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January 29, 2010

Catnip not hard to grow with right light

Q: I have a question about caring for catnip plants so our little kitten will be able to have her treats during the winter. The plants start off well, but they don't seem to last long. Any suggestions?

A: You didn't tell me much about your catnip plants, but I suspect they aren't getting enough light. This is the same reason most herbs don't do well when grown indoors in New England. The light level is decreased in winter, and when you put a pane of glass between the weak sun and the plant, you decrease the sun's rays even more.

Catnip is easy to grow, if it has sufficient light. Try some growing lights. Also, keep the plants damp but not wet and provide good air circulation.

Catnip is susceptible to white flies. Use a pet-safe soap solution or wash infected plants repeatedly with a spray of cold water. White flies repopulate in about seven to 10 days, so you'll have to keep repeating treatment if you miss even one minute fly.

Now, after all your work, don't be insulted if the kitty likes commercial catnip better. I think it's blended with more catnip oil than the homegrown varieties so the scent is stronger.

Q: I got a Chia Pet for Christmas. I think my girlfriend said she bought it at Walgreens. It looks like a lamb and is supposed to grow green grass for hair. What do I do with it?

A: Chia Pets! Déjà vu all over again! They first appeared in 1977, so I guess that dates me! The first Chias were simple animal shapes, but now you can get so many varieties, even the characters from "The Simpsons."

Each Chia Pet comes with a packet of seeds that, when soaked in water, form a gelatinous seed coating that sticks to the figure. The seeds are smeared onto the clay figure, which has ridges in the unglazed, ceramic body to catch and hold the seeds. Just like a standard clay flower pot, the clay Chia figure absorbs and holds water. Stand the clay figure in a saucer of water, and, in a few days, the seeds sprout and you have the illusion of fur or hair.

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