How do I manage my unmanageable mint?
March 12, 2015 6:53 PM   Subscribe

My mint plant has broken free of its constraints and has utterly taken over my planter box. It's EVERYWHERE, with runners I can't seem to fully eradicate. I'd like to reclaim the box (4' x 4') and encourage the other herbs (chives, parsley, lemon thyme, etc.) I have started there. But how? Is there a way to get a mint-free clean slate?

Even if I pull out all of the mint (saving some to repot safely, far away from the garden, surrounded by a wall of lead), there are many tiny mint runners left behind that will begin to grow again.

Do I need to remove the current herbs and smother the dirt for x amount of days to kill off the mint? Or do I have to remove all of the mint-infested dirt and start fresh? Or, do I pull out what I can, and resign myself to a weekly, sweetly-scented fight to the death?

Thanks all!
posted by Ink-stained wretch to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about mojitos? Because when my neighbors' mint invaded my yard, I found that my appetite for mojitos outstripped the mint's ability to regenerate and now there's no more mint :(
posted by jamaro at 7:13 PM on March 12, 2015 [14 favorites]

Get a tarp, shovel out all the dirt in the box onto it, and sift it through hardware cloth to remove the mint roots as you replace it. If you're feeling fancy you could make a riddle with some scrap wood.
posted by pullayup at 7:17 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I spent five minutes pulling mint every afternoon between coming home from work and stepping in the house, for about a month, maybe two. Mission accomplished.
posted by BinGregory at 7:18 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mint is the devil and I've always been warned that it should never be planted anywhere but a container just to keep it from taking over the planet. The other herbs will probably do best if they get to stay put, and you just keep plucking out the mint when you find it. Mojitos sound like a great plan too.
posted by goggie at 7:19 PM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

Have you considered napalm?

Seriously, though, if you are not going the toxic chemical KILL IT WITH FIRE route, you just have to keep at it (keep pulling up the runners, smother it with newspaper, pull up the runners that will invariably show up even when you've done that, etc).


So Much Mint in My Garden
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:21 PM on March 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you keep pulling it, it will eventually stop coming if it's confined to your box. You can use an implement to comb the runners out of the soil. This page describes the method. You'd need to do frequent checks to make sure you keep it in line.

The other method would be as you figured out... a strategic retreat of the other herbs to a safe location, followed by digging out and smothering. Or Roundup.
posted by zennie at 7:25 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Harborfreight sells a propane torch for about $30 iirc. I got one a while back. The torch connects to a ordinary bbq tank. It puts out 500,000 btus in a dangerous, but satisfying gout of flame. Pull the visible stuff up by hand and then use the torch to kill what remains with fire. Be sure you go slowly enough to really heat up the top of the soil.
posted by humanfont at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2015

Call a realtor.
posted by bricksNmortar at 8:31 PM on March 12, 2015 [11 favorites]

Nuke it from orbit; that's the only way to be sure.

Exercising determination in pulling it up is the only way. Maybe hire some neighbor kids. We had one as big as a person that grew through part of the hood and grille of a truck; only shoveling the whole thing out and continuing to pull it out ever got it gone.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:47 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Smothering won't work. Mine traveled 25 feet under a concrete patio to pop up in another planter, so lack of light or direct watering didn't make much difference. Good thing I like mint. Frequent pulling for the next year ought to get it somewhat under control. Good luck.
posted by cecic at 8:48 PM on March 12, 2015

Here's how we did what you're trying to do:

1) Lots of pulling until there's nothing visible left in the box.
2) Generous application of 20% vinegar (aka agricultural vinegar, aka 20% acetic acid) all over the planter.
3) Repeat, if necessary.

This will keep you from using something toxic like Roundup, and will also work just as well. The vinegar will wash out with a few rains (or waterings). You can also add a basic soil amendment (lime, for example) to neutralize any remaining vinegar if you're concerned about low pH.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:09 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Me, I'd dump all the soil and start fresh, since it's in a planter box. It's not as bad as if you'd planted it in your garden...
posted by leahwrenn at 11:34 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mint tea! If you start making it, you'll find you might want to keep a bit around (in its own container is best, yes).

Green tea leaves (the tight little balls)
Freshly-cut mint: 2 sprigs about 3-4" long are fine
Honey or brown sugar (optional, to taste)

- Bring water to a boil. Prepare tea leaves: put the amount needed for your size of teapot into a tea ball/whatever you have as an equivalent.
- Once water has reached boiling, turn off the heat, wait until it's just no longer simmering (green tea gets scorched with boiling-boiling water), and pour into teapot. Put in mint leaves. Let steep 3-4 minutes.
- Remove tea ball – leave in the mint!
- Put a teaspoon of honey/sugar in your mug. Pour tea into mug, holding it high enough & moving up and down, so that the tea gets foamy. Enjoy :D

Your second cup will be even better!
posted by fraula at 2:44 AM on March 13, 2015

Can you pitch the top six inches of soil, then comb through the rest by hand and pull up the remaining runners, then add fresh soil back?

You could dump that first six inches of soil into a new container for your mint to live out its days without bullying gentler herbs.

While you're at it I'd buy a second container for those chives as well; or put the mint and chives together and watch them fight--chives reseed like crazy.

And then you'd have one for parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, which will look nice together -- you could get the purple sage and one of the variegated thymes and creeping rosemary to hang over the side. The parsley would poke out above that and look very nice. (I'm so excited for gardening season to start.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:28 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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