Earlier this summer the local grocery had some catnip plants that were clearly struggling, and had a seriously reduced price of 99¢! At this almost giveaway price a catnip garden was in the future. Cats love catnip, there is no doubt about it.
And in a lifetime of cat ownership they use a lot of catnip. The toys, the treats, the bags of the dried herb. So given this opportunity now was the time to become a catnip farmer and grow a very natural and healthy treat. Move forward several months and the plant is much bigger, and doing really well in some remarkably poor soil. However, it had become the treat of choice of some garden wildlife. The nipped ends indicate deer.
Time for harvesting catnip.
In June this was one straggly, sickly plant.
Several months later a good sized bushy plant loaded with leaves.
The deer loved them.
An important note is the soil the plant was grown in was very poor. Rock and construction debris under the topsoil. However, this hardy plant did quite well.
Harvesting catnip is quick and satisfying, especially for your cat. To harvest take a pair of sharp scissors and cut as cleanly as possible. Some gardening sources say to cut the plant down to about 3″. However, given the deer problem this plant was cut almost to the ground as nibbling deer will kill it anyway. Hopefully, as catnip is a perennial, it should return next year.
Traditional herb drying is done either by tying bundles with twine and hanging them upside down in a cool place. This can take several week. Alternatively, they can be dried in a slightly warm oven and drying slowly over a couple of hours. Both methods are appealing but needing instant gratification (yes talking about you, Slasher) the catnip was wanted sooner.
Strip the leaves from the stalk and place them on separate cookies sheets. Put the sheets in the oven at 125°F for about 1 hour and check. If the catnip hasn’t dried out enough (it should be crisp and dry) continue for another 20-30 minutes (this is an approximation based on individual oven temperatures). Turn the oven off and leave the catnip in the oven overnight. It should then be very dry and suitable to crumble for your cats enjoyment. Store in an airtight container. Once crumbled you can sprinkle on food (great for encouraging finicky eaters), make cat toys or just sprinkle somewhere suitable for them to roll around in.
With little effort you can give your lucky feline some delicious and natural catnip, for a fraction of the cost. Additionally, once you have planted the catnip it should come up every year and provide a continuous supply of fresh catnip.