Cat toys filled with catnip line the shelves in pet stores across the U.S .with promises of aromatic herbs to send kitty into a joyful frenzy. Many fail to produce the desired results because they are filled with dried stems and leaves that lack the oils and fragrance that appeal to cats. Growing this hardy perennial at home provides an ample supply of fresh catnip to satisfy your cat's desires and can be dried for filling toys during the winter.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Remove rocks, roots and other debris. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost to improve drainage. Mix in well with the existing soil. Clay soils may benefit from an addition of builder's sand to improve drainage and aerate soil, as catnip suffers in soggy or wet soil.
Plant seedlings in full sun to partial shade. Space 18 to 20 inches apart to allow catnip room to grow. Reaching heights of 3 to 4 feet in optimal growing conditions, catnip spreads quickly, returning each year in larger clumps.
Water thoroughly to provide adequate water for young roots as they become accustomed to the new growing area. Once established, catnip requires little supplemental watering under most weather conditions. Supplemental watering during extremely dry periods may be needed.
Maintain the size and shape of catnip by pinching out center leaves on terminal stems. This forces side shoots to emerge and creates a dense, compact plant.
Harvest catnip when in full bloom. Clip the stems when weather is fair and foliage is dry. Gather into a small bundle and secure with elastic or garden twine. Hang upside down in a cool, dark area with adequate ventilation and allow to air-dry.