Choose several small containers to start your plants in, depending on how
many seeds you intend to plant. You can buy special pots from the garden
section of a store, or you can reuse and recycle things like clean yogurt
containers, or even egg cartons. The plant won’t be in this pot too long, so it
does not have to be super sturdy in order to work.
Choose a good quality potting soil. Catnip is a prolific plant and is not too fussy
about the type of dirt it grows in. Commercial potting soil has been sterilized,
which insures that the catnip is all that will be sprouting! Dirt from your yard
will do in a pinch, but be aware that you might get unidentified plants as well
Now, you are ready to plant your catnip seeds. First, prepare the pots. Fill each
pot not quite to the top with potting soil. Moisten the soil with water. Make a
small indentation in the soil–no deeper than around 1/8 inch or so. Take a tiny
pinch of the catnip seeds, and place in the small hollow you made. Gently cover
the seeds with the soil. You can also plant catnip seeds directly in your garden
after all danger of frost has passed. But be aware that if you do this, all the
neighborhood cats will not only be drawn to the catnip once it has begun to
leaf out, but will shred it, roll in it, eat it and generally make a big mess of what
you worked so carefully to grow. Pots that can be kept out of every kitty’s reach
are much more practical.
Find a nice sunny spot indoors that is safe from inquiring noses and paws to
place your newly-planted pots of catnip. Cover the plants with a sheet of plastic
wrap to simulate the growing conditions of a greenhouse. Remove the wrap
just as soon as you see the sprouts appear. Allow your catnip plants to grow
indoors until they reach about 2 inches in height. Make sure to keep the soil
moist at all times–catnip really likes water!
Once the plants are this size, they should be ready to transplant into their new
home and live outside. Or, if you prefer, you can keep catnip plants inside.
The best advice to insure the ease of having fresh catnip without the worry of
cats destroying it seems to be planting in a hanging pot. Indoors or out, this is
the way to go. It’s easy for you to tend the plant and place it in a sunny
location, and quite difficult for cats to reach it when it is hanging at your own
eye level! You can plant several seedlings per pot for a good-sized plant.
As the catnip plant grows, be sure to pinch off the new leaves in order to make
the plant bush out and have more leaves. Otherwise, the plant will consist of
several tall, weedy shoots and far fewer leaves. Since the leaves and buds are
what attract your cat the most, you want to make sure to have as many as
possible from each plant.
Harvesting your catnip is easy, but the right timing is crucial. You want the
leaves to have as much natural oil in them as possible. This seems to happen at
the time that the plant begins to bud out, so this is the best time to start picking
and preparing to dry. You can cut the plant back rather severely when you
harvest the catnip…. it will come back. It is hard to kill catnip! Lay the stems out
in a catproof area to dry, or you can use your oven turned on a very low
temperature. Watch the catnip carefully while drying, and turn as needed.
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