Herbs Spreading in the Garden
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Diana Claudi
Posted: Before April 1998

Would you please include a notation for each herb as to whether it spreads. Also, how can I control lemon balm and ginger mint. I think these are the two in my garden which have gotten out of hand.

P.S. Any suggestions for herbs to alleviate sinusitis?


We wish that we could pack a lot more information in our catalogue, but we can’t. We are planning to add "GrowSheets" to the website to address this problem. Gardeners and commercial growers need information such as growth habit, hardiness zone, soil and sun preference, height, spread, etc. In the meantime, there are many books that carry detailed cultural information. Deni Bown’s "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" and John Steven’s "Gardening With Herbs" are but two available from Richters.

The problem of herbs spreading and becoming invasive is a difficult one to deal with. Fact is, most herbs will spread in the right environment. Purple loosestrife is a problem in North America but not in Europe (because of the presence of natural predators). Almost every plant is a weed or could be a weed somewhere in the world. It is impossible to cover all situations in a book, let alone in a commercial catalogue.

Lemon balm can spread by reseeding but it rarely becomes a problem. In most gardens the young seedlings do not take hold and and do not become invasive. The solution is simple: keep your plants from setting seeds. As plants reach flowering height (40-50 cm/16-20 inches) cut them back to about 10 cm (4 inches) above the ground. If you are collecting leaves regularly for tea or for drying, lemon balm will not become a problem.

Like most mints (members of the genus, Mentha), ginger mint spreads by underground stems or rhizomes. In the right environment – rich soil, plenty of moisture – most mints can spread and invade neighbouring plants. We advise planting mints in areas surrounded by barriers at least 20 cm (8 inches) above ground and the same distance below ground. Such a barrier will impede the spread of even the most agressive mints. The occasional rhizome that finds its way out can easily be pulled up or cut back.

John Lust in his book, "The Herb Book," recommends 14 herbs for sinus problems, including eucalyptus, goldenseal, and mullein. He also describes a vapour bath using herbs that may help.

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