Nostalgic for a time when the world seemed brighter, love was in the air, and all you needed was a refreshing mint to set your day right? Pop a teeny, tiny Tic Tac into your mouth, then close your eyes to be transported back to 1969, the birth year of the petite mint.
Yes, folks, Tic Tacs turn 50 this year, and are still going strong, thanks to the alluring nature of mint (Mentha spp.), an herbaceous perennial humans have had a love affair with since time immemorial. Mint and orange were the original flavors that launched a breath-freshening dynasty.
If plants thrill you more than candy, consider adding mint to your garden this year. They’re easy to grow, so much so that care should be taken to keep them from becoming invasive.
Mints are aromatic and can be used for culinary purposes, sparkling beverages, kicking up vanilla ice cream, or covering up a bit of bad breath before social engagements. They grow well in full sun to partial shade with well-draining, moist soils.
From its humble beginnings of two flavors and a modest following, Tic Tacs’ popularity grew to world-wide proportions, much like mints left unattended in the yard. Mints are vigorous growers, easily taking over gardens, lawns or neighborhood ballfields. They have no problem escaping from smaller pots either by rooting through the bottom of the pot.
To keep them contained, a double-fail-safe planting is needed. Border the plants with deep edging, then plant them in containers that are then planted into the ground to prevent spreading. Make sure the lip of the pot is at least one-inch above ground level. Scout the area around the mint planting frequently to capture and contain escapees by harvesting them.
Taller pots lend themselves well to mint growing, however, the soil should never be allowed to dry out and, due to the fast growth rate, frequent division and repotting is necessary. Divide during spring or fall. For mints planted in the ground, division is recommended every three years. Dig the clump of mint up and divide the mother plant by cutting through the root mass with a sharp edged shovel. Compost older plant parts while keeping or using the young, new growth.
Harvest for fresh eating any time during the growing season by cutting leaves and flower tops if the plant starts to bloom. Use fresh leaves immediately or freeze them after washing them gently in water and patting them dry. Mint harvested for drying should be taken before flowering.
Since its launch, Tic Tacs have added on several flavors, nine are currently listed on the website. Mint itself has over 600 varieties but it’s a big family and many are not edible. But there is a wide selection of flavors for mint to fit most palettes: apple, chocolate, lemon, orange, or pineapple, in addition to peppermint and spearmint.
Few pests bother mint, but be on the lookout for rust, a major disease that mints are highly susceptible to. Rust has no form of management, so any plants showing rust should be thrown out.
By Carol O’Meara. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.