If you're a cat owner, you're probably familiar with catnip, a perennial herb belonging to the mint family--and one that's completely irresistible to cats. Catnip has the unique ability to hypnotize cats--immersing them in states of bliss that humans can only stand back and chuckle at. Although catnip is readily available and can be found at a variety of supermarkets, farmers markets, and pet stores, the plant is so easy to keep that you might want to consider growing and harvesting it yourself. If you'd like to provide your cats with a never ending supply of fresh or dried catnip, read on. Here's how you can grow and harvest your own catnip at home
Buy Seeds or Starter Plants
You can start growing your own catnip by purchasing either seeds or starter plants. Since catnip grows quickly, both options are good ones. A local garden center would most likely have either one--just be sure that you select common catnip and not one of the many ornamental varieties.
If you're starting out with seeds, gently press seeds into several small soil-filled pots. Water your catnip seeds just enough to moisten the soil throughout the pots and then cover the pots with a layer of plastic wrap to seal in the moisture and keep them warm. Once you notice that your seeds are beginning to sprout, remove the plastic wrap and place the pots somewhere where they will receive at least six hours of full sunlight--either outdoors or on a sunny window-sill. As long as catnip is exposed to full sun, it can be grown indoors all year long.
Using Starter Plants
Starter plants can be planted outdoors right away in the spring, as long as there's no indication of frost in the forecast. Since catnip reaches heights of three to four feet or more and can spread rather quickly, you'll need adequate space in which to plant it. If you want to plant it in an outdoor garden or alongside your home, find a spot that receives full sun and plant seedlings about 12 to 16" apart. If you don't have enough space in your yard or garden to grow catnip, plant it in large pots that you can keep on your deck or patio. Water your catnip plants regularly, and make sure they are left undisturbed by any neighborhood cats--or your own, for that matter. If you're having trouble keeping cats from bothering your plants, cover them with a mesh screen until they're strong enough to make it on their own.
Photo Credit Pinterest
Maintain Your Plants
Catnip doesn’t typically attract many pests, but it can happen. If you discover that pests are a problem, you can spray your plants with a safe, homemade solution of dishwashing soap and water. Add two to three tablespoons of dishwashing soap per gallon of water, and spray the tops and bottoms of the leaves with the solution every other day for a couple of weeks to keep pests away.
Along with minimal pest control and frequent waterings, prune your plants as needed to encourage leaf growth. You can do this by removing excess flower buds as they continue to blossom.
Once you're plants have reached heights of 10 to 12", you can begin to harvest them. The best time of day to harvest your plants is either in the late morning or in the early afternoon, when morning dew has fully evaporated from the leaves. To harvest plants cut stems at their bases, never removing more than half of the plant's stems at one time. Fresh leaves can be given to your cats, or you can dry them by tying the stems up in bunches and hanging them upside down in a dark area such as a basement cellar or pantry. Once dried, place leaves in airtight containers or baggies, storing them in a cool, dry spot for future use.
How to Use Catnip
Cats love fresh catnip leaves--and don't be surprised if those fresh leaves are completely consumed in matter of mere moments. If you have a large supply of dried catnip, you can fill handmade pillows and toys with it to make it last a little longer. Small toys filled with catnip can provide your cats with hours of entertainment--and they make great gifts for all of the other special felines in your life.
You don't have to be an expert gardener to grow and harvest your own catnip. With some time, patience, and minimal effort, you'll be able to provide your cats with an endless supply of one of their all-time favorite treats.
Guest post from Payton Price. Payton writes for TermLifeInsurance.org.