A Mint Lawn? A Legitimate Alternative Ground Cover?


Mint is a highly versatile plant that is used for cooking, holistic healing, and maintaining fresh atmospheres in our favorite environments. Let’s not forget mint’s most popular role as an agent of oral hygiene. Yes, it’s safe to say mankind has learned a lot about the ancient herb over the last 3000. But, can you have a mint lawn?

Mint is a great ground cover and can be used by those looking for alternatives to water soaking turf grasses for their lawn. Mint grows under 4 inches high and does not need mowing. It also gives off a sweet aroma whenever walked on. It is also self propagating and can add green to any lawn.

Today we’ll be looking at whether we can stretch this versatility a little further, as we discuss the possibility of using mint as ground cover. Is mint a suitable replacement for traditional turf grass? What are its comparative strengths and weaknesses?

Can You Have A Mint Lawn?

The prospect of bathing your yard in a rich minty aroma all year round is certainly exciting. There is also the fact that mint is relatively easier to grow than some grasses depending on the amount of sunlight and water available. But how feasible is a mint lawn?

You can have a mint lawn and all of its benefits if you don’t live in a neighborhood with HOA requirements that prohibit it. If you live outside of the constraints of an HOA you can implement a mint lawn instead of turf grasses with the right preparation and research.

Even if you have never considered it before, it is not unheard of to use mint as a ground cover. The smell it gives off is besides the point, it can actually take the place of a struggling lawn grass.

Why Turf Grasses May Be Inferior To Mint

Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons why you might want to opt against a traditional grass lawn.

Firstly, turfgrass is a MASSIVE consumer of water. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that Americans use nearly 9 billion gallons for “outdoor irrigation” daily. Combine this information with the fact that grass is the most populous “crop” grown in the country, and you get a disturbing picture of how much water we actually waste on what is essentially aesthetics.

Here are some other facts that the EPA would like homeowners to know about their water usage in their lawns…

Water Usage In The U.S.DailyMonthlyYearly
Total Water Usage For Families In The U.S.29 billion gallons870 billion gallons10.6 trillion gallons
Total Outside Water Usage For Families In The U.S.9 billion gallons270 billion gallons3.3 trillion gallons
Percentage Of Outdoor Water Lost to Evaporation And Overwatering50%50%50%
Potential Water Loss Of 1 Broken Sprinkler Head In A Home Irrigation System139 gallons4167 gallons50,000 gallons

This limited use is another reason some people might opt against grass. Alternative coverings like thymes and mint can have aromatic benefits in addition to looking nice. Mint, in particular, can also be used for spicing up dishes and making herbal teas. 

Thirdly, grass lawns are the norm in most neighborhoods, which some homeowners may find boring. A grass alternative might appeal to people who like to stand out from the crowd.

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What Type Of Mint Can Be Used In Lawns?

As you can see, there are several reasons to go for something like mint as a lawn replacement for your property.

“Mint” is actually the genus Mentha, which consists of several species, sub-species, and cross-breeds of mint plants. Each species has unique characteristics but certain traits are noticeably prevalent across the genus. One of these traits is the aggressive root networks that are quick to establish (and re-establish) themselves.

However, not all of mint’s 600+ variations are suitable for use as ground cover. If you’re planning to use mint as a substitute for traditional lawn grass, you should avoid the tall varieties (Horsemint, Buddleia mint) and opt for the low-growing creeper varieties.

According to professional landscapers, Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is the best choice in this regard. This low-creeping mint species is pretty unique when compared to other varieties, but it still retains some classic traits. 

Corsican is one of the few mint species that isn’t considered “invasive”. It will not spread too wildly, although it will spread (6-12 inches). Corsican uses an intricate network of underground roots, known as rhizomes to inch its way across the soil. 

Most gardeners simply grow Corsican mint in containers and pots but it also works well as ground cover.

The plant is beautiful and is made up of a literal maze of tiny green leaves. Lovely lilac flowers emerge from the brush in summer, making this one of the prettiest mint plants. The flowers release a sweet scent that has shades of peppermint, something you won’t get from grass.

Here is your chance. If you want to get your mint started in your yard, I recommend this seed pack sold on Amazon: Outsidepride Corsican Ornamental Mini Mint Ground Cover Plant Seed

Will Mint Invade Grass And Take Over A Lawn?

If there is mint in a flower bed or garden near a turf grass lawn, is there a real danger of it spreading into the grass and overtaking the area? Without human intervention, would the turf grass simply be replaced with mint on its own?

Mint can invade grasses and take over portions of a lawn. Certain variations of mint can be very aggressive. Other types like Corsican mint are much less invasive and can be contained easily to certain areas. Though, if planned properly, it can also purposefully take the place of turf grasses.

It takes planning and intention to get turf grasses to form into a lawn in the first place. Simply throwing some random seed on a dirt yard will not do the trick for grass or any other ground cover. The same is true for most mint plants.

Some are more aggressive and some are not, but it would take planning, preparation, and effort to get any form of mint to take over an entire lawn. It can be done if that is your purpose, but it won’t just happen on its own to form a green yard without major bare patches.

Is Mint A Good Ground Cover?

Sure, mint can be used as a ground cover, but is it actually a good choice? Absolutely.

Mint is a great ground cover for several reasons. Mint is easy to grow and it spreads on its own without much human intervention. There is also the added benefit of the sweet smell that comes from large areas of mint. Then there is the 4 inch height that eliminates the need for mowing.

Our recommendation is Corsican, a low-growing mint (up to 4 inches) with a manageable spread and high aesthetic appeal. Did we also mention the aroma? Opening one’s bedroom window to a Corsican-rich atmosphere every morning is an indescribable pleasure.

The plant is evergreen in friendly climates, but it will wilt in harsh winters. Luckily, Corsican retains seed heads during this “hibernation” mode. The seeds begin germinating once the spring rolls around. The dead parts of the plant are a rich source of nitrogen for the next generation.

The 4-inch maximum height means there is little need to mow. Unlike grass, which will keep growing taller, Corsican mint stops and uses all its energy to spread. All you’ll really have to do is a bit of edging and touching up.

Although it is not the best mint for teas, Corsican is still good for spicing up beverages. In small amounts, though, because it is a bit too sweet for most people. However, it is great aromatherapy every time you walk across your yard.

Corsican is also resilient to foot traffic, and your pets and kids can run around freely without causing damage. You could also use a combination of stepping stone paths and Corsican to make your home stand out. 

The mint is also less thirsty than most varieties of lawn grass, and you might notice significant differences in your water bill if you decide to switch. You can also plant Corsican in a partially shady environment to conserve water even further. All you need to do is keep the soil moist. However, flooding the soil can expose the plant to fungi.

Corsican is also less sensitive to soil conditions than a lot of lawn grasses. Mint plants have weed-like hardiness, and they can grow in pretty much any soil type. If you wish to lend a helping hand to the growing process, we recommend a little bit of slow-release fertilizer.

The plant spreads instinctively towards vacant space, so you don’t need to worry about bare spots when you first plant it. 

Another thing you might not know about Corsican is that it is an organic pest repellent. It releases certain scents that deter ants and termites, specifically. A great way to protect your house or vegetable beds.

Is Mint A Weed?

Much like beauty, “weeds” are in the eye of the beholder. Though it doesn’t fall into the private declaration like a preference would (i.e. ‘I like chocolate, but don’t like strawberry), it can still be considered an opinion. Opinions need some observable facts to support them. Some may consider mint a weed and some may not.

In general, mint is not a weed since it has a wide variety of uses and some purposefully plant it to be used or seen. Those that might consider it a weed usually are referring to the variations that aggressively spread. These can take over areas and root out other desirable plants.

Generally, weeds are regarded as being of little value or even as detrimental competition for things we want to grow.

So, mints are weeds to the same extent a property beholder regards them as such. If they are a nuisance to you, they are weeds.

However, mint is very useful to a lot of people, many of whom grow it intentionally. If you are in this camp, then mint is not a weed.

In the technical sense though, it is easy to classify mint plants as weeds because of how rapidly they spread, as well as how resilient they are. They will also outcompete most other plants if soil resources are low. 

It is also easy for spreading to spiral out of control. You will have to trim some sections or, in extreme cases, bring out your lawnmower. If you choose to mow, make sure to bag the clippings to prevent seed heads from dropping into the ground.

The Final Touches On A Mint Lawn…

Mint will not look like a grass lawn, that has to be stated plainly. Yet, it will green the space and give off an aroma that now turf grass can. It will also save you on mowing, trimming, and watering.

It will also set your lawn apart from all those around you if you are not trying to have but one more putting green style front yard. Mint can help those with uneven ground as well since it should be left between 3 and 4 inches high. This can cover over a ‘multitude of sins’.

It only takes some initial effort and then mint will take over on its own. If you are looking for that ‘sweet’ alternative to your water hogging turf grass, this could just be what you have been looking for.

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References

https://www.epicgardening.com/corsican-mint/

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/mint/planting-mint-for-groundcover.htm

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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