A Beginner’s Guide: How to Grow Catnip from Seed
If you are a cat lover, growing your own catnip is a real treat. Catnip, also known as Nepeta Cataria, is a robust and easy-to-grow member of the mint family that caters to our feline friends. Helping it grow from a tiny seed into a lush plant can be an incredibly rewarding experience. This comprehensive guide will take you through the steps of growing catnip from seed.
Understanding Catnip and Its Growing Conditions
Catnip is a perennial herb native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, but it can grow almost anywhere. It is not picky when it comes to soil type but thrives best in slightly alkaline, well-drained soil. The plant can grow up to three feet tall and has heart-shaped leaves with a grey-green color. During the summer months, it produces white or lilac flowers.
Favorable conditions for growing catnip are similar to those required by many common herbs. Full sun or partial shade is ideal. It is tolerant to drought and can fairly thrive in poor, rocky soil. However, for the best results, it is recommended to grow in rich, well-aerated, slightly alkaline soil.
Starting with Seeds
Planting catnip from seed is straightforward. Start by soaking the seeds in water overnight. This softens the seed coating and promotes faster germination. Drain the water and place the seeds on a paper towel to dry. Seeds should be sown indoors during late winter or early spring to give them a head start on the growing season.
Plant your seeds in a seed-starting mix, about 1/8 inch deep. Keep the soil moist but never waterlogged. Seeds should germinate within one to two weeks. Once seedlings are around three inches tall, they can be transplanted into individual pots or directly in the garden, if temperatures remain above freezing.
Care and Maintenance
Once your catnip plant is established, it will require minimal care. Regular watering is important, particularly during dry periods. The soil should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Be careful not to over-water as this can lead to root rot. Mulch can be used to retain moisture in the soil during drier months. Catnip also appreciates occasional feeding with a gentle, organic fertilizer.
Pruning is an essential factor in maintaining your catnip’s health. Regular trimming encourages bushier growth and prevents the plant from becoming leggy. Cutting off flower heads stops the plant from setting seeds and can encourage several cycles of bloom during a growing season. However, if you wish the plant to self-seed, let some of the flowers develop into seed heads.
Harvest and Use
You can start harvesting catnip once the plant reaches a height of 8 inches. Harvesting is typically done before or during the plant’s blooming period. To harvest, simply cut off the top third of the plant. The leaves and stems can be used fresh or dried.
Catnip is not just for cats! Humans can also benefit from this fragrant herb. Catnip can be brewed into a tea and has been traditionally used for its medicinal properties. It’s important to remember though, not everyone reacts to catnip (humans included). It is always best to consult with a healthcare practitioner before starting any new herbal treatments.
Common Pests and Issues
Like any plant, catnip can be susceptible to pests such as aphids, spider mites or white flies. Regularly inspect the leaves for any signs of infestation. These pests are usually managed by a strong jet of water or insecticidal soap. Remember, avoiding overwatering and ensuring good air circulation help prevent most common plant diseases.
Another “pest” you might encounter with catnip are neighborhood cats! If you find your plants are continuously being uprooted or damaged, consider planting in pots or placing a chicken wire fence around your plants to protect them.
Frequently Asked QuestionsQuestion 1: Why isn’t my cat interested in catnip?
Not all cats react to catnip. Sensitivity to catnip is hereditary, and about one-third of cats do not respond to the plant.
Question 2: Can I grow catnip indoors?
Yes, you can grow catnip indoors, provided it gets lots of sunlight. However, growing it indoors might attract your cats and they could damage the plant.
Question 3: Is catnip safe for my cat to eat?
Yes, catnip is safe for cats to ingest. In fact, it can be good for them! Chewing on catnip provides a natural dental health boost.