I am looking forward to Spring. I was sick yesterday, really sick, and spent most of the day in bed in an attempt to calm my queasy stomach and alleviate the on and off visual squigglies and headaches. Of course, there was plenty of napping that happened.
During one of the napping sessions, I had the most wonderful dream. I owned a rather large herb farm with a house on it and a small store on one corner of the property where different medicinal salves, essential oil blends, tea blends, etc. were sold. The farm grew feverfew, Echinacea, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, marigolds, peppermint, sage, catnip, basil, rosemary, and a few other herbs. It was such a beautiful dream and I woke up with the deep-seated desire to start preparing gardens. *sigh* I still have to make it through the rest of this month, February, and part of March before actual Spring is here.
Due to this amazing dream and the consuming desire for Spring and gardening it left behind, I am going to be writing about the different herbs from my dream. I haven’t decided if I am going to do them one at a time or combine a couple of herbs for each post. I guess we shall see, and with that, here we go.
I have grown catnip in the past and have about a gazillion seeds from my last catnip harvest around a year and a half ago. I originally grew the catnip for my cat, Bellenus, so that he would always have it and it would be fresh and organic. Bellenus, unfortunately, has passed but we have another cat, Brucie, that spent the first year of his life taking catnip straight from the plant any time he felt the urge, which was most of the time.
I harvested a massive amount of catnip to take with us when we left where we had been so that Brucie, Cernunnos, and Gemini would have nip. We are down to about a cup of that harvest left. Its past time to grow some more or I may be forced to actually buy some from a local retailer. I’d really rather not do that because I like knowing how the catnip was grown, without any little doubts running around my head. Besides, I grow incredible catnip, according to my cats.
I wish I could say the photo above was one of my catnip, but it is not. My catnip grew much bigger and was much greener with bigger leaves. Most of the listings for catnip say it grows to a height of 3-4 feet. My catnip grew to be almost 6 feet tall its second year and about 2-3 feet wide. I, apparently, can grow catnip quite well. s.
Though most people think of cats when they think of catnip, it has some wonderful medicinal properties. Using just the leaves and flowering tops, one can make a tea. A very mild version of the tea can be used to treat colic in babies as well as reduce restlessness and nervousness, especially in children. Have a fever due to having a cold or the flu? Make a stronger tea to reduce, and sometime completely relieve, the fever, with the added benefits of preventing nausea and diarrhea.
Catnip, also, has wonderful insect repellent properties. Bothered by mosquitos? Plant this herb around your yard, crushing a leaf or two on a few plants here and there, as needed, to reduce the mosquito population. You can also use the oils from the catnip plant to create a bug repellent to spray on your skin. Rubbing the leaves on the skin, or making an infusion for your bath, will help with skin irritations. I have also heard that adding the leaves to a salad gives it a light mint flavor and aroma, since catnip is part of the mint family. A Google search will provide you with how to prepare any of these catnip aids, should you need guidance.
Growing catnip is quite easy. Though most of the links on how to grow catnip say it loves to grow in the sun and should be provided with a spot that gives it full sun all day, the catnip plants that I grew that had shade around mid-afternoon grew much taller and wider, had larger leaves, and way more flower buds on them than the ones that experienced the recommended sun levels. These were the plants that I always found all of our cats lounging in, though Brucie was a bit non-discriminate with his catnip plant lounging placements.
If you’re going to grow catnip, I suggest making sure the soil you sow the seeds in has moderate to very good drainage. I had one catnip plant that was a little too close to an area the didn’t drain very well and it was always a bit stunted in its growth and had a less appealing appearance, until I moved it about 3 feet further away from the soil that didn’t drain so well. If summer temperatures are hot, soak the soil in the early morning, before the sun gets to the plant, or in the evening, once the sun is no longer directly warming the plant.
At the end of summer, cut the catnip back to about a foot to a foot and a half in height from the ground, and bundle the cuts to hang dry. If you want the seeds from the plant, I suggest picking the spent flower buds once they have begun to turn a little bit brownish. Place the buds on a flat screen with enough room below it to allow air to circulate beneath it to help with the drying process. Once dry, place buds in a bag (plastic or paper), close it tight, and shake. You can then either place a tray under the drying screen and dump the catnip back on it and give the screen a few shakes to help the seeds fall through the screen to the tray, or scoop out the catnip buds from the bag and collect the seed in the bottom of the bag. I find the screen method to be much easier.
Tomorrow: Lemon Balm