Learn the best companion plants to grow with mint and which herbs, fruits and vegetables are best grown in other areas of the garden.
Mint is obviously fragrant, flavorful, medicinal, and beautiful, but its benefits don’t end there. It can also enhance the growth of your other garden plants by attracting beneficial insects and repelling pests.
How to Repel Bad Bugs and Attract Good Bugs with Mint
If you prefer to garden without pesticides, and you also prefer not to have your plants chewed up and destroyed by insects, you may want to plant things that naturally repel pests. Mint does the job well.
While we humans mostly enjoy its fresh intense scent, many insects seem to respond differently. I grew up spreading mint stems along windowsills or setting them in the mailbox to keep ants away. Your mint can also repel insects—and some larger pests– as it grows in your garden.
According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, mint repels ants, aphids, cabbage moths, and mice. Other master gardeners add flea beetles, squash bugs, whiteflies, cabbage maggots, and slugs to the list.
But not all insects avoid mint. Various pollinators are attracted to mint blossoms.
- Butterflies of many kinds will come to its blossoms.
- White Peacock, Painted Lady, and Gray Hairstreak caterpillars feed on its leaves. (Link to your article on herbs that attract butterflies)
- One master gardener especially recommends mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum, for attracting pollinating bees, wasps, and flies as well as butterflies.
Since pollinators are highly mobile, there’s a good chance that they’ll visit nearby flowering plants after being drawn to your mint. You may have to get mint fairly close to other plants in order to get the benefit of its repellent effects.
Cornell also recommends that mint be planted “in adjacent rows” to brassica-family vegetables like cabbage, kale, and broccoli in order to repel cabbage moths.
Mint’s Friends & Enemies in the Garden
The Payne County, OK master gardeners’ group recommends planting mint along with the following vegetables.
They add that mint does not go well with parsley or strawberries. And they warn gardeners not to let mint overrun everything else. You can read more about that in the next section.
When, Where, and How to Plant Mint with Other Crops
When planting mint with other crops, consider the spacing, moisture, timing, competition, and shading that the mint will provide to the other vegetables and plants growing in your garden.
Mint varieties vary widely in size and spread. Check the predicted size of your mint plant when you’re working out spacing. Other plants that benefit from growing near mint won’t benefit from being buried by it.
Mint is a vigorous grower and spreader. You may want to plant it in containers or otherwise restrict its size and spread so it doesn’t take over your garden.
Consider the light requirements of mint’s companion plants. Mint itself is flexible, growing either in full sun or in partial shade.
- Summer lettuce can benefit from partial shade, so you could plant lettuce on the north side of a row of tall-growing mint plants.
- Eggplants and bush beans want full sun, and at least in my northern climate they don’t grow any taller than mint, so keep them on the sunward side of their mint companions.
- Tomatoes will grow taller than mint, but since they’re tender late-starting annuals they may be too shaded by faster-starting perennial mint in the early stages.
Make sure that your planting site works well for your companion plants as well as for your mint plants. Mint grows best in rich, moist (but not soggy) soil.
It’s best to stop watering garlic and onions, which are good mint companions, as they begin to dry down before harvest time. Think about how you can keep your mint moist without soaking your onions.
This could be accomplished by keeping the mint in containers, planting it in an adjacent raised bed, or setting it on a terrace below the onions.
Beets present a different challenge: they grow best in lean soil, mint in rich soil. Again you could deal with this by planting in separate beds or containers, or just by leaving ample space between and side-dressing your mint with compost.
Mint can benefit your garden as well as spicing up your food and soothing your stomach. With a little attention to spacing, lighting, and choice of companions you can enjoy the many benefits of mint without adding annoyances.
As usual, this article’s suggestions are only a starting point. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work in your garden, and have fun experimenting!