How to Grow Oregano in Your Herb Garden
Instructions for Growing Oregano
Oregano will generally grow as a hardy perennial herb. However, it is one that may need a little help in surviving gardening climates with harsh (cold) winters.
Oregano is primarily used as a culinary herb in Italian, Mexican and Greek cuisines. It is also a tasty flavoring for tomato, vegetable, or meat dishes. Oregano leaves are the plant part used for flavoring.
* Gardening Tips for Growing Oregano - Oregano can grow up to two feet tall, and tends to sprawl, so plan accordingly before planting!
Oregano has been used for centuries for a variety of its health improving properties. It contains multiple antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It's been used to relieve coughs, reduce body odor, soothe digestive muscles, and lower blood pressure. Oregano is a strong antioxidant, with high levels of beneficial acids and flavonoids.
Oregano is also believed to have the following properties: antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant. In large quantities, it may have a very strong sedative effect, so be cautious using in large quantity.
For optimal growing conditions, plant your oregano patch in a very sunny (full sun) spot in your garden.
Growing oregano is easy in pots or containers. Use a good potting soil (one that's appropriate for vegetables, as some potting mixes contain chemicals that you wouldn't want to eat!). Mix in a little sand, and some well-rotted organic matter or compost. Leave 1" of space between the soil and the top of the container.
Start your plant indoors by placing your seeds on the surface of the soil, and misting the soil until damp. Put a layer of kitchen plastic wrap across the top of the pot or planter and place in a sunny location. Watch for the seeds to sprout within 10 days (normally). Immediately remove the plastic wrap. Keep your young oregano plant indoors until all danger of frost has passed. And keep the oregano planter in a sunny location, until you're ready to take it outdoors.
It's not wise to move your plant directly from your home to your patio. You'll likely scorch your plant, since it is not yet used to direct sunlight. Most gardeners move their plants outside in gradual steps. Starting with a shady location outside, then moving it (day by day) into a fuller sun position.
* Gardening Tips for Growing Oregano * Mulching the plants you are growing in your container garden is a good idea, as it will help keep their roots cooler, and will also help the soil retain water better.
In the fall, bring your oregano pots indoors, for a year round supply of this fresh herb!
Growing oregano is normally successful in nearly any herb garden soil. However, it thrives at a soil pH of between 6.0 and 8.0. For optimal growing conditions, the garden soil should be slightly sandy, well-drained and friable (crumbly).
When growing oregano, there are three ways to propagate it:
- Starting plants from seed
- Growing plants from cuttings
- Dividing existing bushes into new plants.
* Gardening Tips for Growing Oregano * Growing oregano from seed is not always reliable. Propagating by dividing established plants or from cuttings is the preferred method.
Planting from seed: sow oregano seed in the spring, once the ground has warmed and danger of frost has passed. You can cover the seeds lightly with a seed starting mix, or even just water (mist) the seeds into the soil without covering them. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate (misting works best, so that you don't wash your seeds away!). When the seedlings emerge (this can take up to 2 weeks) and grow to 6" tall, thin the plants so that they're spaced at least 1 foot apart.
About 5 weeks after your seedlings emerge, trim the plant to 2 or 3" tall (be sure that there are still leaves attached to the remaining stems). This will help the plant grow bushier and more compact.
Dividing mature oregano plants: To keep your oregano plants growing vigorously and at their best in flavor and health, divide your plants every 3 years. To divide oregano plants, gently dig up the entire plant, keeping as many of the roots intact as possible. (Dig wider than you think the roots go.) Carefully lift the plant from the hole. The preferred method is to take two pitchforks, and insert them (back to back) in the center of the plant. Then gently but firmly pry the pitchforks apart, thus separating the plant into two.
If returning one to the original garden location, refresh the soil with a little compost mixed in. Plant your 2nd plant in a new location, preparing the garden soil as you did for the first.
How to grow new oregano plants from cuttings:
Take cuttings of new shoots that are at least 3" long in the late spring. Remove the bottom most leaves from the stem. Dip the stem in a rooting agent, and place in moist sand. Keep the sand moist (not soggy) until the plants are well rooted. They can then be repotted or moved outside (after hardening-off first).
Growing oregano doesn't require much water, unless there's a dry spell. If the soil looks like it is drying out, then water. Do not overwater oregano.
If you've prepared the herb garden soil by digging in some compost or well-rotted manure, you shouldn't need to fertilize at all.
* Gardening Tips for Growing Oregano *If you're growing oregano in a container or a pot, you may want to fertilize monthly during the growing season. Consider using an organic fertilizer like compost tea or manure tea.
Certain insects can favor Oregano, such as: spider mites, or whiteflies. Consider using organic methods of insect control. Also, it is sometimes susceptible to powdery mildew.
When growing oregano, you'll find that it doesn't compete well with other plants (it prefers a weed-free environment). Mulching around the base will help with this, and will also keep the soil moist and keep your leaves cleaner.
Oregano doesn't winter-over well in areas with harsh cold winters. If you're in one of those areas, in the fall, cut your plants back to 3 or 4" tall and apply a heavy layer of mulch, covering your oregano plants. (Remove some of the mulch in the spring.)
Mature oregano stems can become woody. You may wish to cut the old stems out, to make room for the new.
Oregano's flavor is best when the flowers are starting to form. (Remove the flower buds to keep better flavor in the leaves.) However, you can harvest at any point in the growing season. For fullest flavor, pick your oregano stems in the morning, just after the dew has evaporated.
Harvest from the outside of the plant, inward & downward. Keep a few inches of plant with leaves attached near the base in-tact, for the plant to regenerate new growth.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.