With spreading rhizomes, mint is the bane of meticulously organized, linear gardens. It doesn’t like to stay in one place for long. For me this roving nature makes mint the best garden builder. Plowing fearlessly into the throng of weeds beyond my bed borders, the battle is half over by the time I come with some grass mulch, the mint popping through in a week or two, the weeds languishing to worm food.
Like violets, mint is shallow rooted and pretty easy to pull if you don’t like it. It competes slightly with most low growing or shallow rooted perennial vegetables. First strategy to combat this is to plant species that differ or are ‘on the edge’ of mint’s habit, suchas tap rooted plants like scorzonera and Turkish rocket. Second, I have a policy to pull it whenever I see an overly happy clump and this maintains a very productive balance.
In general mint does best on the wild or developing outskirts of the forest garden. Not all mints have an aggressive running habit though. I’ve planted ‘Blue Balsam’ mint in one of my beds expecting it to fill in the cracks but it’s sat now for the last two years as a neat little clump. Be careful to find out a mint’s characteristics before planting it.
Mint is still worth growing as a ground cover somewhere because it has so many benefits for the ecosystem. Besides providing flowers that are very attractive to insects it also has chemicals such as pulegone which are sometimes extracted for organic pest deterrent sprays.
If you’re interested in reading more about aromatic pest confusers as these plants are called I have a post here that touches on methyl salicylate’s effects.
A bit tricky to deal with, but obviously mint is a ground cover with multiple benefits.