The mints belong to the genus Mentha in the family Labiatae (Lamiaceae) which includes other commonly grown oil-yielding plants such as basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, pennyroyal and thyme. Within the genus Mentha there are several different species, varying in their appearance, aroma and end use. The most common ones are spearmint (M. spicata), peppermint (M.— piperita), eau-de-cologne mint (M.— piperita var. citrata) and apple mint (M. rotundifolia). But  there are over 600 mint varieties to choose from; Chocolate Mint, Ginger Mint, Grapefruit Mint, Orange Mint, and Pineapple Mint to just name a few. All are low-growing plants, readily sending out runners, or stolons, which develop new roots and shoots at the nodes. Under good growing conditions, stems will generally  reach 3 feet in height. Spearmint is the most common mint grown in home gardens. Leaves are smooth, bright green and elongated with a pointed end. Flowers are a pink to lilac color and grow in clusters on the ends of the stems. Peppermint is a low-growing plant that has small, pointed, dark green leaves with a  purplish tinge. Peppermint is the most commonly grown species for oil production. Eau-de-cologne has a very strong, sharp perfume. It has smooth green, oval-shaped leaves that are tinged with purple. Apple mint is very flavoursome and characterised by its strong apple taste and perfume. The leaves are light green, soft and downy, with a rounded shape.

When identifying mints, remember that all varieties will cross-pollinate, making sorting them out difficult. If varietal purity is to be maintained, each one must be grown  in isolation. The mints will grow in a wide range of climates as shown by their popularity in home gardens all over the world. Ideally, they require plenty of sun, growing best in the long midsummer days of the higher latitudes. Ideal growing temperatures for mint are warm sunny days 77ºF (25°C) and cool nights 59ºF (15°C). This is why, in the hotter climates, mint generally grows better in the more shaded areas of the garden. Mints do best in deep, rich soils of friable texture high in organic matter. The preferred pH range is from 6.0 -7.5. A high water requirement means that soils must be deep and well drained while holding plenty of water. Mint can be propagated either vegetatively or by seed. Vegetative propagation is achieved by digging up plants in late winter or early spring and dividing them into runners with roots,  then replanting. This will prevent the plants from becoming root-bound and prone to disease, ensuring strong, healthy plants for the new season. Mint requires a well-balanced nutrition program. Experience has shown that an annual dressing of animal manure will supply a good balance of major and minor elements. Care should be taken not to supply excessive amounts of nitrogen. Mint requires large amounts of water compared with other crops. To keep soil moist during periods of high evaporation, plantings should be irrigated at least twice a week. During the growth period in summer, plants can require up to 2 inches of water. Mint can be attacked by a wide range of pests. The main ones are loopers, leafrollers, slugs, snails and aphids. The intensity of flavour and aroma in the mint plant is dependent on the level of essential oil in the plant. Oil content is at its maximum at the commencement of flowering. Harvesting is best done early in the morning when the plants are turgid and before any temporary wilting occurs.Use your mint for jellies and sauces and sprinkled on hot new potatoes with plenty of butter. it is also good with cooked peas, all  young vegetables and minced beef. It makes a refreshing tea.


Buying transplants or starting seeds indoor early, gets tomatoes off to the best start in the garden when warm weather finally arrives and it saves several weeks in growing time. Some gardeners transplant their tomatoes soon after the soil is prepared for spring gardening, when there is a high risk of damage from freezing. Be prepared to cover early set plants overnight to protect them from frost. For best results with very early plantings, consider black plastic mulch and floating row covers for heat accumulation and frost protection. For best results with minimal risk, plant when the soil is warm, soon after the frost-free date for your area.


Twist-Tie Trellis

Do you need an inexpensive way to train a vine along a wall or do you have an odd shaped spot for a trellis? Here is just the trick for you. Use the plastic rings that hold soda six-packs. Simply fasten them together with plastic-coated twist-ties to form a trellis. This is environmentally friendly and economical solution because you can  make the trellis any size or shape that you need. And you can add to it slowly, so your vines look like they're climbing on the side of your garage or along your front porch all by themselves. The rings make a strong, lightweight, maintenance-free trellis that will never rust or need painting. Attach it to a wall  permanently for perennial vines or use it to grow peas, morning glories and other annuals. Then roll it up and store it away in winter. Sure beats putting those in a land fill.



"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.'



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