- Making Herbs Bigger Through Pinching And Harvesting
- Pinching and Harvesting Herb Plants
- Rosemary Hair Rinse & Rosemary Vinegar
- Growing Rosemary
- Harvest Rosemary
- Using Rosemary
- Make Rosemary Vinegar
- Make Rosemary Hair Rinse
- When And How To Pick Catnip – Tips For Harvesting Catnip Plants
- Why Grow and Harvest Catnip?
- When to Pick Catnip
- How to Harvest Catnip Plants
- Comfort for Critters
- Grow Catnip as a Cash Crop
- To Get Going
- How to Harvest
- Cash for Catnip
- Home Enjoyment
Making Herbs Bigger Through Pinching And Harvesting
When you have an herb garden, you probably have one thing in mind: you want to have a garden filled with large, bushy plants that you can use in the kitchen and around the house. Your herb plants, on the other hand, have something else in mind. They want to grow as fast as possible and produce flowers and then seeds.
So how does a gardener overcome the basic urges of an herb plant in order to fulfill their own ideas of bigger herb plants? The secret lies in frequent pinching and harvesting.
Pinching and Harvesting Herb Plants
Pinching is the act of removing an upper portion of a stem on an herb plant in order to encourage new leaf growth from the lower dormant leaf buds. If you look at an herb plant, you’ll see that right in the crotch, where a leaf meets the stem, there is a small knob. This is a dormant leaf bud. As long as there is growth above it, the lower leaf buds will not grow. But, if the stem above a leaf bud is removed, the plant signals to the dormant leaf buds closest to the missing stem to grow. Since a plant normally produces these dormant leaf buds in pairs, when you take one stem off, two leaf buds will start to produce two new stems. Basically, you will get two stems where one was before.
If you do this enough times, in no time at all, your herb plants will be big and lush. Making herb plants bigger through this practice can be done either by deliberate pinching or harvesting.
Harvesting is rather easy, as it is the point of growing herbs in the first place. All you do is simply harvest the herbs when you need them, and Mother Nature will take care of the rest. Don’t worry about hurting the plants when you harvest. They will grow back stronger and better.
Deliberate pinching should be done when the plant is small or during times when you may not be harvesting much. All you need to do is remove a small top portion of each stem every week or so. You do this with a pinching action on the top of the stem. This removes the top part of the stem cleanly and those dormant leaf buds will then start to grow.
Pinching and harvesting do not damage your herb plants. Your herb plants will grow back bigger and healthier if you take the time to regularly pinch and harvest them.
Rosemary Hair Rinse & Rosemary Vinegar
Rosemary is one of those easy herbs. It is easy to grow, easy to use and easy to preserve. Plus is smells wonderful! No yard or patio should be without it.
Most people know to use Rosmarinus officinalis as a spice when cooking. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it is also used for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics and has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems.
In the lab, rosemary has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can neutralize harmful particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Also in the lab, rosemary oil appears to have antimicrobial properties (killing some bacteria and fungi in test tubes). It isn’t known whether rosemary would have the same effect in humans.
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Use 4-5 inch sprigs of non-woody rosemary and strip off the bottom 2/3rds of the leaves
Rosemary is an evergreen perennial, hardy in zones 8 through 10. It likes full sun and well-drained sandy soil, which means it’s not too picky and even likes its soil on the lean side. If you keep the soil slightly moist, but not too wet (it doesn’t like wet roots), you will have guaranteed success.
It grows equally well in the herb plot or in a container, however, the more room you give its roots, the bigger your plant will get.
Once your plant is established, you can harvest rosemary cuttings at any time for daily culinary use. In fact, this daily (or weekly) pruning will give you full and healthy plants. I keep several plants so I always have one to take cuttings from.
If you are growing Rosemary for drying purposes you could wait until the plant has just begun to bloom. This is when the plant has its maximum oil content and flavor. All you need is a pair of kitchen sheers and a harvesting basket.
Cut off the top 2 to 3 inches of each sprig, leaving green leaves and being careful not to cut the plant too close. You want to be sure and give it time to recover before winter sets in.
You can preserve your rosemary by bundling the clippings with a rubber band and hanging them upside down to dry. Use the same method as you would for lavender. Once the leaves are dry, in about 10 days, strip them off the stems and place in a container with a tight-fitting lid. I like to use small canning jars. Be sure to put your harvest date on the jar.
You can also use the ice cube tray for another preservation method. Once they’re frozen, place the rosemary cubes in a plastic bag and remove them as needed. This is a great way to get fresh herbs into your sauces and stews.
Use your rosemary harvest, garlic and peppercorns to flavor vinegar
Make Rosemary Vinegar
Use the bottle the vinegar comes in. All you need is a bottle of good quality wine or apple cider vinegar, 4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 1 clove or 1 tablespoon of garlic and peppercorns to taste. 3-4 peppercorns will give you a mild flavor, 7-10 makes it peppery.
1. Remove some of the vinegar to make room for your herbs and spices. Reserve this for later cooking or to add back in the bottle if you need it. Half a cup should do it.
2. Place your washed, fresh Rosemary sprigs in the bottle.You might need a straw or skewer to get them in there.
3. Add the garlic and peppercorns.
4. Top off to fill the bottle with the reserved vinegar (if needed) and seal tightly.
5. Place the bottle on a sunny windowsill for about two weeks. Gently shake the bottle every day or so to mix the flavors of the herbs.
6. You can put a new label on your creation and store it on the countertop, it will last indefinitely. Use it in marinades, salad dressings and any other culinary things you can create.
Make Rosemary Hair Rinse
Rosemary is known for its antibacterial properties. An infusion of the dried plant (both leaves and flowers) combined with borax and used when cold, makes one of the best hair washes known. It makes an effective remedy for the prevention of dandruff and will remove oil build-up
1. To one cup of distilled water, simmering on the stove
2. add one tablespoon of borax
3. and one tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary.
4. Stir and simmer until the borax is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and let the mixture set until completely cool.
6. Strain, reserving the liquid and use as a hair tonic.
This Rosemary hair rinse will keep for at least a month, so make a bigger batch and keep it handy.
What other ways have you preserved and used rosemary? Share your ideas below.
When And How To Pick Catnip – Tips For Harvesting Catnip Plants
Catnip is every cat’s favorite plant, and its drug-like, euphoric effect on our furry friends is well known to cat lovers. You can also use catnip, a member of the mint family, as a culinary herb and in herbal teas. If you grow catnip in the garden, you’ll need to know when and how to harvest the leaves.
Why Grow and Harvest Catnip?
If you have cats, you can simply buy catnip at the store, but when you grow it yourself, you know where it comes from and that it’s organic. It’s easy to grow and harvesting catnip is simple too. You can dry the leaves to use for cat toys, or let your cats try them fresh. Outdoor cats will also enjoy playing around the plants in the garden.
For human consumption, catnip leaves are used in teas and salads and may be useful for soothing stomach upset, much like mint plants.
When to Pick Catnip
For your cat’s delight, the best time for picking catnip leaves is when the plants are flowering, around mid-summer. This is when the compounds that cats love most are at peak levels in the leaves. Harvest the leaves later in the day, when the dew has dried so you minimize the risks of the harvest getting moldy. Also consider harvesting the flowers at this time.
How to Harvest Catnip Plants
Catnip plants grow quickly and will readily replace what you remove. However, they are more likely to regrow stems than single leaves, so to harvest, cut off entire stems close to the base of the plant. Then you can remove individual leaves and allow them out to dry on a screen or drying tray.
Keep your catnip harvest in a place safe from cats. They will be drawn to the leaves and will destroy them before they are ready to store. Once dry, you can store catnip leaves whole or crushed in a sealed jar or bag in a cool, dark cupboard.
You should be able to make a good harvest of catnip leaves at least twice in the growing season. Cut stems in the summer at bloom time and again in the fall and you should have a good supply to take you and your cats through the winter.
Earlier this summer the local grocery had some catnip plants that were clearly struggling, and had a seriously reduced price of 99¢! At this almost giveaway price a catnip garden was in the future. Cats love catnip, there is no doubt about it.
And in a lifetime of cat ownership they use a lot of catnip. The toys, the treats, the bags of the dried herb. So given this opportunity now was the time to become a catnip farmer and grow a very natural and healthy treat. Move forward several months and the plant is much bigger, and doing really well in some remarkably poor soil. However, it had become the treat of choice of some garden wildlife. The nipped ends indicate deer.
Time for harvesting catnip!!!
In June this was one straggly, sickly plant.
Several months later a good sized bushy plant loaded with leaves.
The deer loved them.
Which is interesting as sources actually say deer don’t.
An important note is the soil the plant was grown in was very poor. Rock and construction debris under the topsoil. However, this hardy plant did quite well.
Harvesting catnip is quick and satisfying, especially for your cat. Generally it is best to do this at mid-day or after the morning moisture has gone.
Moisture = soggy catnip
To harvest take a pair of sharp scissors and cut as cleanly as possible. Some gardening sources say to cut the plant down to about 3″. However, given the deer problem this plant was garnering the plant was cut almost to the ground as nibbling deer will kill it anyway. Hopefully, as catnip is a perennial, it should return next year.
Traditional herb drying is done either by tying bundles with twine and hanging them upside down in a cool place. This can take several week. Alternatively, they can be dried in a slightly warm oven and drying slowly over a couple of hours. Both methods are appealing but needing instant gratification (yes talking about you, Slasher) the catnip was wanted sooner.
Strip the leaves from the stalk and place them on separate cookies sheets. Put the sheets in the oven at 125°F for about 1 hour and check. If the catnip hasn’t dried out enough (it should be crisp and dry) continue for another 20-30 minutes (this is an approximation based on individual oven temperatures). Turn the oven off and leave the catnip in the oven overnight. It should then be very dry and suitable to crumble for your cats enjoyment. Store in an airtight container. Once crumbled you can sprinkle on food (great for encouraging finicky eaters), make cat toys or just sprinkle somewhere suitable for them to roll around in.
With little effort you can give your lucky feline some delicious and natural catnip, for a fraction of the cost. Additionally, once you have planted the catnip it should come up every year and provide a continuous supply of fresh catnip.
Comfort for Critters
If you live with a kitty who just loves catnip, it can be expensive to keep up! Even a small bag at a pet store can be $5 or more, and it doesn’t last long. Another solution is to grow your own catnip, from just a handful of seeds. A one-time small investment can pay off year after year. It’s easy to grow, harvest, dry and store, but you do need to know a few tricks….
Catnip is a perennial herb and member of the mint family. It grows in many environments and soil types. It loves full sun, but can also grow in partial shade. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and the weather is warming up. You’ll want to pick a spot where you can easily “contain” this aggressive herb. It will take over as much land as you allow!
Once you have your spot, just moisten the soil and sprinkled the seeds on top. Then cover them with a thin layer of additional soil. You’ll want to keep the soil moist for the first two weeks, but don’t over-water. Just lightly spray a mist over the area once a day for 10 to 14 days.
Continue to keep the soil moist until the plants have about 6 full leaves. Then thin the plants so that they are about 18 inches apart. In most environments, the plants will take off on their own at this point, and will no longer need watering. Just treat it as you would any other garden plant.
As it grows, you may want to pinch off the tips of the shoots. This will encourage a “bushier” plant. Do not use fertilizer, as this will decrease the potency of the herb. Also, to control its spread, be sure to remove the flowers before they go to seed! A bit less water will also keep it from spreading too far.
Catnip is a very hardy plant that loves to be harvested! Just cut the entire stem where the plant meets the soil. By cutting it completely down, rather than just removing a portion, it will regrow much quicker.
You can feel free to harvest at any time during the growing season. However, when the plant is flowering the oils (which are really what your cat craves) are at their peak!
The easiest method is to bundle a group of cut stems together and hang them, upside down, in a cool, dark place to dry. If you’re in a hurry, you can also put them in the oven on a very low heat. Just be sure to keep an eye on them as they dry!
Once it’s dried, crumble off the leaves and flowers (both will be loved) and discard the stems. Continue to crumble, or crush, the leaves and flowers until they are broken down into small pieces – like the expensive stuff in the pet store!
Catnip should be stored in an airtight container to keep all moisture out. Plastic bags (with “zipper” seals) work well. Store it away from heat or sunlight, which will draw the potency out of the herb. A cool, dry place (away from kitties) is perfect. You can also store the sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer, to extend shelf-life. Dried catnip will last for several months, at a minimum, before the smell in the oils begins to fade.
Be aware that you may attract other cats into your yard, so keep this in mind when you’re planning the location of the garden. It’s great fun to see it grow and then prepare it for your kitty. What a treat they will have, after all your work!
Quick Guide to Growing Catnip
- Plant catnip in spring, once all chances of frost have passed. You’ll want to plant it in an area where your cats can roll in it without damaging neighboring plants.
- Space catnip plants 18 to 24 inches apart in a very sunny area with fertile, well-drained soil.
- Give your native soil some nutrient love by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- Check soil often and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Encourage prolific leaf production with a water-soluble plant food.
- Once catnip grows to 6 to 8 inches tall, harvest leaves at any time.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Set out plants in the spring after the last frost, spacing them 18 to 24 inches apart. For best results when planting in the ground, improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs before planting. When growing catnip in containers, fill pots with premium quality potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. Keep plants full by pinching the growing stems and flower buds when they appear. The small white flowers that appear in the summer will form seeds that sprout; the plant also spreads via underground runners. Some cats are very rough on plants. To keep plants from being loved to death, cover each with an arch of chicken wire. The stems can grow up through the holes, yet the plant’s base and roots are protected. Or, try interspersing with bamboo stakes to prevent cats from rolling on top of the plant.
Grow Catnip as a Cash Crop
To Get Going
To start a catnip crop, purchase seed from an herb dealer or buy small plants from a mail order nursery. Here are some sources (which will supply catalogs on request)
Park Seed Company
Burpee Seed Company
In the fall or early spring, work the ground well, making sure you destroy and rake out any perennial weeds and grasses. Then sow the seeds (which germinate poorly) on top of the soil at a ratio of about 10 per square foot. When that’s done, pack the tiny kernels into the earth with a roller (or tramp them with your feet) . . . and keep the area moist for about 15 days.
Once the seedlings are 4 to 5 inches high, thin them out to one plant per two square feet … and reset your extra seedlings, as they transplant well. (You can space any purchased plants in the same manner.)
How to Harvest
By late July or early August when about 25% of the blooms have turned brown, your crop will be ready to harvest. Perform the task early in the morning, just after the dew is gone, by snipping the herbs off at a point about five inches above the ground (if you cut the stems any closer to their bases, the plants may not resprout). Then tie the foliage at the cut end into convenient, uniform bunches . . . and hang the tabby treats in a dark, very dry area.
Cash for Catnip
Though the market for catnip is somewhat limited, there are buyers eager for your crop. Check with your local herb dealer to find out if he/she stocks the feline enticer. (If there are no such outlets in your area, try Wilcox Drug Company. You’ll find that dried catnip can be shipped very easily and inexpensively by United Parcel or any one of a number of truck lines.)
Most herb dealers will pay from 30¢ to 40¢ per pound for good-quality catnip (which must be fully dry and free of weeds), and a quarter-acre plot can reasonably be expected to yield 800-900 pounds of the dried material per year. (Last year, we cut about 80,000 dry pounds of the herb from our 20 acres.)
Aside from the cash benefits that can be had by “going commercial” with a catnip-raising operation, you’ll find that even a small patch of the herb will be a pleasant addition to your life. To enjoy the plant in an herb tea, mix catnip at a ratio of one to three with mint. You’ll appreciate the pleasing, subtle flavor Nepeta cataria adds.
Then, besides offering your cat its favorite weed “straight up,” an occasional sprinkle of powdered catnip can be used to attract the animal to sleep or play in a given area.
Or, if you’d like to make a special tabby toy, you can create a catnip mouse. Just take a six-inch circle of cloth, fold it in half inside out, sew all but 1/2 inch of the unfolded side shut, and reverse it again. To give the toy stability, just insert a piece of narrow, oval-shaped cardboard (the “bottom” of the rodent) opposite the seam . . . stuff the pouch full of dried catnip . . . and sew or glue the hole closed.
When the mouse is finished, toss it to your pet and stand back . . . as the action that’ll follow is likely to get thick!