Nearly all varieties of mint today are considered fast-growing plants. This makes the process of harvesting them more flexible and easy for the gardener.
I’ve been growing and harvesting mint for years, and I’ve never failed miserably with this herb. I made some mistakes, but with research and practice, I was able to overcome them.
Broadly speaking, knowing when to harvest mint is perhaps the trickiest part of growing this herb. You should consider several factors before choosing the right time to cut your mint.
Let’s look closely at each one of these principles!
How to Know When to Harvest Mint
Here’s what you should think about when deciding to harvest your mint:
There’s a big difference between heavy and gentle harvesting.
You can always pinch off a few leaves from your mint every now and then to season and garnish your dishes or to prepare a cup of tea. That’s what I call “gentle” harvesting.
On the other hand, cutting one-half or one-third of your mint will disrupt your plant’s stability. If the herb isn’t ready for that, it will be permanently “shocked.”
In this article, I will focus on heavy harvesting, and all the principles mentioned below will help you decide when you can harvest your mint in great quantities.
How much your plant has grown is what gardeners first take into account when trying to pick the right time to harvest their herbs.
In general, most experts say that your mint should be at least 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall when you harvest it. If your mint is smaller than that and you cut it back heavily, it may not be able to grow again.
In that stage, mint also tastes best because it wouldn’t have blossomed yet. As leafy herbs grow tall and start to develop flowering buds, their foliage and stems stiffen, and they become less flavorful and sometimes more bitter.
Note! Not all mint branches grow upright. Some may grow in a crooked manner. Remember that when you’re measuring the length of your plants.
How often can you harvest mint per season? From my own experience, this plant can be harvested in bulk at least 3 or 4 times per season.
If you’re growing mint under unregulated conditions, such as on a balcony or somewhere else, remember that you should harvest the plant for the last time 6 weeks before the first expected frost (check the weather in your area to know more about that).
In case your mint is growing under artificial light and regulated temperature, its age and the change in seasons shouldn’t matter that much anymore. In such a situation, you can grow and harvest your mint plants year-round.
Many herb growers don’t realize the significance of their plants’ age in this equation. Since mint is a perennial plant, which means it lives for more than one year, its age indicates its strength and endurance.
As your mint grows older, it becomes more tolerant toward heavy harvesting as it develops more advanced systems underground.
When you cut back your mint, all of the “food” that should go to its roots will now be gone. That may be troubling for the plant when its roots are still young.
If your mint is growing in its first season, it may not endure severe harvesting many times per season and will fail to go dormant in winter.
Connecting the Dots: When to Harvest Mint
It’s time to take a look at the full picture and put everything together.
Imagine you have a mint plant growing in your garden and it appears to be fully grown. You are afraid that it might lose its flavor, so you want to cut, use, and perhaps dry its leaves.
You should first think about how you are growing your mint. I’ll assume you’re growing it on a balcony because if you’re using artificial light and controlling temperature, you can cut it right away if it’s tall enough.
Next, is it late in the season? If it’s no more than six weeks before the first expected frost, you shouldn’t harvest it heavily, and instead, you can pinch off a few leaves as needed.
If your mint still has time, you should determine its age.
- If this is its first season growing, you need to make sure that this is the first or second time you harvest it.
- In case it’s older than that, it doesn’t matter if this is the first or fifth time you’re harvesting it.
Finally, how tall is your plant? If it has reached about 4 inches of growth, you can harvest it by cutting half of each stem.
It’s pretty simple, so don’t be confused and just move gradually from one point to the other.
Remember that this is a flexible activity, so even if you do make a few mistakes here and there, your mint would probably still be able to survive. Unlike many other herbs, mint is very resilient because of the vast number of roots that it develops.
Important Tips You Should Keep in Mind:
- When you want to pinch off leaves from your mint, always take the ones growing at the top because they would be more flavorful and softer than those growing at the bottom.
Doing this also makes it easier for the plant to produce new growth.
- Always cut your mint just above the node on which leaves are growing. This is very important because it stimulates new growth to appear faster. Plants grow their leaves and stem from “buds” that are located beneath each set of leaves.
- Never use your hands to harvest your mint. Always use high-quality shears. If your scissors aren’t as sharp as they should be, they might create unwanted tears that will invite infections to devour the plant from the inside.
- Harvest your mint plants in the morning when they’re no longer wet because of dew. This makes the process of drying them easier.
- Don’t rinse your mint after you harvest it because mold will probably spread over the leaves. Instead, rinse the plant a day before harvesting so that it would have some time to dry off.
- Don’t let your mint fully flower or else it won’t continue producing new growth for you. So, always try to harvest it when flowering buds start to appear.
- Finally, you can use some of the stems you cut from your mint to grow them in your garden. In fact, propagating mint from cuttings is the most reliable method of growing this herb. Check this article “- ” to know more about it.
Now you’re good to go! Don’t forget to tell us about your thoughts and experience with harvesting mint in the comments below!