There are lots of reasons to grow mint and only one reason not to. This garden bully will gladly take over if given half a chance, luckily you can keep it contained and create a cute container garden using a whisky barrel (or wine barrel) and a few mint varieties.
If you’ve ever grown anything in the mint family you understand exactly what I’m talking about. Mint plants are vigorous growers and they can spread via roots or runners.
Once a mint plant has gotten established it’s pretty hard to kill them. The only thing I’ve found to reliably beat back a mint plant is my chickens, they insist on turning my whiskey barrel planters into dust baths.
How to Grow Mint
Mint is the easiest plant to grow hands down. Even my mother who treats those “10 plants for people with black thumbs” lists as a hit list can grow mint.
The biggest problem is keeping the mint where you want it and not letting it take over the whole garden. Ask anyone who has ever tried to eradicate mint how futile and frustrating it can be.
Mint plants spread via underground rhizomes that can produce a daughter plant a few feet away from the mother plant. If you try to rip it or dig it up and you miss a small piece BAM more mint.
They can also create new plants by layering which is when the stems touch the ground (very possible with mints and their spreading habits), get covered with a little something and send out new roots.
It may seem unlikely but this spring I found a gooseberry branch sending out new roots because my dog pooped on it. If my dogs’ butt can do it don’t doubt that mint can figure out a way!
The best way to avoid all that minty fresh drama is to grow your plants in pots or containers. A popular way to grow mint is in a submerged pot with the rim a few inches above the soil.
I’d recommend staying away from terracotta unless you want to water it every 30 minutes in the summer. It’s a great way to reuse a cracked bucket or planter. Just dig a hole, add the bucket, fill it back up with soil and add your mint plant.
As with most aggressive plants mint doesn’t make a lot of demands. It will even tolerate wet soil better than a lot of plants, If you’ve ever been walking along a creekside you’ve probably found a patch of wild mint.
There are many varieties of mint, from the mild apple mint to pretty variegated ginger mint to to standard peppermint and spearmint. All the different varities can interbreed and even though you can grow mint from seed it’s unpredictable and you never really know what you’re going to get
The best way to get started with a new mint variety is by buying a plant from a local greenhouse or finding plants from a reputable online seller. I’ve been meaning to order plants from Richters in Canada for years, they have over 40 types of mint alone!
When you start with a plant you know what you’re getting from the start. If you’re buying them in person you can lightly bruise a leaf and pick which one smells the best to you.
Mint is a pretty popular plant, I’ve seen 4 or 5 varieties at my local greenhouses and even Lowe’s usually has 3 or more varieties.
Tips for Planting in a Whiskey Barrel
If the mint is the star in this show the whiskey barrel is the best supporting actor. I bought mine at Lowe’s and it’s held up for 5 years at this point.
The half barrels are wood with metal bands and have a drainage hole in the bottom. They’re heavy on their own and even heavier when you add in all the soil, make sure you’ve got it where you want it before you start planting.
The hole on the bottom of the barrel is pretty big. It’s not 100% necessary but if you have a scrap of landscape fabric hanging around use it to line the bottom of the barrel before you start adding in the soil.
Speaking of filling the barrel, these suckers are big and they’ll take a lot of soil. I like to fill my barrels with a high quality organic potting mix and it’s not cheap stuff.
Instead of filling the whole thing with potting mix I fill up the bottom 2/3 with alpaca poop straight from the pile or a few buckets of bedding from the chicken coop.
Normally you wouldn’t be throwing un-composted chicken manure into the garden but mint has pretty shallow roots and as long as you top it up with about 6 inches of potting mix you won’t have any issues with burning the roots.
How to Make a Whiskey Barrel Mint Garden
- 1/2 Whiskey Barrel
- Potting soil
- Chicken bedding, garden soil
- 3-4 Mint plants
- Markers/Decorations (optional or just use the ones that came with the plants)
Mint Garden Instructions:
1. Find a semi-permanent place for your barrel. It’s going to be pretty heavy once full and you won’t want to move it. I stuck mine in a hole where I had previously dug out a rhubarb plant so a little digging was necessary to flatten things out.
2. Fill 2/3 of the barrel with regular garden soil, chicken beding, rabbot or alpaca poop and top it off with at least 6 inches of potting mix. That was
You really want the layer of potting mix and not just garden soil for this, it’s made to hold on to water and that’s super important in a raised container with a water-loving plant.
I used almost a whole bag of EcoScraps organic potting soil to finish filling up to about 3 inches below the rim.
3. Add your mint plants. I picked three different looking, tasting and smelling ones to keep things easy. The large one in the back is Mojito Mint which smells incredibly and isn’t crazy powerful like the peppermint.
The dark colored one in the bottom left is peppermint the the semi-variegated one on the right is spearmint. If you have a toddler helping this step may take up to an hour.
4. Water well to settle everyone into their new homes and add a layer of mulch. The mulch will keep the soil cool and reduce the amount of watering you need to do.
5. Optional: add markers so you know what you’re growing. Eventually, I’ll get around to adding some fancy ones but for now, I stuck in the plastic tags they came from right up against the barrel in an effort to hide them from my chaos-loving children and the geese.
And there you have it! A DIY Whiskey Barrel Mint Garden, it’ll fill in more over the next few months.
Check out my Garden page for more ideas or start with these: