Preparation for Direct Sowing of Catnip
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jeff Delimont
Posted on: May 31, 2001

I am preparing to plant 1 acre of catnip on my Kansas Farm. Although I know that it is maybe not the best way of doing this, I plan to sow it direct with an alfalfa planter. I do have some questions about this.

1. What preparation is needed for the field?

Any time herbs are sown directly in the field, it is essential that the fields be clean of weeds. Weed control is the number one concern for North American growers because of our high labour rates. The one acre field should be seeded with green manure crops and tilled in through several cycles to reduce weed populations and to increase organic content. Any number of standard green manure crops such as alfalfa, buckwheat and rye can be used.

2. What depth should I plant at?

Catnip seeds are small: about half the size of alfalfa. Certainly, you do not want to plant any deeper than you would alfalfa: about 1 cm (1/2 inch) deep.

3. The only problem I have is with Cheat Grass on my farm. Can I spray with a grass killer before I plant and if so would that hurt the sales at harvest?

Typically, most growers are choosing to grow organically and herbicides are not an option. For the medicinal herbs market, most of the demand these days is for certified organic product which commands the highest prices.

We do not have any information on which herbicides are known to work with catnip. But catnip is very similar to lemon balm and for that crop, diuron (0.6 kg/ha) or neburon (1.5 kg/ha) have been used with success. (1 ha = 2.5 acres; 1 kg = 2.2 pounds)

4. What type of catnip sells the best, and is 1 acre enough to interest a wholesale buyer?

It is important to grow the correct variety. Another seed company sold lemon catnip instead of the standard variety to growers in the United States and some had trouble selling their crop. Richters screens all catnip seed lots to ensure that improper substitution of chemotypes of catnip never occurs.

One hectare yields between 3-6 tonnes of dried herb defined as the above ground parts, including the stems. That translates to 2600-5200 pounds per acre. Some buyers may not want the stems in which case the yield will be much less, perhaps a third of the above numbers.

Would a wholesale buyer be interested in your crop at that volume? Yes, many buyers buy in 500-1000 pound lots.

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