An herb of Mediterranean origin, Oregano – also known as Marjoram, is a very common and versatile herb. We see it used in a variety of dishes from soups and sauces to sorbets and it’s one of the many healthy foods which can brighten up your dish and give it a fresh flavor. Oregano is an excellent herb used fresh from the garden but is even better used dried.
Oregano is winter hardy to USDA zone 5 and can be grown as an annual in areas outside this zone in containers and pots.
Oregano is very easy to grow. It is tolerant of many soils however the main consideration is the soil should be well drained. Amending the soil with compost is beneficial as it provides the plants with much needed nutrients. Mulch is also beneficial around the base of the plants and a gravel mulch will help to keep the soil surface dry, helping prevent any leaf damage.
In areas where the soil is damp and the Oregano plants would be exposed to having “wet feet”, which ultimately leads to root rot and plant death, it would be wise to grow the herb in containers or raised beds. By growing the plants in this type of set up you can ensure that the soil drains properly and that the plants are not sitting in water.
Be careful not to over water, however container grown plants will need more frequent watering than those planted in the ground. Fertilizing should be done every two months during active growing season where Oregano is grown as a perennial. In cases where Oregano is grown as an annual, fertilizing should take place every 2-3 weeks.
Oregano plants should be grown in a spot with full sun. Golden varieties prefer some shade.
Oregano is thought to be a natural deterrent to aphids and therefore can be very beneficial in the vegetable garden. It is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes, peppers and many other vegetables. B
You can begin to harvest Oregano once the plant reaches approx 5″ in height. By cutting the stems back as far as possible you will encourage more growth on your plant. Oregano plants can grow to 30″x18″ however with regular harvesting the plant generally stay in the 12″x18″ range. To maintain the best flavor from your Oregano harvest prior to the blooms setting in.
Drying Oregano is a relatively simple process. Hang groups of oregano upside down in a warm, dry space with good ventilation for one week. Once dry, separate flowers and leaves and strip stalks. Grind or “crunch” up the leaves till the desired result is obtained and then store in airtight containers
Other Uses for Oregano
Oregano can also be used in the landscape as an ornamental plant. The white and purple blooms are a striking contrast against the greens and golds of the foliage. Use it in an alpine garden, in rock gardens or in perennial borders. The same care should be taken to pinch back the plant as it grows to avoid the plant becoming too large and too leggy. Oregano can also be grown as a houseplant.
Oregano has also long been used for its medicinal uses. Studies have shown Oregano to have anti-fungal and antibiotic properties and is often used to treat fevers, indigestion and vomiting. It is also used to treat joint pain and swelling. As with any herb, it is best to consult a doctor before using a new any new herb.