Catnip (Nepata cataria) is a perennial herb with fuzzy stems and heart-shaped, fuzzy leaves. From July to September, the catnip plant will produce pale lavender, tube-shaped blooms with purple speckles. If you want to make your favorite kitty happy, a catnip plant in the herb garden is a great way to begin. Although catnip is often planted for kitties, the herb is beneficial for humans too and is often brewed into tea.
Prepare the soil in a sunny spot in your garden. Use a hoe or spade to work the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Be sure to choose a well-drained spot, as catnip will rot in soggy soil. If you have a cat, plant the catnip in the back of the garden or in a hidden corner. Cats enjoy rolling in catnip, which can give the plant a messy appearance.
Plant catnip seeds directly in the garden. Make a shallow trench with the corner of a hoe. Plant the seeds about 4 to 6 inches apart in the trench and cover them with a light dusting of soil.
Water the area carefully immediately after planting, using a hose with a fine spray attachment. Keep the soil damp until the seeds germinate. After that time, water the catnip deeply, saturating the soil to a depth of about 8 inches. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
Thin the catnip when the seedlings are about 5 inches tall. Leave the healthiest seedlings in place, and allow 12 to 18 inches between each plant.
Use the catnip as needed, as trimming will promote continued growth. Cut the catnip plants down to the ground after the first bloom, and the plant will regrow and will soon bloom again. Catnip plants should be cut down in early spring to remove old growth from the previous year.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch, such as straw or shredded bark, around the plants before the first freeze. Although catnip is cold-tolerant and is hardy as low as USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3, mulch will protect the roots from damage caused by freezing and thawing.