We will explain how and when to harvest mint and clarify what pruning has to do with your mints’ flowering time.
Mint (Mentha) belongs in every herb garden. The aromatic herb has many uses in the kitchen, and it has a decidedly refreshing aroma and taste. Mint flowers also attract bees and other important pollinators to the garden. The more than 20 different species of mint have two main things in common: they are all members of the Lamiaceae family and they are fast-growing. Anyone who has grown mint in their garden knows that picking alone will not keep this prolific plant in check. It is often necessary to cut back mint. In this article, you will learn how to prune and harvest mint without damaging it.
Why does mint need to be cut?
The number one reason for cutting mint is to harvest the leaves and stems of the plant.
Another reason to cut mint is because it grows very quickly and can quickly take over a garden bed. To prevent mint from crowding out the other plants in the bed or pot, it must be pruned regularly. When pruning mint, it is important to not only cut vertical shoots but also the horizontally growing stolons.
Preserving the wonderful mint aroma can also be a reason for pruning. Once the mint plant starts to bloom, its fragrance and flavour reduce noticeably. Consequently, cutting mint to control its flowering is another reason for trimming mint.
Mint will also need to be pruned if it is infested with mint rust (Puccinia menthae). If you completely cut back the plant when it is infested, you may be able to save your mint plant from the fungus. It is important to dispose of infested cuttings in the household waste rather than in the compost. Be sure to also disinfect your secateurs before pruning another plant.
Lastly, targeted pruning can stimulate a second flowering of the mint. This prevents the first set of seeds from sowing and enables bees and other pollinators to find food in autumn. To top it off, the second flowering will decorate your garden once again.
Tip: In general, mint is very tolerant of pruning and can be cut back at any time.
Summary: Why should you cut mint?
- For harvesting
- To control and limit growth
- To preserve flavour
- To remove mint rust
- To stimulate a second flowering and prevent self-seeding
Pruning to stimulate a second flowering
In the garden or pot, mint has two flowering periods from June to September. The first flowering takes place from June to July. If you cut back your mint early, it will flower a second time; the second flowering period is from August to September.
Mint flowering periods overview:
- Flowers from June to September
- First flowering period: June – July
- Second flowering period: August – September
Tip: It is not necessary to prune back the aboveground parts of the plant that wither in autumn – leave them there for extra root protection during the winter and cut back the withered mint stems later in spring.
The right time to harvest mint
So, when should you harvest mint? You can harvest your mint all year round, although the aroma is most intense before flowering. In autumn, before the plant dies back, it may be worth harvesting a little more and preserving the mint by drying or freezing it.
How to harvest mint: procedure
When cutting or harvesting mint, it is best to use a clean, sharp knife or scissors. Always cut off whole stems rather than individual mint leaves. Plucking off the leaves can lead to damage and stress, whereas cutting the stems will cause the mint to sprout again more quickly.
Tip: It is best to harvest the top 10 – 20 cm of the mint, as the leaves are youngest here and taste more intense. Always cut the mint just above a pair of leaves.
If you cut back your mint after the flowering period, it will sprout anew. If you care for mint properly and provide it with sufficient water and nutrients, it can grow up to 30 cm tall and be harvested through to autumn.
Mint harvest: step-by-step
- Use a sharp knife or a good pair of scissors
- Cut whole stems rather than individual leaves
- The top 10 – 20 cm taste the most intense
- To harvest again, cut back mint after flowering
Do not have any mint growing in your garden yet? Find out how to plant mint in the garden and in pots in our dedicated article.