Green Patch: Get Rid of Mint

Getting Rid of Mint

| April/May 1999

  • Illustration by Gayle Ford

Question: A few years ago, a friend gave me a start of mint, which I planted in my garden. I love it, but it’s formed a patch several feet wide and is now crowding out the other herbs. How can I get rid of it? I don’t want to use an herbicide.

Answer: Now that you’ve seen how vigorously mint grows, maybe you could move some to a place where you won’t care if it spreads, or try confining it to a half-barrel planter or other large container. Meanwhile, there are two good ways to regain control of your garden without using weed killer. You can dig up the mint or smother it.

First, secure the perimeter

If you haven’t examined the mint patch since last summer, you’re in for a surprise. At the end of the growing season, mint spreads out a network of rhizomes, stems that grow horizontally at or just under the surface of the soil. They lie in wait all winter, then sprout up fast in spring.

Rake away any mulch or debris from around the edge of the patch and look for new shoots. If you don’t find any, explore the top few inches of soil for rhizomes. They’ll smell minty and be about as thick as cooked spaghetti, with tufts of slender white roots every inch or so. Buried rhizomes are white, but those growing on the surface turn green, purplish, or reddish.

When you’ve determined the outline of the mint patch, dig up any other plants that are growing within the area as you won’t be able to work around them. Shake the soil off their roots and pick out every bit of mint rhizome before you transplant or give away these plants; otherwise, the mint will travel along with them.

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