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September 2010
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Catnip – A herb that belongs to the mint family




Catnip is a herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae or the mint family. The leaves and stem of the Catnip resemble that of the sage, with their fuzzy look. The flowers are white and long with purple pinkish spots.They are bushy hardy perennials that grow up to 90 cm in height. As the name suggests, it is a plant that is loved by cats. It has a very intoxicating effect on them. They love to play with the plant, roll in it, nip the leaves, kick it and sometimes even sleep in a bed made of Catnip leaves. Nepetalactone is the main chemical component in Catnip that is responsible for causing such behaviour in cats. Catnips, known for their soothing properties, are used for medicinal purposes too. Tea made with Catnip leaves, helps in calming nerves, relieving cold symptoms, muscle spasms and other health related problems. These plants are native to Europe but are seen growing openly in North America.

PLANTING YOUR CATNIP:
1. Spring is the best time to start. Work up the soil a bit, to loosen it, and dig up a hole of about 3 to 4 inches in depth. Add a of bit compost to the soil inside the hole and mix it up well. This would be the planting area for your Catnip. Make sure that this area receives plenty of sunlight.
2. Plant the seeds inside the soil keeping a distance of about 15 inches between them. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, and water it lightly to moisten the soil.
3. Now wait for the seeds to sprout. When the plant is several inches high, pinch it back a bit. This will encourage it to grow bushier instead of taller.

CARING FOR YOUR CATNIP:
1. The first two weeks, water your Catnip twice weekly, and then reduce it to once every two weeks after the plant is firmly established. During hot periods, increase the water dosage to twice again.
2. Apply a good water soluble fertilizer after the first two weeks of planting. Continue this till the first week of summer. Don’t use fertilizers in autumn or winter, as the plant won’t absorb any nutrients from them.
3. A thin layer of mulch, applied to the base of the plant, during late autumn, helps it to stay alive and fight the cold weather. Remove it in early spring, when new growth appears.
4. Pruning is very important. Pinch off spent flowers from the stem, to stop self seeding. Prune your plant after the first bloom, to make it ready for a second flowering before winter. Keeping your plant to within 3-4 inches of the ground during winter will help it survive winter better and encourage healthy growth in spring again.





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