint plants you will probably never need to buy the same variety again due to the abundance of leaves plus the ease of propagating this plant. So, go out and get a good selection of “flavored” mints and see just how easy they are to grow.
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