When we moved to our house seven years ago, I decided to let nature take its course. We had extensive plantings and I wanted to see what came up on its own before intervening. When our good friend John (your webmaster; hello, John!) and his wife, Sammy, visited, we took a walkabout. I pointed to something vigorous growing under the apple tree and asked Sammy–archaeologist extraordinaire and a very knowledgeable gardener–if she could ID it. She plucked a leaf, rubbed it between her fingers, assessed its scent, and announced, “Mint.” Great, I thought. I’ll find some uses for that.
If only I’d known.
The mint kept mostly to itself, and I was able to keep it in bounds, until a major regrading project kept me out of the adjacent garden beds the entire summer. The mint, sensing a golden opportunity, took off like–well, a weed. By June it was choking out the hostas and irises I’d so lovingly planted. In short, it had become a scourge. That tall stuff in the background? That’s mint.
I did my research. The only way to kill this stuff is to dig out the roots. Unfortunately, these plants are so well-entrenched now that I’d need a backhoe to dig out the roots. I rarely if ever use chemicals, so that was out. I tried hacking back one plant down to ground level (and even that is tough, given the fierce, dense roots at the surface), then poured a generous amount of white vinegar on the stump. That worked. But there isn’t enough vinegar in the world to deal with this infestation, and that could damage desirable plants nearby. So I’m doing the newspapers-and-mulch thing–yanking up as much as I can, layering tons of newspapers on top of the soil, watering them down, and covering the lot with bags and bags and bags of cedar bark mulch. (Props here to Mr. Trowel Tart for lugging said bags from the hardware store to the backyard.)
In theory, next spring I should be able to dig through the mulch down to the soil level–the papers will decompose–and have a lovely weed-free home for new plants. But I am terrified all this hard work (and make no mistake, this chemical-free approach is a backbreaker) will be for naught and the mint will pop up again the minute I dig a hole. If you have any experience eradicating mint, please share your thoughts. And if you’re planning to actually grow mint yourself, confine it to a pot. I’m begging you.