By E. VinjeTweet
Available in several varieties and cultivars, with each offering its own unique flavor and aroma, growing oregano (Origanum) is popular with many home gardeners. The culinary herb is often used in soups, salads, meat dishes and pizza, especially in Italian and Mexican cuisine. Hardy perennial plants grow 18-30 inches tall.
Like most Mediterranean herbs, oregano is very easy to grow and requires little water. Sandy soil is best, but the plant will grow in almost any garden conditions. It thrives in full sun (leaves may lose flavor when grown in shade) and a location sheltered from high winds. Most species can tolerate a moderate freeze. Mulch over the plant with compost, leaves or straw if winters are severe.
How to Plant:
Propagate from seed, nursery stock or from rooted cuttings. If you choose to grow oregano from seeds, which are slow to germinate, sow indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Set the seedlings in the garden after all danger from frost has passed. Space plants 1-2 feet apart in beds or rows. If high humidity levels are a problem in your growing area, it is best to space plants further apart to encourage good air circulation.
Tip: In later winter/early spring, cut plants to the ground to produce a flush of new growth.
Flowering doubles the concentration of oil in oregano leaves, so for the strongest flavor don’t harvest until the plants start flowering. Non-flowering varieties should be harvested in late spring, as the oil concentrations rise steadily and then decline. The new growth is the most flavorful.
To dry, tie the cuttings in small bunches and hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room. When dried, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole. Crush or grind just before use.
Insects and Disease:
Watch for spider mites, leafminers and aphids, especially on plants grown in containers. If pests are found, apply a least-toxic, natural insect control, when necessary.
Seed Saving Instructions: