Grow Catnip as a Cash Crop

It's easy to grow catnip. Turning the herb into a cash crop takes a little more effort but can be done.

| March/April 1980

Most people are well aware of the fact that cats are fascinated by catnip. It seems the little animals can't resist the lure of Nepeta cataria's essential oils, which are said to be similar in scent to the chemicals a female feline gives off during her mating period.

Lesser known, however, is the fact that the plant's dried leaves and flowers make a tasty herb tea, and—when brewed a bit stronger—the beverage becomes a potent medicinal concoction for the treatment of common colds, menstrual pains, baby colic, flatulence, flu, tension headaches, nervousness, and insomnia.

On our Florida farm, we grow catnip for all those reasons, but primarily our catnip patch is a 20-acre cash crop that adds thousands of dollars to our income!

Cultivate Contentment

Catnip was first brought to this country by early colonists as an essential component of their medicinal gardens. But, before long, the hardy plants escaped and soon grew wild over much of the United States.

It should be obvious from the versatile herb's ability to thrive on its own that catnip can be a sure-fire crop . . . once you understand its needs. Full sunshine is a must for the plant, and good drainage is equally important. Happily, since catnip's shallow, long, fibrous roots thrive in poor, dry, sandy soil, you'll hardly ever need to water your crop once it's established. Additionally, catnip cultivators don't have to worry about bugs or worms, because such pests—along with goats, chickens, and rats—dislike the leaves' strong oils.

As far as soil preparation goes, we've found that even a very little chemical fertilizer can destroy the herb, and raw, uncomposted manure will kill the plants, too. We use approximately one teaspoon of 50% organic 6-6-6 per plant in the early spring and, again, in July. And although the addition of a little agricultural lime to the earth is usually advantageous, a 5.8-6.5 pH range is satisfactory.  

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