The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Finally I can grow mint!


Photo: Mint

Photo: Mint

When I moved to the cottage 18 years ago, I made a cute little herb bed just beside the kitchen’s back door. The marjoram, sage and oregano thrived. But the little thyme hedge died every winter and the parsley keeled over every summer. Since then I’ve learnt that parsley likes a lot of water and this border is very dry. And you know my history when it comes to growing mint.

In the end, I gave up on the thyme hedge and Danny decided to grow his two favourite herbs (parsley and thyme) in an old bath that had been discarded by one of my clients. Both herbs thrived and, dressed in cloches, the parsley survived the deep winter freeze of 2009/2010.

The only drawback is that Danny’s herb bath is at the far end of the long garden. When it’s wet or cold it’s a trek. Even when it’s warm and sunny it is still a palaver.

As part of extending the herbaceous borders I decided to overhaul and extend the old herb bed too. I dug out eight builder’s barrow loads of stones from the 6’x4’ border and bunged in loads of Denise’s Delight – the farmyard manure and compost that we bought from Madingley Mulch this spring.

Magic Cochin of Purple Podded Peas fame had given me a pot of Moroccan mint along with a generous assortment of herbs and baby trees. The label on the mint noted that it couldn’t fail. My heart sank when I read it pre-overhaul. In fact this was the kick start that I needed. If Celia could grow mint so could I. Incidentally, Celia is an experienced and very knowledgeable gardener and has taught me a lot.

Always optimistic, I planted my scrappy shards of mint in generous sized terracotta pots and set them in the refurbished border hoping that they might flourish. I also put Celia’s burgeoning mint in a pot in the border to give my mint a bit of encouragement. Even herbs need heroes.

Just a few weeks later all the mint is buoyant! And the new thyme plants are doing well too.

Beware gardening on stones and putting up with the status quo.

Danny is still using the bath as he doesn’t want to over pick the young new border, which is great as I’m harvesting like a mad woman.

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  1. KateUK

    I bought my first Moroccan mint plant in Holland. The plant stall-holder said”just put it in a bucket with plenty of, er, how do you say, er, shit.”
    Works every time….

  2. allotment blogger

    I’ve just planted a mint border too, in sturdy pots in a shady area of the allotment where I sling my hammock. I hope mine thrives as well as yours!

  3. I love mint, I have 2 large tubs full of apple mint, spearmint & chocolate mint!


  4. Toffeeapple

    What great news, it’s always so exciting when something suddenly goes right. Looking forward to hearing how you use it.

  5. Magic Cochin

    I knew you could do it Fiona!

    Mint Juleps all round!

    Careful with that Moroccan Mint when it really finds its feet – ours is romping along the shady side of the veg garden. I originally acquired it to feed my love of mint tea, just like we were served in a Moroccan restaurant in France, with pine nuts added to the glass when its served. It’s the perfect mint for all Middle Eastern recipes, we’re working our way through Claudia Roden’s classic tome ‘Middle Eastern Food’

    All the best

  6. freerangegirl

    Love the site, Im right at the start of the rural adventure and you’re a constant source of sound advice and inspiration so thanks! I have the oppostie thing with mint – I cant stop the stuff, its everywhere!

  7. Joanna

    Oh yes and I am pleased you have cracked the mint growing, normally it is parsley that is picky so I am told

  8. Joanna

    So your thyme doesn’t survive the winter, how odd? I never had a problem in Derbyshire and so just put the death of my thyme plants this winter down to the extreme cold here in Latvia, as temperatures dropped suddenly before there was much snow cover. It was lavender that I was expecting to keel over, I thought that would be much more susceptible to the cold.

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