Marge Says, "Catnip! I couldn't care less."
After much mewling, kneading and unrelenting stony stares I finally gave in to Marge’s demands to grow catnip in the garden. While I’m a big fan of catmint (Nepeta mussinii) because of its spires of blue flowers and steel gray foliage, catnip (Nepeta cataria) has never really caught my eye. I find it to be on the weedy side and it can be pretty invasive. However, Marge insisted and really, who can say no to such a charming face?
What’s a girl have to do to get some catnip around here? That’s what I’ve been asking myself ever since I moved in with Allen. I wasn’t sure if the man was being obstinate or just couldn’t take a hint, but he would not go get me a catnip plant. I’d have gotten the darn plant myself if I had a driver’s license, money and thumbs.
Well, a couple of months ago he finally came home with a plant, potted it up and placed in a sunny spot in the garden. I patiently waited for it to grow and when the time was right Allen snipped a few leaves for me to try. Dang it all if it didn’t have any effect on me at all. All that time and energy and NOTHING. Not even a twitch of a whisker. It turns out that I’m one of the 10 to 30 percent of the cat population that doesn’t respond to the aromatic oils in catnip. Apparently cats inherit the catnip gene and my parents didn’t have it to pass along to me. The worst part was conceding to Allen that we didn’t need to get the plant in the first place. I just had to turn on my heels and sashay away as if I didn’t care. And feigning indifference is hard for me; I’m very emotional.
Now this doesn’t mean other felines should give up on catnip. It is a glorious experience for most of you and it’s easy for your parents to grow. So there’s no reason in world you shouldn’t be able to have a little catnip on hand.
Catnip plants are readily available in garden centers during the spring and early summer. Be sure to get common catnip (Nepeta cataria) and not a catmint such as ‘Six Hills Giant’ or ‘Walker’s Low’. Catmints do not have the same effect on cats.
Plant catnip in an area that receives full sun. It’s not fussy about soil, but it must be well drained. If you are going to grow it in a container, add some gravel to the bottom of the pot first to help improved the drainage. Once established catnip is quite drought tolerant.
Catnip can also be grown from seed. In late spring sow directly in the garden. Thin the seedlings to 20 inches apart when they are 2 inches tall.
Homemade Catnip Sachet
- Be sure the plant you harvest from has not been chemically treated i.e. sprayed with bug spray. If you aren’t growing catnip it can be purchased in bulk at pet stores, but it may not be as aromatic as homegrown.
- Harvest stems when the plant is about 12 inches tall. After the dew has dried on the leaves is the best time to do this. Cut more than you’ll think you need because once it dries there won’t be as much.
- Lay stems on newspaper in a single layer or bundle them together and hang them upside down. Keep in a dark, well ventilated, cool, dry room such as a closet, garage or laundry.
- After about 2 to 3 weeks the herbs will be dry.
- Crumble leaves. Discard stems. And store in a glass jar with a lid or a paper bag.
- Fill a small muslin drawstring bag and toss to kitty.