Growing Catnip For Your Cat's Delight.
Why grow catnip when it is so easily available online and in stores?
Well growing your own catnip means that your cat can enjoy the fresh stuff as opposed to dried.
Growing catnip is fun. Even if you are not a keen gardener you will find this herb easy to raise and harvest.
Your cat will have a constant supply to hand (or rather to paw.)
Catnip is said to repel a large variety of garden pests such as Whitefly and Japanese beetles.
The herb is known to attract bees (good for your garden.)
Your homegrown catnip will not only be appreciated by your cat for the fun it gives her, but also by you - It has lots of culinary uses and many folks claim many medicinal benefits.
You can find out the effect that catnip has on cats here - The Catnip Effect.
If you are growing catnip for the sake of your cat, then don't go growing ornamental catnip. The ornamental varieties are good to look at but your cat will get no kick from them.
If you stick to Nepenta Cataria you wont go wrong and your cat will thank you for it.
Growing your catnip from seed is easy, but you can of course grow from young plants. Obtain your plants from your local garden center or a friendly neighbor.
Growing from seed. Start in small pots or trays, using moist potting soil, about two months before the last frost. Press the catnip seeds down gently and lightly cover with the soil.
Cover over the pots or trays with a layer of plastic and keep in a warm dark place, do not let the soil dry out.
In around two weeks shoots should start to appear.
Now is the time to let your catnip seedlings have some sunlight, move them out of the dark to a sunny window, again you should ensure that they are kept moist. In around five weeks or so they should be ready for planting out.
Once you are sure that there is no danger of frost you can transplant your catnip outside.
Growing catnip only requires reasonably good soil, a bit of rain and a fair amount of sun. Be warned though, catnip can grow very aggressively if not controlled.
You may prefer to grow catnip outside in tubs, pots or containers.
Grow catnip and your cat will love you for it.
Image courtesy of barockschloss @ flickr
Hanging baskets are another solution with the added advantage that you can keep your cat away from the herb, just picking some daily to give her a treat.
If you do plant out your catnip in its own patch, surround it with a border edging or wire netting.
You may want to cover your Nepenta Cataria with netting, leaving just a section exposed for your cat.
Cats do like to chew on and roll about in the herb (and sometimes neighboring cats too,) this does hinder its growth somewhat. Regularly rotate the section exposed.
So you now have your cat garden and your kitty has her summertime supply of her favorite herb.
To keep your cat happy all through the winter, it is a simple matter to harvest and dry a stock of catnip.
When the plant has bloomed and the stalks are around six to twelve inches long, cut them near the base. It is best to wait until any dew has dried off of the leaves.
Tie bunches of about a dozen stalks together, near the base, using thread, bag ties or wire.
How many bunches you need depends on how may cats you have and how you are going to use the dried catnip. If you are going to fill cat toys with the herb, then you are going to need more than just giving your cat a pinch now and then.
Remember that as the catnip dries out it will decrease in volume, so harvest a little more than you think you will need.
The bunches need to be hung upside down. Hanging upside down helps the catnip oils to spread evenly throughout the plant.
Hang the bunches of catnip in a dark place, preferably with some air circulation.
A closet can be a good choice if it is not in frequent use, (the door needs to be shut most of the time so the bunches dry.)
Growing catnip only requires reasonably good soil, a bit of rain and a fair amount of sun.
Image courtesy of librarianguish @ flickr
If you don't have a suitable dark place to hang up the bunches, put each bunch in a brown paper bag perforated with air holes and hang them like that.
An added advantage with using bags, is that you don't end up with little pieces of the catnip plant over your floor.
How long it takes for your catnip to completely dry out depends on how little light it is exposed to and how dry the air is in your home. It could be dried out in a couple of weeks but may take as long as eight weeks.
Take your dried catnip and separate the leaves and blossoms from the stalks. Crumble up the leaves and blossoms into a bag or over a sheet of paper and transfer into a glass or ceramic storage jar.
There you have your cat's winter supply of homegrown catnip.
Either discard the stalks, or cut them up as small as possible to use as filler for cat toys. It is best not to let your cat get to the stalk segments directly as she could choke on them.
Growing catnip means your kitty has all she needs of the fresh stuff that sends her ga-ga. Out of season she can enjoy the home dried herb, more potent than the store bought stuff.