Growing Catmint

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"Growing Catmint"
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Catmint (Nepeta cataria) is one of those rare plants that will grow almost anywhere. The herb is also known as catnip, catnep, English catnip catswort, nep, nip and a few other names. The catmint plant not only excites pussy cats, it's useful to humans as well.

A member of the mint family, the plant has its own unique aroma. The leaves are light green and fuzzy to the touch. Clusters of purplish flowers appear when catmint is in bloom. The plants grow up to three to four feet in height. We all know the effect this herb has on cats, but when infused, makes an excellent herbal tea for humans.

The herb grows easily in nearly any soil, and can even be grown indoors. Fertilizer isn't necessary, unless the soil it's planted in is of the worst quality. The plants do well in sun or partial shade. Catmint is a very aggressive grower, so give it plenty of room, or it will overtake the entire herb garden. Water, but not excessively, as this particular mint doesn't need the amount that other herbs sometimes do.

Seeds can be started inside. If planting from seed outdoors, sow sixteen to eighteen inches apart. Cover lightly with dirt. Water occasionally, and keep weeded. The perennial catnip will reseed itself every year, or seeds can be collected and dried. Let it reseed if you have plenty of room, as it will grow easily on its own. Catmint can be seeded in the fall as well as the spring. When seeded in the fall, the plants grow more densely. Harvest the leaves as the plants bloom, from midsummer through early fall.

The leaves can be fed to the cat fresh off of the plant, or dried and placed in plastic bags for future use. Dried catmint put in with stuffing when making a simple cat toy out of cloth, or sprinkled on a cat bed. Some cats are immune to the effect, but the vast majority will benefit from eating the plant anyway. The leaves aid in digestion and help cats to avoid hairballs.

Catmint can also be eaten by humans. To make candied catmint leaves, mix an egg white with the juice from a lemon. Dip the leaves in the egg and juice mixture, then dip in a small bowl of sugar. Place the leaves on wax paper to dry for about an hour, then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Tea made from catmint is often used for colds and for its calming properties. The tea can be made from fresh or dried leaves of the herb. Boil water, put the leaves in a tea ball, steep for four to five minutes, and enjoy. Do not boil the catmint with the water, as it robs the leaves of their healing properties.

Catmint is extremely easy to grow, decorative in the garden, and is good for both you and your cat. What else could you desire in an herb?

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