Tips For Growing Oregano
If you’re looking for an herb that is easy to propagate and has many uses, try growing oregano.
Oregano is a staple of many Mediterranean dishes, its name in Greek meaning “joy of the mountain.” A member of the mint family, this herb has many uses:
- Cooking spice
- Red dye
- In bath oil, to help relieve stiff and aching joints
- Placed in wreaths (craft-making)
- Ground cover
- Lawn edging
- Deterrent to some garden pests
It also comes in many varieties, from Greek Oregano variety (the strongest in terms of flavor and intensity), to Sweet Marjoram (the blandest and least flavorful).
After deciding which type you want to plant, consider how you want to go about growing oregano:
- From seed.
- From cuttings.
- Sown outdoors.
- Nursery-raised plants.
- Do not plant near other larger vegetation, as it will eventually overrun the oregano.
- Regardless of location, the soil should be prepared so it is well drained, sandy and dry.
- Potting mix can be any one of a number of soil-less materials: rock wool, vermiculite, oasis foam or perlite.
- If the plan is to grow oregano indoors year-round, place high output or compact fluorescents 12” above the plant tops, metal halide or high pressure sodium lights 2-4’ above.
From seed. For indoor planting, press- don’t bury- 12 seeds into the soil of a small pot, six weeks before the last frost (early March). Make sure they get sufficient sunlight, and that the ph range is between 6-9, optimum being 6-8. Use an oscillating fan to blow air on the seedlings about two hours each day. Seeds will germinate in 8-14 days. Then thin seedlings down to 4-6. Transplant to larger pots in May.
When about 3” tall, set transplants outside in the ground in clumps, after adding a slow-release fertilizer to the soil.
From cuttings. Once new shoots appear, take 3” long cuttings and plant them in pots, or in the ground about a foot apart, when weather permits.
Sown outdoors. Prepare the soil ahead of time by mixing in compost, leaf mold or rotted manure. Sow seeds in the spring when the temperature is at least 59°F (late May), making sure to press them into the soil instead of burying them. Keep the seed area damp until they germinate, then water regularly for 30 days. From then on do not water the plants unless the soil really starts drying out.
Nursery-raised plants. Place plants every 12-15”, in rows 18” apart, in well drained soil and where they can get full sun. Watch out for root rot, aphids and spider mites, the oregano plant’s only true enemies.
As oregano grows, it will reach about 2 feet in height and 1 ½ feet in width. Then cut it back two-thirds to promote bushiness. Remember that during peak growth periods, before the flowers appear, plants can be divided.
Harvest your oregano in mid-to-late-spring, when the plants are about 4-5” tall, just before the flowers open. Make sure to remove the flower buds first thing in the morning, while there is still a lot of oil in the leaves. Cut off the top 6”of stem and remove the leaves.
Dry the leaves in a dark, ventilated area and then place in airtight containers. The leaves can also be frozen, then stored in freezer bags.
For Zones 8-9, where the off-season climate is mild, plants can remain outside all winter. For colder zones, protect outdoor plants by cutting them down to the ground, then covering them with a thick layer of mulch or a cold frame. Move smaller plants inside for the winter.
If these simple guidelines are followed, growing oregano need not be a difficult endeavor, results yielding a continual supply of the tasty and pungent herb for years to come.