Growing Killer Catnip Bud

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I had played with growing catnip for a few years,
but in 2002 I got serious about it.
I live in Northern California,
so the time frames below are relative to that climate.

This plant was started from seeds in March,
and by May it was about this big.

Catnip likes LOTS of water and LOTS of sunshine.
It grows like crazy, but you have to give it water.
I set up an automatic drip system to water this one about 4 times a day. Instead of a pan under the pot there's a cut up bucket, so that after watering it's sitting in about 4 inches of water. On a hot day,
the plant will suck that bucket dry in a few hours.

The real trick to growing catnip is in the pruning.
You have to be brutal about it. If you don't prune, you'll end up with a bunch of long straggly stems,
with only a single bud at the end of each.

Catnip Leaves are fine,
but that's not what drives cats crazy.
They want skanky Killer Catnip Bud.

So, as soon as leaves sprout on the main stem,
you cut the main stem just above the leaf pair.
Within a couple of days,
two new stems will start up
at the base of the leaves.
It doubles the number of stems.
As soon as the new stem grows a little bit and sprouts its first pair of leaves, you cut the stem again just above the leaf pair. You just do this over and over, and the catnip bush just gets thicker and thicker.

Around about the Fourth of July,
I stopped pruning and let all the stems grow out a bit, to open the plant up and let lots of sun in. So it started to get a little scraggly looking, but it was time to
let it go to bud.

On July 12, the stems had grown out about 8 inches (in just a week!) And... the first buds were starting to make an appearance.

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Oh Boy! This is just a baby bud, but now you have to watch it like a hawk because the buds are going to grow bigger and then suddenly flower.

It's best to catch them just before they flower.

When first round of buds appear,
snip them off and set them
in a single layer on a cookie sheet,
and set them in the oven at 190 degrees with the door open a crack.
(Just like making beef jerky.)

After they're dry, I stick 'em in baggies and store 'em in the freezer.

Now the Catnip plant will split into new stems at each leaf junction under the first bud, and in about a month the second batch of buds will be ready. The second batch is usually about 10 times bigger than the first, because of all the new stems. Usually about August or September, I have a year's supply of Skanky Catnip Bud -- and I'm tired of the whole thing, and the plant is huge, ugly and out of control, so that's about the time to trim it way back.

It'll stay small through the winter (if you live in California)
and in the Spring you cut it all the way down to the dirt.
The roots will live and start a bunch of new shoots
(about twice as many as the year before)
and you start the whole thing over again!

Here it is in March 2003...
the new shoots are coming up,
and this year's crop is on the way!
Winter seems to be long, this year.

May 2003 --
The second year with this plant and all's well. I got busy with my boat and didn't get the water system going until this month, so the plant is small and hardy. You can see how the brutal pruning is working, though the plant itself is about 5 inches high and 8 inches wide.

No big deal... it'll just be a little bushier than last year.
The weather has suddenly become hot and sunny, and I think we're ready for a growth spurt.

By July 4 it was time
to let it go to bud,
so it's starting
to get scraggly.

Most of the little buds
are the same size,
but one was just
a little too big (below.)

So I snipped it off,
crushed it a bit
to release the oil,
and let Stella Blue
test out the first of
the year's crop...

Well, then she put on
a little Grateful Dead and chilled...

April 2004 --

I got my act together this year
and planted spring flowers in March,
so the irrigation system is in full swing.

It ought to be a good year.

Stella has had her fill of the trimmings
from the brutal pruning exercises...

Update 2006 --

I thought I killed the plant,
because I was working too much and didn't turn on the irrigation system until months after the winter rainy season.
The dirt was so dry there was 1/2" of space around the edge of the pot,
and everything was dead.

So I soaked it really well, over and over for a day, and a million little shoots started coming up. Maybe the roots were still alive (although I doubt it) but I think perhaps some seeds had fallen down into the dirt after it had flowered last year.

Whew, we're back in business,
bushier than ever.

July 10, 2008

Stella Blue is gone,
and thus, the plant.

We had a short, wonderful, thirteen years together,
and I'd do it all over again if I could.

Respectfully submitted,

For some reason,
Stella has never
attacked the plant.

It's right there
within reach.

I've given plants away to friends, and their cats have destroyed the plant before it could bud.
But Stella just
uses it for shade.

She always has been a
very well behaved cat.

Perhaps she's just enjoying the smell. Who knows?