Backyard Bliss | How to stop mint taking over your garden

If left unchecked mint can take over. But there's a simple solution for growing mint without it invading the rest of your vegie garden. Photos: Shutterstock and Hannah Moloney.
If left unchecked mint can take over. But there's a simple solution for growing mint without it invading the rest of your vegie garden. Photos: Shutterstock and Hannah Moloney.

Mint is one of the essential herbs to have in your garden.

However, left to its own devices it will become your whole garden.

It has an enthusiastic character and strong vigour, meaning it can be everywhere in a blink of an eyelid.

Mint has shallow roots which move outwards rapidly and send up new shoots of leaf as it goes - it can and will cover many square metres.

Often gardeners will combat this challenge by isolating it and putting it into a pot or container to keep it out of the main garden. However, through doing so you're also keeping the plant away from the wonderful world of the soil food web - a world of biology in vast numbers doing all types of important things related to soil and plant health. Generally any plant in a pot needs higher levels of inputs to keep them happy.

We like to avoid extra work if we can help it. And so we recommend planting your mint in pots ... in the ground. Let us show you what we mean.

First we rip out a bit of mint from a patch in the garden (or your mate's garden). You don't have to be gentle with this plant, as long as you can get a bit of root on it, it will grow - guaranteed.

Then, give it a drastic prune, cutting off most of the leaf and any leggy (tall) stems, this will ensure the plant puts the majority of its energy into establishing good roots over leaf.

Next up, grab a plastic pot which isn't overly precious. I used a small one above just to demonstrate the technique, but I recommend getting one which is 20cm to 30cm (at least) in diameter so you can have a decent size plant.

Cut the bum out of the pot, this will help the soil inside of the pot be "one" with the rest of the garden soil.

Then press, wriggle and massage the pot into the garden bed of your choice until the rim of the pot is just below the soil level.

Plant the mint cutting directly into the soil and cover the pot with soil so you don't even see it. Done!

By doing this technique, you're still allowing the mint to express its mint-ness. The roots can still spread outwards as normal, however the sides of the pot will stop them from spreading further.

As the root's natural behaviour is to grow close to the surface they will not dive down and under the bottom of the pot, they'll stop there.

FYI - as part of ongoing management of this plant, you'll need to pull out the pot and plant to prune the roots back every now and then as they'll start getting root bound, circling in on themselves.

So there you go, you can have your mint and vegies side by side, living happily ever after.

  • Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a permaculture landscape design and education enterprise creating resilient, regenerative lives and landscapes.