Harvest signifies the end-point of a plant’s life. For most plants, harvest is carried out once the seeds or leaves reach maturity. Then, matured plants are cut off to make room for new growth.
A catnip’s life is short-lived as the plant can bloom to maturity in less than a year. But, as a perennial, the plant is bound to reseed and grow back every year with proper care.
When should you harvest Catnip? Catnip plants should be harvested at the peak of their bloom. Therefore, the best time to harvest the plant is during the later hours of the morning. By this time, moisture from the morning dew must have dried off from the plant’s leaves.
Catnip is relatively easy to grow, and it is a fast grower as well. However, Catnip is not a fan of cold soil, so it would be advisable to plant Catnip after winter when the threat of frost has passed.
It is better to put off harvesting a catnip until after it flowers and blooms because the leaves of a flowering catnip plant tend to be more fragrant and favorable.
At the peak of its maturity, a catnip can grow to a height as high as two to three feet tall, with its stems spreading out in cross-sections.
The most appropriate season to harvest your Catnip is between spring and fall. By this time, your plant should be at least six inches tall, even taller. At this size, it is ready for harvest.
Harvesting catnip is easy; you could even do it with your bare hands. You may choose to pluck only the leaves or pull them right from the stems. After harvest, the leaves and flowers can be preserved by drying.
The drying duration of the plant depends on the climate of your region. In some regions, Catnip can completely dry out in about two weeks. In other regions, it may take a month, even more.
The Catnip, just like its close cousin catmint, is cold-hardy and can withstand frost to an extent. It thrives best in zones 3 through 9.
The perfect temperature for Catnip falls between 55 and 85 degrees. The plant, however, is pretty cold tolerant and can hold up against frosty temperatures as low as 28-32 degrees Fahrenheit in autumn. But, a dip below this is enough to stunt the growth of the plant.
Catnip is a perennial, but it does not mean it stays alive throughout the year. The winter season is dreaded by the plant, especially in regions/zones with cold climates.
In most zones, Catnip is most likely to play dead during the winter season and come back to life during spring when the soil and weather are warmer and more favorable.
You can take some measures to prepare a catnip plant for the winter season, so it does not get severely stunted. These measures can be referred to as ‘winterizing’ the Catnip.
Cutting down a catnip plant just before winter begins is one sure way to keep it safe and empower it to outlive the cold. Trim off woody and leggy stems.
If they are any mature leaves, harvest them and preserve them so you can have a steady supply of Catnip all through the winter.
Cloches are miniature glass domes. Planting catnip in either a cloche or a glass dome would shield it from the harsh waves of frost.
3. Minimal Mulching
Mulching helps to retain soil moisture. Therefore, the more mulches used, the more moisture retained in the soil. Therefore, if mulches should be used at all, you should use them in minimal quantities.
A catnip proliferates once established. Winter causes it to die back, but as soon as winter is over and done with, it springs back very quickly and should be ready for another harvest at the beginning of the following fall.
With proper care and favorable conditions, the plant will reseed and spring back after winter and complete its perennial lifespan.
You can quickly tell a mature catnip plant by just looking at it. The size and fragrance of the leaves are proof of their maturity and readiness for harvest.
Catnips are grown majorly for their leaves, flowers, and seeds. As a fast grower and a short-lived herb, Catnip performs its metabolic processes in quick succession. As a result, germination occurs between one to fourteen days after it gets planted.
A catnip is readily propagated by seed. Call it a self-seeder, if you may—the plant first flowers before it goes to seed. The more seeds, the more Catnip pops up in your garden.
So, if you do not wish for a rapid spread of Catnip in your garden, the most appropriate thing to do is pinch off the flowers as soon as they begin to appear.
Like every other herb, Catnip will lose potency in flavor and fragrance over time, even if you preserve it. However, some modes of preservation make it last longer than others would.
Catnip plants can be preserved by freezing or drying. Drying is the preferred method because dried catnip plants can last as long as two years before they go utterly bland in taste.
Catnip leaves are pretty much ready for harvest even before the plant begins to flower. However, it is advisable to do the harvesting after the plant has begun flowering.
The reason is that, once the plant begins to flower, the fragrance and flavor rise to their peak.
However, the plant is not designated to cats alone. Humans also put it to use. There are just so many things you could do with a catnip plant. Catnip can even be used in place of catmint without much noticeable difference.
The flowers of the plant can be preserved just like the leaves; via drying and freezing. These flowers have proven to have medicinal value.
You can use the foliage alongside the flowers to brew a medicinal tea that is highly effective in treating stomach upset, insomnia, stress, muscle spasms, and a lot more.
The flowers add aromatic flavor to salads, stews, and meat dishes, not to forget its culinary value. Catnip could also be used to make cat toys, and they are present in some cat meals.
The leaves of the plant also come in pretty handy. Catnip leaves in the garden also tend to serve as pest deterrents to their companion plants.
Catnip can also be used to make catnip oil which is applied to the skin to repel mosquitoes. While the catnip plant is safe for human consumption, users should do so moderately. The reason is that large amounts of it in the body are toxic to one’s body system.
The catnip plant, also known as Nepeta Cetera, is a short-lived perennial hardy to zones 3 through 9. The herb, which happens to be a fast grower, is quick to reach its maturity level.
It would be best to delay harvesting the leaves until the flowers begin to appear. Flowering plants tend to have the most aromatic leaves, and what’s a catnip plant without its aroma?