As a lifelong gardener in Wisconsin, I’ve seen firsthand how strategically planting mint as a companion plant can transform an outdoor space. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share my 20+ years of hands-on experience using mint to boost the health and productivity of my edible and ornamental gardens. Let’s dive in!
- 1 An Introduction to Companion Planting
- 2 Understanding Mint: A Versatile Herb
- 3 Companion Planting Goals and Principles
- 4 Friends of Mint: Excellent Companion Plants
- 5 Watch Out! Mint No-No’s
- 6 Designing Your Own Mint Garden
- 7 Harnessing Mint’s Pest-Fighting Powers
- 8 Caring for Mint & Friends
- 9 Troubleshooting Mint Companion Planting
- 10 Enjoy Your Bountiful Mint Garden!
An Introduction to Companion Planting
Before discussing mint specifically, let me provide some background on companion planting. This technique involves deliberately growing certain plants together to enhance positive interactions or minimize problems between them. The overall goals are to:
- Improve soil health
- Deter garden pests
- Increase crop yields
- Boost flavors/aromas
Companion planting takes advantage of plants’ natural abilities to give and receive benefits from their neighbors. You can create a balanced mini-ecosystem tailored to your landscape by combining the right plants.
Understanding Mint: A Versatile Herb
Now that we’ve covered companion planting basics let’s take a closer look at mint itself. This aromatic, spreading perennial comes in over a dozen popular varieties. Here in Wisconsin, I grow these types:
- Peppermint is the most common mint, with a refreshing menthol flavor. It can be used fresh or dried in desserts, drinks, etc.
- Spearmint: Sweeter and milder mint is used in salads, juleps, and more. Handles partial shade.
- Chocolate mint: Dark leaves with a delicious chocolate/mint fusion flavor. Use in baked goods or garden borders.
- Orange mint: Citrusy sweet mint variety. Lovely paired with fruits in summertime beverages or salads.
These are just a sample of the diverse mint family. Most varieties share key traits like vigorous spreading via underground runners, showy flowers, and aromatic foliage with culinary/medicinal uses.
Now that we know more about mint let’s explore how to use it as an efficient companion plant.
Companion Planting Goals and Principles
At its core, companion planting aims to create symbiotic relationships between plants. It can benefit your garden in so many ways:
- Deterring garden pests
- Masking the scent of vulnerable crops
- Providing physical support for climbing plants
- Improving flavor
- And more!
Follow these companion planting best practices when incorporating mint:
Choose Location Carefully
- Plant mint in partial to full sun (depending on variety and climate)
- Leave plenty of room for spreading via runners
- Use barriers to contain invasive mint varieties
Combine With Complimentary Plants
- Group with plants sharing similar needs like soil moisture, sun exposure, etc.
- Interplant with other aromatic herbs and flowers
- Avoid pairing with plants that compete for resources
Monitor Conditions Regularly
- Pay attention to signs of overcrowding
- Control mint’s spread to prevent invasiveness
- Address any emerging disease/pest issues promptly
Now, let’s explore some of the mint’s top plant pairings.
Friends of Mint: Excellent Companion Plants
One of my favorite parts of gardening is discovering creative new plant combinations that yield exciting results! Here are some all-star mint companion plants for deterring pests, enhancing growth and flavor, and more:
Herbs That Thrive With Mint
This versatile herb has a light citrus flavor and aroma. Mint provides shade and moisture, while lemon balm attracts pollinators. Together, they make a dynamic duo!
Mint offers shelter and added moisture for oregano. Meanwhile, oregano attracts predatory insects that protect mint from pests like aphids and enhance mint’s savory qualities.
With similar growing needs and habits, marjoram and mint make perfect partners. Marjoram’s sweet flavor counters mint’s slight bitterness. Plant them together for mutual protection from pests.
A culinary classic! Basil’s licorice-like flavor perfectly complements mint. Its shallow roots don’t compete much with mint’s greedy runners. Grow together in pots or garden beds.
Vegetables & Fruits That Enjoy Mint’s Company
As a nitrogen fixer, peas give back to the soil. This benefits nutrient-loving mint. Meanwhile, mint returns the favor by deterring aphids and boosting peas’ development.
Kale, cabbage, broccoli, and similar veggies pair wonderfully with pest-fighting mint. Mint can also be interplanted around brassicas as a protective barrier. The bold flavors also balance well in slaws or stir-fries.
Not only does mint drive away many common pepper pests, but it also enhances their flavor! Plant mint in pepper patches for a spicy-cool fusion.
Mint tricks pests and helps prevent infestations by masking tomatoes’ alluring scent. It also boosts soil health for optimal tomato growth. Stake your tomatoes and let mint grow around their base.
Watch Out! Mint No-No’s
When companion planting, it’s just as crucial to avoid counterproductive plant pairings as choosing beneficial ones. Here are plants that DO NOT get along well with assertive mint:
These sprawling vegetables need lots of space to grow tubers. They dislike mint’s encroaching roots and prefer less moist soil. Fortunately, keeping mint in containers efficiently prevents this poor match.
Parsley & Cilantro
Like potatoes, parsley and cilantro require well-drained soil and plenty of space. They compete with mint for water, nutrients, and root development, so keep these herbs separated for the best results.
Cukes thrive in compost-enriched soil and steamy growing conditions. However, they’re no match for invasive mint roots. Either barricade mint runners or grow cukes well away from mint patches.
Delicate herbs like sage, thyme, and tarragon can get overpowered by mint’s vigor. Unless you prune mint frequently, keep it far from these Mediterranean classics.
Designing Your Own Mint Garden
Now that you know the ideal mint companions and pairings to avoid, have fun designing the perfect mint garden layout! Here are helpful tips for planting mint based on my decades of experience:
Give Mint Its Own Space
Devote part of your landscape specifically to mint for unbridled growth. Use durable barriers around the perimeter to corral those tenacious roots and runners where you want them.
Another excellent option for confined spaces is container gardening, which lets you position mint exactly where you want it. Use good-sized pots with drainage holes and top-dress containers annually with rich compost or manure.
Consider Raised Beds
In Wisconsin, raised beds promote good drainage and warmer soil, which mint prefers. Build your bed at least 6 inches high and dedicate it solely to mint for easy containment. Over winter, mulch it for cold protection.
Get Creative With Plant Partners
Now that you know ideal mint companions, thoughtfully intermingle them in pleasing ways. For example, plant mint down the center of a vegetable row, use it as a colorful living border or pair it with herbs in geometric pot designs.
Harnessing Mint’s Pest-Fighting Powers
Beyond its companion planting prowess, mint is a natural pest deterrent. It repels these common garden troublemakers:
These tiny sap suckers attack vegetables, herbs, houseplants, and more. Luckily, mint disguises their host plants’ scent so pests can’t hone in.
These pesky green caterpillars ravage cabbage family crops. Grow mint as a protective buffer to keep them at bay.
These microscopic beasts attack eggplants, beans, fruits, and other plants. Mint’s potent smell helps safeguard your garden from rapid spider mite reproduction and damage.
Tiny ants cultivate colonies of sap-sucking aphids or feed on plants’ nectar. Mint’s aroma overwhelms their chemical trail pheromones, so they can’t call for backup.
Plant mint near vegetable borders, pathways, and garden entry points to repel more insects. Its powerful scent masks the scent of many other plants while deterring passing pests.
Caring for Mint & Friends
To keep your mint and companion plants thriving season after season:
Most mints tolerate drought once established but produce more abundantly with ample moisture. Water mint and friends about 1-2 inches per week, adjusting for rainfall.
Mint and companion plants such as basil, oregano, and marigolds need consistent nutrients. Therefore, work compost or all-purpose organic fertilizer into beds each spring.
Mint thrives in excellent, moist soil. To replenish this, mulch beds with 2-3 inches of organic matter, such as shredded leaves. This also suppresses weeds.
Pinch Back Stems
Pinch off the mint’s flower buds to prolong leaf production. Also, pinch back leggy growth on herbs like basil for bushier plants.
Snipping mint and companion herbs frequently spurs new growth. Timely harvesting also prevents bugs from moving in.
Troubleshooting Mint Companion Planting
While this guide highlights mint’s many virtues, even reliable companion plants can encounter issues:
The mint’s spreading roots can occupy space and starve companion plants if left unchecked. To avoid this, use the containment methods outlined earlier.
Since mint and plants like oregano have different water needs, group them carefully. Signs of under- or overwatering signal that it’s time to reassess pairings.
Pests & Diseases
A weakened mint plant attracts more pests. Look for chewed leaves or spots that signal aphids, spider mites, rust, or other problems. Remove and destroy affected plants immediately.
Temperature swings, droughts, and heavy rainfall can stress plants. Be prepared to adjust watering, shelter mint, or take other protective measures in extreme weather.
Enjoy Your Bountiful Mint Garden!
This guide has shown you how incorporating mint companion plants can make your garden even more lush, productive, and pest-resistant. Thoughtfully designed mint combinations create beautiful, fragrant spaces while benefiting your landscape.
The next time you devise plant pairings or overhaul a tired garden bed, consider adding versatility and spreading mint. Support it with complementary herbs and vegetables for a stimulating sensory experience. Before you know it, you’ll have armloads of fragrant mint and fresh herbs for endless kitchen and craft creations!
Let me know if you have any questions about strategically incorporating mint into your outdoor space. I’m always happy to share gardening wisdom tailored to Wisconsin’s unique climate. Until next time, here’s to cultivating green spaces and communities!