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Weekly planter: Mint will tolerate hot, wet summer

The vegetables and herbs that thrive in the wet South Florida summer would fill only a very small garden plot. But here’s an herb that you can plant now: mint (mentha). Mint loves a wet summer, and I’ve had success growing it even in swampy ground.

Most popular varieties, of course, are peppermint (piperita) and spearmint (spicata), but the mint family has a variety of members, such as apple mint, ginger mint and bergamot. Technically, many of the most commonly used herbs — including basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage — are part of the extended mint family, but here we’re talking only about the minty-fresh branch of the family.

Mint is a perennial, and it grows rapidly as its roots spread. Planted in open ground, mint is invasive. If it gets established, it’s almost unstoppable. It’s best to grow mint in containers. You can grow it in your herb or vegetable garden by potting it, then sinking the pot in the garden so that the rim is just above the surface.

The plants stay low to the ground, and in fact make a fine ground cover if you sink barriers deep enough to block the spread of the roots. It is propagated from root cuttings or runners.

Mint does best in light, moist soil and partial shade. Once established, however, mint is relatively drought tolerant. With its strong fragrance, mint is not bothered much by insects and may even help repel them from its corner of the garden.

Use the leaves to make mint tea or crush them in mojitos, mint juleps or lemonade. Mint can also be used in jelly, chutney, salads, tabbouleh, Southeast Asian dishes and more.

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