Mint seed failure; ants in the pot

ascerniaJanuary 14, 2008

I recently planted a "mix" of mint (curly, peppermint and spearmint) seeds in a rectangular pot. I planted them on January 1 at the same time as garlic chives (in another pot) and oregano (also potted separately). The chives are growing like gangbusters but neither the oregano nor the mint have even sprouted though the time period is even shorter (8-12 days).

My big concern is the mint because when I move the pot, ants stream out of the hole in the bottom of the pot. I have the pot in a mostly shady area and after doing some research started keeping the water really wet (last week so about 10 days after planting) as I was told that ants hate the soggy soil but that the mint loves it.

I guess my question is, is it possible that the ant infestation has destroyed the seeds? Have I been doing the right thing in keeping the soil really wet? Or do I just need to scrap this and start over.

thanks very much.


Ps -- I'm new at this so I apologize for my "lay" word usage.

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FOLLOW UP: After some addt'l research I think I still have about a week before I should really worry (about no sprouting) but does anyone know if the ants are a real concern?

Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 9:32PM
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Soak the pots, then lift out the plants and remove any ant nests at the base. Stand the pots up on bricks, and wipe them every month or so with eucalyptus oil to repel another invasion. A ring of pepper around the pot will also help deter the ants.

Mint seeds are notoriously unreliable - you never know what you're going to end up with, regardless of what they tell you on the packet. It's best to start mint with runners from a known plant. You seeds should have appeared in 10-15 days, and if you've kept the soil soggy, they've probably rotted and the ants are attacking the debris to tidy things up a bit. Mints like moist soil, not soggy soil, and there's a big difference. I think the same thing happened to your oregano, although they usually very slow to germinate - they need a soil temp of about 20C.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 3:32AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Ants indoors in pots?? What kind of seed starting soil are you using? If its not bagged, sterile, and meant for seed starting, you may not have much success. Here, all my plants are satrted from seeds and all are grown in small plasic pots under grow lights and heat mats. When I start plants from seeds, that equates to well over 400 plants. Yes, they do take up space, but are grown on a vertical shelf system I made, and do quite well without a single bug of any kind infesting any. There are also some orgainc aids to help germinate and prevent damping off of seedlings. Gardens Alive has all of these items, and have always worked well for me. Once my plants are big enough, and the outdoor weather is milder (mid May), they all get moved out to the greenhouse where many need a stay to 'harden off' the leaves, and get used to direct sunlight.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 1:36PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

mint seeds are honestly worthless- almost invariably inferior to the selected varieties, ESPECIALLY peppermint seeds, as peppermint is a hybrid and the seedlings are... not peppermint, and not that good either,

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 8:28PM
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Wow, thank you so much everyone for the help. I did start the seeds w/ a sterile potting mix BUT I used an old pot that was on the property and did not really clean it well.

I will start again and use runners, as well as a clean pot.

The tips on future infestations (i.e., peppers and eucalypt oil) are also great tips as my garden seems to have ants everywhere. I will certainly use these suggestions in the future.

With regard to the oregano, the outside temp has gotten up to 30 c today but it has been hovering in the 20s previously (which I believe would keep the soil approximately all right since its a container) but I will buy a soil thermometer to keep better track of that.

I also love the idea of the indoor herb garden as mine is getting pretty full of all my "projects". I'll keep that in mind though for now the herbs are going to have to stay outside! :)

Thanks again everyone!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 12:16AM
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Don't worry too much about the ants. As you say, outdoors they are everywhere, and indoors you may also meet them often, especially in holes at the bottom of pots kept in greenhouses.
I think that you should give your seeds more time to germinate. Last year it took some of my mint varieties three to four months to sprout, others sprouted within two weeks.
Another thing is that many mints love wet feet, but I'm afraid that this is not true for the seeds because moulds may spoil the seeds.
Storage, age and growing conditions of the seeds may also be important. Were they kept cool before sowing? Do they need a cold period for germination? Is it not too hot in your place?
Seed of some (hybrid) mints including peppermint is often inferior to mint grown from cuttings, but there are also species that do perfectly well when grown from seed.

Do you have experience with growing native Australian mints?

Have a nice mint-growing season!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 1:49PM
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