The catnip herb, Nepata cataria, is of course well known for driving cats wild with joy. As an herb though it has far more uses than giving something for cats to chew or roll around in.
Catnip is a member of the wider mint family, and as such it can be used to make a catnip tea, or simply used as a fragrance, as it exudes a lemon-mint scent. Some people will also go as far as to make use of it as a remedy for colds.
Many people prefer to grown their own catnip from seeds, and partially depending upon local climatic conditions, this can be done straight into the outdoors, or into plant pots.
If growing catnip is to start indoors it is generally a good idea to commence work about two months before the last frost is due. At this time catnip seeds should be planted into small pots filled with a potting soil mixture.
These pots should then be watered and kept in a relatively warm location. Re-planting the catnip sprouts should then commence once there is no more likelihood of a frost.
Catnip plants are likely to need a relatively large amount of space for an herb, and ideally individual plants should have about 30cm clearance. Each individual catnip plant is likely to grow to a height of between 60cm and 90cm.
Catnip should be planted in an area of well-drained, rich soil, and in location that receives a good amount of direct sunshine. When initially planted it is also a good idea to provide the catnip plant with some fertiliser, although this may well be the only additional fertiliser that the plant will need.
After the initial planting, the catnip plant should do very well by itself. It is not likely to attract too many voracious garden pests, although some protection will be required from nosey cats. Regular watering will ensure a long period of growth.
Bushy growth of the catnip can be ensured by the pinching back of new shoots, and with appropriate timing of harvesting, three such harvests can be obtained in a single growing season. The catnip will produce blue-lavender coloured flowers, with green leaves and square stems.
Catnip is of course a perennial, and with care will produce year after year from the same plant. Harvesting can be done relatively early in the growing season, with stems and leaves either dried out or left fresh, and then either given to a favoured cat, or made into that relaxing cup of tea.