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					  Production of Catnip as a Commercial Crop
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial plant in        growers. Farmers are encouraged to grow Catnip
the mint family and is closely related to              on a trial basis only.
Spearmint and Peppermint. As the name implies,
catnip contains a highly aromatic oil which            Site Selection
elicits a variety of playful responses from cats. It   Catnip prefers a well drained silt loam or sandy
is packaged and sold for use in stuffed toys,          loam site. Soil should have good soil structure,
pellets, and shaker cans for scratch pads. The         higher organic matter and good soil friability.
plant is also used for medicinal purposes for          The site should be able to receive full sun.
humans and can be found in many health food            Catnip does require irrigation, so choose a site
stores as a herbal tea product. Catnip is also sold    with assess to water. Highly droughty soils
to home gardeners as an ornamental plant or for        without irrigation and poorly drained soils
use in homemade catnip toys.                           should not be used. The site should not have a
                                                       history of perennial or heavy annual weed
Catnip is a herbaceous perennial crop. Stands          pressure.
will normally last 3 years. Current catnip
production is centered in the Oregon and               Preparing the site:
Washington state area. Catnip grows in full sun,       Prepare a fine, firm seed-bed. Tillage is generally
well-drained soil and grows optimally at               required for Catnip production and is essential if
temperatures below 80° F.                              direct seeding.

The plant can reach 3 feet in height and is readily
distinguished by its hairy, gray colored leaves
and stems. The plant blooms in the summer with
clusters of 3/8-inch flowers at the tips of the
shoots. The blossoms are 2-lipped with white
and purple spotted petals (Ombrello, T. 2008).

Recent market demand for catnip has resulted in
a desire for trial of catnip locally. Catnip has not
been grown commercially in Maryland, and
therefore there are many questions regarding
production and harvesting methodology. The
below recommendations are based upon
production recommendations from areas such as
North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. Every
                                                        Catnip is a member of the mint family. It has
effort has been made to provide accurate
                                                        square stems, opposite heart shaped leaves and
recommendations, however as a new crop there
                                                        light blue small flowers. Picture Courtesy of
are many unknown production and marketing
                                                        Dr. T. Ombrello – Union County College, NJ
variables which increase the risk of losses to
Planting Methods:                                     drilling equipment may make this a feasible
There are a variety of planting methods for           option. Rows should be seeded 24 inches apart,
catnip, both fall and spring planting as well as      with seed dropped every 6-12 inches. Seed
direct seeding or transplants. In other production    should be set with a specialty precision seeder
areas, catnip is normally planted in the fall.        capable of singulating seed. Several models are
Spring seeding may also be accomplished but           available from specialty vegetable equipment
harvest is normally delayed one year. The below       and seed companies. Based on the above
options are recommended for trial:                    spacing, the seeding rate will be about 4 ounces
                                                      per acre.
Direct Seeding-Broadcast Application:
Catnip has an extremely small seed with low           Using Primed and Pelletized Seed:
seed vigor, which makes direct seeding very           Many vegetable seeds are pre-germinated and
difficult. Due to small seed size direct seeding      uniformly coated to aid in seed germination and
should be over a firm seed bed with precise           control seeding depth and singulation in the
planting equipment. Hay planting equipment            planter. There seems to be potential to have
such a Brillion hay seeder would be most              catnip seed pelletized, however research has not
applicable. Seed should be planted to a depth of      been conducted as of yet. There are several seed
1/16 to 1/18 inch. Care should be taken not to        pelletizing companies in the United Sates. The
plant the small seed to deep. Direct seeding is       process takes approximately 6 weeks to
not recommended in the spring at this time due        complete. Pelletizing seed may provide more
to a concern with the crop establishing before hot    planting options for producers.
summer time temperatures and reduction in yield
the first year. Current literature recommends a       Using Transplants:
broadcast seeding rate of 3-4 lbs per acre.           Transplants are currently the best recommended
                                                      method for obtaining productive stands of
                                                      Catnip. Transplants can be produced in a variety
                                                      of methods as described below.

                                                      Growing Transplants in a Plant Bed:
                                                      Catnip can be grown in plantbeds, similar to the
                                                      method used for tobacco. Prepare a firm weed
                                                      free seedbed in early spring. Choose a plant bed
                                                      site with southern exposure, well drained and
                                                      sandy or loam soil that will warm quickly. There
                                                      are currently no registered fumigants for control
                                                      of weeds, diseases and nematodes, thus choose
                                                      sites with no history of these problems. Seed the
                                                      plantbeds in early spring. Gently cover seeds
                                                      with a straw mulch or lightly rake over. Seed
                                                      may be hand broadcast. Mixing seed with
                                                      another carrier such as sand or feed may help
                                                      with broadcasting. The use of a tobacco seed
Example of a 3 row precision small planter
                                                      drop box spreader is the preferred method for
for small seed crops. This planter is available
                                                      seeding plantbeds. Seed at a rate of 10 ounces
from the Mechanical Transplanter Company.
                                                      seed per 100 yard bed (10 foot by 100 foot bed).
                                                      After seeding, cover the bed with floating row
Direct Seeding: Rows Application:                     cover such as remay or fabric cloth. Remove the
The existing literature makes little note of direct   cover when temperature reach 75° F and replace
seeding in rows, however transplants are set in       the cover when the temperature drops to 45° F.
rows and it seems plausible that precision            Irrigate as needed. A 100 yard bed will provide
transplants for 1.5-2 acres. Plants will take 60-65   Herbicides labeled for general herb production or
days from seed to reach transplant size. Set          for spearmint and peppermint production will be
plants in the field when temperatures average         explored for future production.
between 68° F and 86° F and after the danger of
frost has passed (average date of April 15- May       Disease and Insect Control:
1).                                                   There are few known diseases or insect pests of
                                                      catnip. As production increases there pest
Greenhouse Transplant Production:                     problems will most likely increase. Monitor the
No research exists regarding commercial               crop and identify any pest early. Appropriate
transplant production; however                        control measures will be sought after pest
recommendations are used with similar plant           complexes develop.
types. Direct seed in float bed trays if using
pelletized seed or sow raw seed in seedling flats     Using Shade Cloth:
and re-transplant to tray packs. Plants should        Catnip prefers full sun, however does not tolerate
grow similar to tobacco transplants. Expect           hot, humid temperature well. Some producers
transplants to be ready to set in the field 6 weeks   have experimented with shade cloth to lower the
after seeding. Fertilize with a constant feed         temperature during the maturation stage to
program of 100 PPM N program. Use                     maximize plant quality.
commercial soil-less potting soil and irrigate as
needed.                                               Harvesting:
                                                      Harvest catnip when in full bloom to maximize
Fertilization:                                        oil concentration and quality. Delaying
Take soil test prior to planting. Adjust pH to 6.5-   harvesting will result in poor quality catnip.
7.0. Apply phosphorus and potassium to bring          Plants should be cut to a height of 6-8 inches.
soil test level to optimum level. Catnip is a         The first harvest normally occurs around the first
medium nitrogen feeder. For establishment,            week of July. In other areas, catnip can be
broadcast 30 lbs nitrogen per acre pre-plant          harvested a second time in the fall. Do not
broadcast. Side-dress an additional 30 lbs. after     continually cut back small plants as the stand
the first harvest. For established stands, apply 40   with decline quickly.
lbs N at green-up in spring, followed by an
additional 30 lbs after first harvest.                Literature suggests Catnip may be harvested
                                                      either mechanically or by hand. There are more
Field Production:                                     questions than answers in this area. Many
Set transplants in rows 24 inches apart with 12       literature sources recommend harvesting catnip
inches between plants. This will result in a plant    as harvesting hay. Cut with a sickle bar or
population of 24,000 plants per acre. Plants may      mower conditioner. Ted catnip and let air dry in
be set with a tobacco transplanter that has been      the field to a moisture of 15%. The catnip can
geared-up for closer between row and in-row           then be baled with a small square baler.
plant spacing.
                                                      Other literature recommends hand harvesting
Weed Control:                                         catnip and hanging or spreading loose in a barn
 Weeds are a major pest of catnip. There are no       or greenhouse to dry. Hand harvesting will result
registered herbicides for catnip; therefore           in less damage and decrease loss of volatile oils
growers must rely on field cultivation to remove      from crushed stems. Current markets in
weeds. Cultivation is not possible in broadcast       Maryland desire hand harvested and dried catnip.
plantings and weeds will compete with the crop
in the first year. Plastic mulch may be a good        Other Harvesting Suggestions:
option for catnip production to reduce weed           Other areas for consideration include using a
cultivation and increase yields, however no           lettuce type harvester to cut and collect fresh
studies have been conducted as of yet.                plant material and transport to the curing shed or
dehydrator for drying. Another suggestion is to        catnip toys from home-based sewers. This
bunch catnip with rubber bands and hang from           cottage industry method of manufacturing allows
tobacco sticks as is done with cut flowers. A          people to earn money at their own pace.
third suggestion is to use the older “sewing           Cosmic Pet company projects they will purchase
machine” equipment originally designed for use         over $600,000 worth of catnip products during
with tobacco leaves to sew plants to the sticks        2008. Cosmic currently exports catnip to 13
for hanging.                                           countries and is expanding international sales.
                                                       Expectations are for the market to double over
Further Processing:                                    the next 5 years.
After drying to 15% moisture, plants should be
further processed to meet market specifications.       Catnip can also be sold directly at farmers’
Growers should work with the product buyer to          markets to the cat loving crowd!
establish catnip processing criteria. Catnip may
be ground and pelleted or sold loose. Some             Additional Informational Sources:
growers remove the stem and process only the
leaves and flowers. Some companies also buy            •Catnip (University of Kentucky, 2004)
catnip oil which is extracted through a stem           http://www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/introsheets/c
distillation method.                                   atnip.pdf

Yield:                                                 • Production of Catnip in North Carolina (North
Yield estimates vary widely from 1000 lbs per          Carolina State University State, 1997)
acre up to 6000 lbs. per acre. A reasonable            http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceeding
projection for first time growers is 1500-2000 lbs     s1990/V1-527.html
per acre.
                                                       • Catnip (Virginia Tech, 2001)
Marketing:                                             http://www.sfp.forprod.vt.edu/factsheets/catnip.P
Catnip is a specialty crop that has the potential to   df
be profitable on a per acre basis and has several
high profit derivative products associated with it.
Current crop prices are over $1.00 per pound of        Written By:
non-organic and over $2.75 pound per pound of
organic. Catnip is sold as dried leaves, stems,        Benjamin Beale, Extension Educator, St. Mary’s
flowers and/or pellets.                                County, University of Maryland Cooperative
                                                       Extension
In addition, there is also a market for catnip oil.
Catnip oil is produced by steam distillation and       Christine L. Bergmark, PhD, Executive Director
catnip oil is worth over $100.00 per pound.            Southern Maryland Agricultural Development
Catnip pellets, made from catnip dust and              Commission
extruded like rabbit pellets are another byproduct
of catnip production.                                  March, 2008
                                                       Use of trade or organization names does not constitute an
Current Situation (Spring 2008):                       endorsement by University of Maryland Cooperative
                                                       Extension.
Current interest in catnip is being driven by the
Cosmic Pet Product Company. Cosmic Pet                 Always read and follow the pesticide label. Use pesticides
Products has been supplying catnip to the pet          only in accordance with the directions on the label.
industry for over 35 years. In 2007 Cosmic Pet
Products used over 25,000 pounds of catnip             Equal opportunity/ Equal Access Programs
pellets at a cost of $0.80 per pound. Cat toys,
using catnip, are another side product of catnip
production. Cosmic purchases over 250,000

				
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