Mint has got to be one of the easiest plants to grow. Just plop it into some reasonably rich soil in a reasonably sunny spot and watch it take over. Evidence of its opportunistic habit probably lives in your garden right now. It certainly does in mine. The ‘Chocolate Mint’ I attempted to reign in by planting in a pot last year has busted loose spreading into the soil outside my community garden plot and into the plot next to it. Thankfully my neighbor doesn’t mind the invading plant and I am not short on friends willing to take fresh ‘Chocolate Mint’ off my hands. Everybody wins.
So while making even more mint may seem a bit ridiculous, I’ve got a project on the go that requires mint and lots of it. I could go out to the store and buy a couple of ready-to-go seedlings but since the timing isn’t critical I figured I’d save some money and make my own using the five or so varieties living at my community garden plot.
The process is easy. Simply cut a few stems about 4 or 5 inches long just below a node (the juncture on the stem where leaves are attached). Pluck off one or two sets of leaves, stick the stems in a small cup or jar of water and wait.
Most mint varieties will produce roots by this method in no time. Yes, you can go the soil route, rooting cuttings directly into potting soil or a vermiculite/perlite mix instead of water. Some say this is the best method for the health of the plants and while I would agree when it comes to most other plants, I couldn’t be bothered with the added hassle when reproducing easy-rooting plants like mint or basil.
Once roots have formed, pot up or plant the new plants in-ground and you’re done. You can add a little vermicompost to the hole if you want and of course water them in well to get things going.
I wanted to say that the wild columbine is my favourite native flower in bloom around late May but even narrowing it down seasonally is too lofty a claim to make. Let’s just say, I like it very much, and leave it at that.
It is a good time of year. We can very nearly say with almost sort-of, closing in on possible certainty that there will be no more snow for a good 6 or 7 months, the plant sales are in full swing, the plant-specific festivals are rockin’ it HARD olde school (emphasis on olde), and people are cleaning the crap out of their sheds and basements. And that crap, dear reader, may very well end up as my crap.
Last Saturday was the annual Parkdale Horticultural Society Plant Sale or what I like to call, you better get there early and you had better lace those fightin’ shoes up extra tight and be ready to kick major butt cause those gardeners are tougher than you’d expect! And they are very serious about their sale plants. And to be honest I am very nearly choking on the word “sale” as I type this because while some plants were indeed sold at below market cost (as you shall see from my awesome scores below), I spotted a number of plants that were priced higher than plants I have seen at bourgeois garden stores. NICE TRY Parkdale Horticultural Society members. Sure the money collected from the sale goes towards altruistic endeavors, supporting local gardens and feeding starving children and saving the world or whatever but you can’t make me spend $3 a piece on your repotted strawberry offsets or your they’re-native-therefore-worthy-of-a-big-markup plants.
I’ve been attending this thing for years now and there are always one or two surreal moments in that community center gym that make me stop and ask myself, “Who are you?” My inner voice sounds exactly like Brenda Walsh when I say it. [Okay, pause for a moment. Now Davin and I are arguing about who said that. He thinks it was Kelly to Brenda and I think it was Brenda to Brandon.] Like those few seconds when I was stuck in the crowd, pushing my way in slow motion through a sea of bodies and carts towards the Shady Perennials Table feeling like an early eighties mom fighting for the last 5 Cabbage Patch Kids. And then by the time I reached the table all that was left was the not-so-cute one with a weird name like Geneva Mary Rose or Mercedes Brandi Lynn.
The garlic mustard population is really getting out-of-hand at the community garden this year. I’ve discovered loads of it in unused areas of disturbed, lousy soil and it is expanding rapidly into the edges around plot beds. I was diligent in removing much of it last year so the population isn’t big enough yet to really get under my skin, but this plant is so prolific, and such an evil overlord taking over wherever it sets roots that I’m going to have to get at it with due diligence to avoid disaster next year.
For those who’ve had the good fortune of avoiding it, garlic mustard is an extremely invasive, biennial plant that was probably brought to North America by European settlers, most likely to be cultivated for food and medicine. And I can see why. It’s delicious stuff and the herb books are filed with useful garlic mustard-based remedies. The plant also over-winters nicely under snow, even in my region, which for settlers probably meant something green in the cold months. Unfortunately the plant got loose and has since become a bit of a botanical menace, encroaching on native woodland plants in many parts of the Eastern United States and southern parts of Ontario, Canada (where I live). In fact it’s become such a pain that local communities are starting to band together on special garlic mustard eradication days, going out into woodland areas in groups with the sole purpose of removing the plant.
But like I said, there is a bright side to this — we can use our mouths and stomachs to help keep this bad ass botanical in check. The leaves have a strong garlic flavor and the roots have a bit of a kick making them a good substitute for horseradish (incidentally also a menace). When pockets of it started to turn up in my own gardens last year I figured I might as well figure out some use for it while going through the pains of pulling it out. We’ve tried a few recipes but I am finding that I am as sensitive to this plant as I am to garlic itself. We’ve enjoyed it, but in much smaller quantities than are harvested. The other key to use that I have found is to mix it up with other ingredients. This tempers the bitterness, and in my case prevents digestive upset.
While the leaves are bitter, young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads if you remember to harvest in the early spring. The plant is generally tastier BEFORE the flowers and seeds appear which is a good thing because it’s advised to get them out of the ground before the seeds have a chance to spread. It can also be sautÃƒÂ©ed or wilted like spinach. The garlic flavor goes nicely with butter. And mushrooms. Maybe with a pinch of salt and a splash of lemon. Yum. Pesto is a popular use since the bitter garlic flavor works nicely on pasta, no additional garlic required. Making pesto is also a good way to use up and store the plant for long term use. Just package it up and keep it in the freezer. Don’t worry about running out, for better or worse there will be plenty more next year.
It’s kind of ostentatious but still a welcome sight in mid-spring. Although the yellow type is kind of boring.