Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Starting mint from seed

It is windy and cool today, but this weekend will bring 80+ degree days, sun, and 60+ degree nights, which is why I’m glad to have everything settled in. Most of the plants are doing pretty well, despite the almost non-stop wind we’ve had lately (which is the thing I worry about most). Plants are a lot tougher than we realize, though.

One thing that is important to me is that we started nearly every plant in the garden from seed, with the exception of the mint (more on that below), lemon balm, the strawberries, one pot of forget me nots (the ones not flowering yet are from seed) and one pot of catnip (the other was also from seed).

Ozark Beauty Strawberry

 I have come to the conclusion that buying mint seeds is a total waste of time. I started two entire packets and got one little seedling (although it is starting to do okay). I never got a single lemon balm seedling from an entire pack. This corresponds to my experiences last year as well.

I tried everything I could think of: planting extra shallow, not even covering the seeds at all, starting them inside, starting them outside… Even rosemary was a breeze for me this year from seed. But no dice on the mint seeds, which is okay. Mint is probably one of the easiest plants to obtain and grow.

Basically, mints like to propagate via shallow horizontal root structures, and even though they produce seed, germination rates are abysmal. If you’re into aquarium plants (another of my hobbies) you might notice that mint spreads a lot like java ferns. It shoots out a shallow runner and sprouts up all along it.

This year I will try to overwinter the mint and lemon balm plants in the attic. One thing is for sure: if you want mint, it is best to just get a few plants rather than bother with seeds.It all tastes the same in a nice cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer day!

Marigolds almost ready to bloom!


  1. How is it growing catnip? And what's the process after it's grown to feeding your cats?

  2. Growing the catnip is really easy. We started some from seed (which worked well) and also got some from my parents this weekend. All the plants are doing really well. It is also a perennial up here, so as long as you put the container in a cold place it should (in theory) go dormant and come back the next spring once it is put back outside. I'll be testing that theory this winter!

    It (like most of the mint family) is extremely hardy and easy to grow. Just put it in a gallon nursery pot (or bigger if you want) and keep it watered, and it will go nuts.

    As far as feeding it to the cats, we usually just tear off a leaf or two every so often and give it to them. Our cats like to roll around on top of it and act goofy. Neither one of them really eats it though (I'm not sure cats really eat it as much as they chew on it and rub against it).

  3. My catnip looks sad because of the cats lol. The do eat it. I am trying to give a break and let them have a little less. This is my 4th year with overwintering by just leaving outside in a metal bucket. That stuff is hardy! Mint doesn't grow true from seed anyway. I do have a plant that I grew from seed just to see if could but the flavor is weak. The plant from last year is much stronger in flavor.

  4. I noticed the same thing with the one little mint seedling that I got from 2 entire packets of seed... it barely tastes like mint at all!

    I plan on doing the same thing to overwinter plants this year. It worked with the thyme that I've had for 3 years now, so I'm hoping the mint, catnip, strawberries, and lemon balm will survive.