Living Columns & Blogs

Aggressive mint best grown in a container

Chocolate mint peppermint grows in a pot, where it can be contained from taking over the garden.
Chocolate mint peppermint grows in a pot, where it can be contained from taking over the garden. Associated Press

Question: I am afraid to grow mint, much as I would like to make tea out of it, because several of my friends say it spreads everywhere. Is there a way I could grow it and keep it in check?

Answer: Yes, and it’s a simple as containers! Get a pot, a rather large planting pot, fill it with good potting soil, then plant a few starts of mint. At a nursery these days you’ll find several types of mint, so you might even want a couple of pots. Mint is a lovely plant, so it can be ornamental as well as useful in tea or drinks.

One caution, however. You need a hole in the bottom of your pot for drainage. Make sure that the roots of the mint don’t try sneaking out that hole. They’re quite sneaky and aggressive, but you don’t want to let it out of its cozy container.

Q: The last couple of plants that I’ve purchased have roots encircling the soil in the pot they were sold in. What’s the problem, and what should I do when that happens?

A: It’s happening when a plant grows too long in a pot it has outgrown. Given our increasingly strange weather patterns, it is hard for the supplier and nurseries to time their plants so they’ll be planted out in a garden at the perfect time.

However, a plant that is root-bound can be saved. There are a couple of ways. First, loosen the coiled roots before planting so they will grow into the soil. Tease the roots apart with your hands, and then cut any extra long roots. Now you can safely put this plant into well-prepared soil.

Another method that works well is spray the soil away from the root ball, holding the plant firmly and using a strong jet of water. You will then be able to loosen and uncoil the roots.

The third method of dealing with root-bound plants is to make several vertical slits in the root ball with a knife to stimulate the growth of new roots.

No matter the method you use to deal with a root-bound plant, once you have it safely in the ground, be sure to water it well. That will settle the somewhat-stressed roots into the soil, and with luck, into a burst of renewed energetic growth.

Q: OK, so now I know that pollinators are in trouble. I got mason bees for my yard and was pleased with their pollination on early crops, particularly my plum trees. But now I hear about bumblebees. Do you know anything about them?

A: Sure do, and just received the house and book that I ordered to start helping them out. There’s very little written about bumblebees for the layman, so I was pleased to find Brian Griffin, responsible for popularizing the mason bee, is now on the mission of educating us about bumblebees.

If, as is estimated, every third bite you take comes from food pollinated by a bee, the countrywide collapse of honeybees inspires doomsday thought. But wait. More than 4,000 separate species of native bees were in North America pollinating long before the colonists brought their European honeybees to this country about 400 years ago.

Have they all disappeared in those 400 years? No. We’ve just stopped looking. And now we know that if we honor and protect them as we do the honeybees, they have the potential of being even better pollinators than their cousins, the European honeybee.

So if you’re interested, do get hold of “Humblebee Bumblebee” published by Knox Cellars in Bellingham. Or go online to www.knoxcellars.com and order a house.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

GARDENING EVENTS

Compost Tea Party, 11 a.m. Saturday, July 11, Garden Spot Nursery, 900 Alabama St., Bellingham. Come for mid-morning tea and snacks, as Randy Ritchie of Malibu Compost demonstrates the uses, benefits and composition of creating your own compost tea. Satisfy your soil’s stomach for your most effective, nurished garden yet. Class is free.

Fall Crops for Summer Planting, 9 a.m. Saturday, July 18, Garden Spot Nursery. It’s not too late to start a productive vegetable patch for homegrown harvest. Questions answered and discussion on late season seed starting for your edible landscape success. Class is free.

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