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Mint Farming

Updated: Jun 7, 2021


 

Brief Summary

Mint or mentha belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which contains around 15 to 20 plant species, including peppermint and spearmint. It is a popular herb that people can use fresh or dried in many dishes and infusions. Manufacturers of toothpaste, gum, candy, and beauty products often use mint oil. Using fresh mint and other herbs and spices in cooking can help a person add flavour while reducing their sodium and sugar intake. Throughout history, people have used different species of mint plants in medicine. Different types of mint plants offer a range of antioxidant qualities and potential health benefits, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


 

Nutritional/Health Benefits of Mint

A 2-tablespoon serving or 3.2 grams (g) of fresh peppermint provides 2.24 calories, 0.12 g of protein, 0.48 g of carbohydrates, 0.03 g of fat and 0.26 g of fibre. Mint also contains trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron and vitamin A.



Managing gastrointestinal problems

Mint is a calming herb that people have used for thousands of years to help soothe an upset stomach or indigestion. A 2019 review found that placebo-controlled studies support the use of peppermint oil as a remedy for a range of gastrointestinal conditions, including indigestion, IBS, stomach pain in children, and feelings of sickness after surgery. The authors of the review found that mint works against harmful microbes, regulates muscle relaxation, and helps control inflammation. A different review from the same year assessed 12 randomized controlled trials and found that peppermint oil was a safe and effective intervention for pain symptoms in adults with IBS.



Allergies

Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid. A 2019 study on rats found that rosmarinic acid reduced symptoms of asthma when compared to a control group that did not receive a supplement. The mint plant family provides a range of plant compounds that have anti-allergenic effects, according to a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. However, the content of mint extract in oils and ointments may be far stronger than dietary mint. There is very little research into the effect of dietary mint on the symptoms of allergies.



Soothing common cold symptoms

Mint contains menthol. This an aromatic decongestant that might help to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. Applying menthol ointments or vapour rubs may be a safe and effective treatment for children who have a common cold. However, the American Lung Association (ALA) advise that scientific studies do not support the use of menthol for managing cold symptoms. Despite this, some people may find that cold symptoms reduce after applying a menthol vapour rub.


 

Botanical Name

Mints belong to the genus Mentha, in the family Labiatae (Lamiaceae) which includes other commonly grown essential oil-yielding plants such as basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, pennyroyal and thyme. Within the genus Mentha there are several commercially grown species, varying in their major chemical content, aroma and end-use. Their oils and derived aroma compounds are traded worldwide.


 

Suitable Varieties

The four most commonly cultivated species are: Japanese Mint/Menthol Mint (M.arvensis), Peppermint (M.piperita), Spearmint (M. spicata) and Bergamot mint (M. citrata)


 

Types of Mint

All are herbaceous plants, readily sending out runners (rainy season) and stolons (winter), which develop new roots and shoot at the nodes and form plants. The entire aerial shoots together with foliage is a source of essential oil rich in menthol, carvone, linalool and linalyl acetate having use in pharmaceutical preparations and flavour industry.


 

Climatic Requirements

The ideal growing temperatures for mint are warm sunny days (25°C) and cool nights (15°C). This is why, in the hotter climates, mint generally grows better in the more shaded areas of the garden.


 

Source of Planting Materials

Traditionally, menthol–mint is cultivated via stolons in the spring season. A novel agro-technology developed for off-season menthol–mint cultivation. The stem of menthol–mint explored as a novel source of planting material for off-season crops. Furrow-irrigated raised bed (1.2 m widen) method was suitable for high-quality essential oil production.


 

Site Selection

Mint leaves grow in any average, well-drained soil where mint's wandering tendencies can be kept in check sun to partial afternoon shade.


 

Land Preparation

Land preparation in mint farming should plough and give two cross harrowings to bring the soil to a fine tilth. As part of land preparation, add farmyard manure (compost) about 50 to 60 cartloads per hectare.


 

Propagation of Mint

The best way to propagate mints is by taking cuttings from those that you like best. It’s easy, take 6-inch cuttings of rooted stems and plant them horizontally in the soil. Mint stems will also root in a glass of water. Start with a small cutting from an established plant. Any gardening friend will give you a cutting of a favourite mint.


 

Planting

Mints are vigorous perennials that thrive in light soil with good drainage. Ideally, they prefer a moist but well-drained site, something like their native habitat along stream banks. Most will tolerate some shade, and the variegated types may require some protection from direct sun. For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall. For the best growth in confined areas such as containers, top-dress plants with a thin layer of compost or organic fertilizer every few months. Above ground pots will need winter protection in cold climates. In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes—in pots, if possible, in order to prevent it from spreading and stealing nutrients from your crops.


 

Care

Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean. For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. At first, mints develop into well-behaved–looking, bushy, upright clumps, but they soon set out to conquer new territory with horizontal runners and underground rhizomes. Unless you block the advance, a pert peppermint plant can turn into a sprawling 4-foot giant in just 1 year. It’s not the stuff of horror movies, however. Mints benefit from picking and pruning. They are shallow-rooted and easy to pull out, so there’s no reason to worry, as long as you provide physical barriers such as walls, walkways, or containers.


 

Nutrient Requirements

The plant needs high rates of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in order to produce high yields for 4-5 years. Nitrogen encourages rapid growth between cuts, while Potassium strengthens the plant against mint rust and other diseases


 

Fertilizer Application

Feed container mint a balanced all-purpose liquid fertilizer in early spring when new growth emerges. Fertilize every four to six weeks after that, and throughout the growing season. The frequent watering of potted plants tends to wash away soil nutrients.


Cultivate 2 to 4 inches of well-composted manure into the top 6 inches of the garden at planting time. Scatter about 1/2 tablespoon of an all-purpose, slow-release, 16-16-8, granular fertilizer over every 1 square foot of the bed and work it into the top 6 inches of soil.


Feed returning mint plants a complete, slow-release, 16-16-16, granular fertilizer in early spring after all danger of frost has passed and new growth emerges. Apply about 1 teaspoon to the soil above the plant’s root zone. Avoid getting fertilizer on the foliage. Water the material into the soil thoroughly. Avoid getting water on the stems and leaves as mint plants are prone to rot.


 

Weed Control

Mulch and hoe regularly to reduce weeds incidence.


 

Pest & Disease Control

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide variety of plants. There are many different species of powdery mildew, and each species attacks a range of different plants. In the garden, commonly affected plants include cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons), nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers), roses, and legumes (beans, peas). When the fungus begins to take over one of your plants, a layer of mildew made up of many spores forms across the top of the leaves. These spores are then carried to other plants by the wind. Powdery mildew can slow down the growth of your plant and, if the infection is severe enough, will reduce fruit yield and quality.


Spread of powdery mildew

Powdery mildew spores typically drift into your garden with the wind, but if you’ve had powdery mildew occur in the past, new outbreaks may also come from dormant spores in old vegetative material or weeds nearby. Unlike many other fungal diseases, powdery mildew thrives in warm (60-80°F / 15-27°C), dry climates, though it does require fairly high relative humidity (i.e., humidity around the plant) to spread. In cooler, rainy areas, it does not spread as well, and it is also slowed down by temperatures higher than 90°F (32°C). It tends to affect plants in shady areas more than those in direct sun, too.


Identification of powdery mildew

Plants infected with powdery mildew look as if they have been dusted with flour. Powdery mildew usually starts off as powdery white spots, which can appear on leaves, stems, and sometimes fruit. Powdery mildew usually covers the upper part of the leaves but may grow on the undersides as well. Young foliage is most susceptible to damage. Leaves turn yellow and dry out. The fungus might cause some leaves to twist, break, or become disfigured. The white spots of powdery mildew will spread to cover most of the leaves or affected areas. The leaves, buds, and growing tips will become disfigured as well. These symptoms usually appear late in the growing season.

Control and Prevention

As with all pests and diseases, the best means of controlling powdery mildew is proactive prevention. Choose plants for your garden that are resistant to powdery mildew. Many mildew-resistant varieties of cucurbits (melons, cucumbers, squash, etc.) have been developed and can be bought from major seed suppliers. Plant in sunnier spots, as powdery mildew, tends to develop more often in shady areas. Selectively prune overcrowded areas to increase air circulation around your plants; this helps to reduce relative humidity. Watering from overhead can help to wash spores off leaves. Note, however, that wet foliage can often contribute to the development of other common diseases, so it’s best not to rely on this as a prevention tactic.


Control of mildew powdery

Consider spraying infected plants with protectant (preventative) fungicides. Effective organic fungicides for treating powdery mildew include sulfur, lime-sulfur, neem oil, and potassium bicarbonate. These are most effective when used prior to infection or when you first see signs of the disease. If you don’t want to use chemical fungicides, try spraying your plants with a bicarbonate solution: Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 quart of water. Spray plants thoroughly, as the solution will only kill the fungus that it comes into contact with. Once plants are heavily infected, it’s very difficult to get rid of the disease, so focus on preventing it from spreading to other plants. Remove all infected foliage, stems, and fruit and destroy them, either by throwing them in the trash or by burning them. Remember, do not compost any infected plant, as the disease can still be spread by the wind and persist in the composted materials.


Rust

This fungal disease affects a wide range of woody and herbaceous plants. Even though it rarely kills plants, it reduces a plant’s health, vigour and flower production. Rust disease is caused by a fungal parasite that needs living plants to survive. Rust diseases occur most often in mild, moist conditions. Rust is spread by spores that are transferred from infected plants to healthy plants. These spores can be transferred either by the wind or by water, which is why rust disease often spreads after watering. Wet surfaces are also needed to cause infections.


How to identify rust

Rust diseases come in different varieties and can affect a wide range of plants. People often struggle with rust on their roses. It is easy to remember the defining characteristics of this fungus, as they match its name. Rust plant disease will look similar to the rust that appears on that old bicycle in the shed.

  • Look for yellow or white spots forming on the upper leaves of a plant.

  • Look for reddish to orange blister-like swellings called pustules on the undersides of leaves.

  • Orange or yellow spots or streaks appear on the undersides of the leaves.

  • Within these spots that form are spores.

  • Usually leaf distortion and defoliation occur.


Control of Rust Fungi

Unfortunately, there is no easy treatment for rust. Try these tips:


Remove all infected parts and destroy them. For bramble fruits, remove and destroy all the infected plants and replant the area with resistant varieties.


Clean away all debris in between plants to prevent rust from spreading.


Avoid splashing water onto the leaves, as this can help spread rust.


Rust Prevention

Dust your plants with sulfur early in the season to prevent infection or to keep mild infections from spreading.


Space your plants properly to encourage good air circulation.


Avoid wetting the leaves when watering plants.


There are many effective rust fungicides you can try.


Anthracnose

This fungal disease affects many plants, including vegetables, fruits, and trees. It causes dark, sunken lesions on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. It also attacks developing shoots and expanding leaves. It can spread very quickly during rainy seasons. Anthracnose is a general term for a variety of diseases that affect plants in similar ways. Anthracnose is especially known for the damage that it can cause to trees. Anthracnose is caused by a fungus, and among vegetables, it attacks cucurbits. Anthracnose can survive on infected plant debris and is very easily spread. Like rust, it thrives under moist and warm conditions and is often spread by watering.


How to Identify Anthracnose

On leaves, anthracnose generally appears first as small, irregular yellow or brown spots. These spots darken as they age and may also expand, covering the leaves.


On vegetables, it can affect any part of the plant.


On fruits, it produces small, dark, sunken spots, which may spread. In moist weather, pinkish spore masses form in the centre of these spots. Eventually, the fruits will rot.


On trees, it can kill the tips of young twigs. It also attacks the young leaves, which develop brown spots and patches. It can also cause defoliation of the tree.


Prevent Anthracnose


Plant resistant plants, or buy healthy transplants.

Plant your plants in well-drained soil. You can also enrich the soil with compost in order to help plants resist diseases.

Water your plants with a drip sprinkler, as opposed to an overhead sprinkler. Don’t touch the plants when they are wet.

Keep ripening fruits from touching the soil.

Remember to rotate your plants every 2 to 3 years.


How to Control Anthracnose

Remove and destroy any infected plants in your garden. For trees, prune out the deadwood and destroy the infected leaves.

You can try spraying your plants with a copper-based fungicide, though be careful because copper can build up to toxic levels in the soil for earthworms and microbes. For trees, try a dormant spray of Bordeaux mix.

Mice dislike the smell of peppermint. Spread it liberally where you suspect the critters. Mint is also considered a deer-resistant plant.


Leaf spot



 

Harvesting

Frequent harvesting is the key to keeping mint plants at their best. Young leaves have more flavour than old ones, and mint can be harvested as soon as it comes up in spring. Although fresh is best and sprigs are kept for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried in bunches.


Right before flowering, cut the stems 1 inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.


You can also just pick the leaves as you need them.


You can grow the plants indoors for fresh leaves throughout the winter. If you want to dry them, it’s best to cut the leaves right before flowering. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.


 

Storage

Place the mint in a plastic bag, not sealing all the way so that air can circulate. Do not wrap tightly; trapped moisture will cause the herbs to mold OR Trim the ends and place in a glass filled with about 1” of water. Cover with a loose-fitting bag and refrigerate.


 

Yield

The average fresh plant material yield of peppermint is 15-20 tons per hectare or 7 tons (15.400 lbs.) per acre.


Packaging

Fruits must be graded and packed into plastic baskets or papers.

 

Operational Budget

 

Revenue

Once the plant is established commercial peppermint farmers will obtain products for many years. Commercial mint farming focuses on essential oil extraction for various industries.

 

Recipes Ideas

  • Cilantro and Mint Sauce

  • Mint Lemonade

  • Minted Fruit Mold

  • Mint Tea


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