Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Old Friends Reunited

I have an old half barrel sunk in the ground. The barrel has been through a lot over the years. It started off its life in my garden 20 years ago in a previous house. It held beautiful flowers in its youth. In its prime years, it became a pond, sitting at the end of a small waterfall and housing goldfish during the summer. In middle age it tackled the job of keeping my mint quarantined from the rest of the garden. On June 2nd I ripped out all my mint. The old barrel was no longer up to the challenge of a mint. Its sides were buckling under the pressure.

So now in its old age it has retired to keep its friend the Japanese iris wet. The iris was planted next to the barrel when it was a pond. The moisture that leaked through kept the iris always blooming and happy. When the barrel lost its water and housed the mint, the iris was no longer very wet and became unhappy. This year it was so unhappy it refused to bloom. I planted a piece of the iris into the barrel. Hopefully this will keep the water from draining and keep my iris happier. So now the the two are reunited once again together in friendship.

But what about the mint? Well that mint was spearmint, which I hate, so it was ripped up and tossed. I did however still want my peppermint back and after some comments by readers I was drooling over chocolate mint and orange mint. I ordered those two and a candymint (peppermint variety) on June 5th and they were supposed to be shipped on the 16th. This morning I prepared the bed for their arrival.

I bought three large fake terracotta pots, about 18" in diameter. I have a spot near my crabapple tree that has a triangular bed. Nothing can grow in it well. The dill and snapdragons occasionally self seed there, but never get big. It is in dappled shade most of the day, only getting a couple of hours of direct sunlight each day. I figure it is a perfect spot for mint. Mint ought to be able to handle the partial shade and surely a mint can outgrow whatever it is that is keeping the other plants from growing (I suspect my crabapple tree).

I dug large holes for the pots. The nice worm filled soil goes about 10-11" deep, then I hit rocky subsoil, but luckily I never hit any huge rocks, just 5" ones which are easy to pull. I tossed the subsoil out in the back yard. My kids used have a fort excavated out in the back yard under the trees (no measly little sandbox for them, let them get dirty). Now that they are in college, they no longer play there. I didn't feel bad about starting to fill in their huge hole.

But I digress. I put a pot saucer in the hole (yes I buried the saucer, it helps keep the nasty mint roots from escaping), then the pot. I left a 3" rim above ground to help keep them from running. Into the pot went all the smaller rocks I dug out from the holes and some extras. I always have little rock piles collected from the soil. It is nice to get rid of some of them into the pots. Then I added several inches of compost and then the top soil.

The pots do not take up the whole bed. I had four impatiens along the back of the bed. I dug them up before excavating so they wouldn't die by stomping. Then I put them back. I planted lemon balm in the front of the middle pot and to the sides of the other two pots. This will be my tea garden. Though the chamomile is planted just across the path in more direct sun.

I expected the mints to arrive tomorrow, but they knew their house was ready for them so showed up a day early. I ordered the herbs from Papa Geno. The plants that showed up were well packed and arrived safely, only a little dirt loose in the box. But I was very unhappy. The chocolate mint was not in the box. The note said it was out of stock. Now I ordered these plants on June 5th. Surely sometime between June 5th and June 16th when they were shipped they could have dropped me an email and told me. I could have ordered a different mint. The shipping cost more than the plants as it was. Now one of my pots is mintless. It looks very silly. And I still want chocolate mint.


  1. I'm just curious why you sink the pots?

  2. Temperature. In the winter it keeps the roots from freezing and thawing, so they won't die. In the summer it keeps the roots cooler. The bed gets direct sun in the afternoon, the hottest time of the day.