Tuesday, 12. January 2010 8:43
After catnip time.
By Jennifer Gallagher
My cats are junkies. One shake of the catnip tin, and I can barely get the lid off between smacks of their paws. They know where the tin lives, too, and will often spend hours trying to pry the cupboard doors open to get at their favorite treat. And how can I deny them? It’s so fun to watch them get loopy!
In a multiple cat household, though, we tend to go through a lot of catnip. And at $4 to $5 for a canister of the shredded stuff, a trip to the pet store can quickly get expensive. Did you know that with a small investment and a quick trip to your gardening store, you can grow your own? You’ll save money, have an endless supply, and you’ll be able to give your babies the “fresh stuff,” instead of dried flakes.
First, you’ll need a planter. I use a 12” plastic pot ($4.99 from my local nursery), and I suggest that you hang it, as the little buggers will swipe the first seedlings you have growing. Although it’s amusing to watch your cat drag a half-grown catnip plant down the hall – roots, dirt, and all – it doesn’t do much for your gardening endeavors.
Fill the planter with potting soil. Potting soil contains ingredients to keep the dirt loose, which is essential to growing herbs.
At this point, you have a choice. You can start your nip from seeds or, during the warmer months, you can get a plant already started from a nursery or garden store. One plant per pot is good, since the plant can grow up to two feet long.
If you decide to get a started plant, wet the soil in your pot, dig a little hole, and put in the new plant, along with the dirt it is growing in (squeeze the container to loosen the plant from its old home). Pack the dirt firmly around the new plant to eliminate air bubbles, and water it thoroughly. Keep the plant damp for the first two weeks or so so the roots can establish themselves in the new soil.
If you are starting from seeds, wet the soil in your pot and sprinkle five or six seeds on the surface. Cover them with a very light soil cover and dampen them with a mister bottle. Mist every day, keeping the soil moist, until you see little green shoots come up. Keep misting to keep the seedlings damp. Once your seedlings are about three inches tall, you will have to choose the strongest one or two and pluck out the others, because there won’t be room for all of them. Chances are, all the seeds won’t sprout, so you won’t have to make that many difficult choices!
While your plant is growing, water it every other day, but be sure not to soak it. Keep it in a sunny place (in front of a sunny window is good), and you should have a nice plant in no time.
Catnip leaves can be given to your cat “raw.” Just pluck a leaf or two and offer it to your kitty. Some cats will simply eat the leaves, while others will roll around on the floor with them. If your cat doesn’t respond right away, try crushing or breaking the leaf slightly to release the oil and aroma.
If your plant is getting out of hand, you can always dry some to save for later. Clip the longer branches and hang them upside-down in a cool, dry place for four to six weeks, until completely dry. Then clip into smaller pieces and save them in an airtight container out of the sun. I find that a mason jar works well. If you’re crafty, try putting some of the dried catnip, along with some stuffing, inside of an old sock and sewing the end shut. Instant cat toy!
Growing your own catnip can be a satisfying endeavor for both you and your kitties. As well as saving money, you have the gratification of knowing that you are giving your cats something you created yourself.