Transplanting Mint and Lemon Balm from the Garden
Spring is well on its way around the farm. While the weather has become increasingly beautiful and mild, though quite windy, the flowers are taking their sweet time outside to bloom. I must follow a lot growers from warmer climates than myself because I feel like our perennials take forever to finally show their faces! The previous owners of our farm landscaped the entire outside of the house, which we appreciate now that we really don’t have to focus on it, at least not until we can get the farming aspect well established. There are a handful of tulip and daffodil bulbs sprouting here and there, the first flowers to usually bloom, and they are now finished. We are in the waiting period for lilacs and peonies, my favorite spring flowers. I decided to scavenge around the herb garden remnants a few weeks ago and found that our bed of mint was spreading like wildflower and also found our handful of lemon balm plants had made it through the winter freeze as well. I was honestly not sure which herbs would be able to handle and Iowa winter, at least not on this property. Would the lavender come back? Sadly, no. The sage or thyme? No, again. Looks like I will be transplanting some starts out into the garden again this year. But for mint and lemon balm, we have an abundance! Hooray!
I wondered how well it would transplant into pots, and to my surprise, it did amazingly well. I’ve been planting pots of mint for weeks now with the little plant runners. I love it! It’s super easy, so I figured any of you that grow mint in the ground (I know, you’re not supposed to, but I have plenty of space so I don’t care a bit) would like to know that you can also transplant it to bring indoors or to place outside of your front door (did you know it keeps flies and other insects away?!).
When to Transplant
This tutorial, or guide, feels a little backwards to me. Does it to you?! Usually I would be teaching you how to transplant mint into the garden and not from it. This time around, we want to put the plants back into a pot to use around the house, on the porch, or maybe even to gift to a friend. For me, actually, I pot them and sell it in our Country Store. Fun! And a lot less work for me to start a plant from seed.
The best way to know when to transplant is to look for signs of life out in the garden. If the plants are growing healthy and green, it’s time to transplant. You also want to make sure that there is plenty of plant for you to take. I treat dividing an established plant like I would harvesting a crop - never take more than 1/3 of the plant. If you do, you’ve not left it much to work with to continue growing steadily. If the plant it plenty large and has a lot of runners coming off of it, then you are probably good to go!
Divide the Plants
As this particular post is on mint and lemon balm (of the mint family), dividing the plants happens in a similar fashion. Both plants send off runners from the original parent plant. These grow over the ground in shoots and send roots into the soil. Where the runner roots, a new plants begins to grow. You can divide these runners off of the parent plant and plant somewhere else to create a new patch. This is why most experienced gardeners tell you to not plant mint in the ground and instead plant in a container. Mint is invasive and can take over your garden. In this case, I don’t really mind, and I also get a large crop of mint to divide and sell every year!
Find a runner or a healthy looking parent plant that is at least one-year-old. Find where a new plant has taken place and dig down to find the roots. Taking a shovel or harvesting knife, cut off in the place before the roots start. Pull out the plant and leave most of the soil on the roots to retain moisture. If you don’t have any runners, you can divide the plant in half or take a small section of the original plant. Just make sure you have some roots.
Plant in Containers
Once the plants with roots in tact are removed from the garden, you can plant them into containers. This can be any range of pot with drainage holes. I used a standard potting mix with plant food enriched in the medium. This ensure the plants continually get the nutrients they need to thrive. If the plants are on the small side (these were much smaller when I first transplanted them a couple of weeks ago) then you can put them in a small container. The larger they get, you will need to upgrade them to a larger container. If you notice your plants are looking sad a few weeks after transplanting, they may need more nutrients to thrive. You can feed them plant food from the garden supply store or make your own. Potting soil can be rejuvenated with worm castings and/or compost so be sure to do that at least once a year! Water thoroughly and place in a sunny window.
I love having potted herbs inside of the house. They bring some much needed cheer and add a fresh, brightened feeling to any room. Mint can be especially lovely in the kitchen or bedroom to keep flies away.