How to grow Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare, Origanum hirtum)

Oregano is woody perennial herb, which grows to a height of 8 to 35 inches (20-90 cm). The leaves are oval 0,4 – 1,5 inches (10-40 mm) long and 0,18 to 1,2 inches (5-25 mm) in width. The edges of the leaves are smooth or very shallow jagged.

Oregano is a very important culinary herb, used for taste of the leaves, which can be tastier when dried from the fresh. In many cases, oregano is cultivated in great extent for its essential oil.

Oregano of highest quality is often strong enough to almost numb our tongue, but the varieties adapted in colder climates are often of lower taste. Factors such as climate and soil composition can affect the essential oils it contains. The leaves can be cut fresh or preserved dried for use throughout the year. The best flavor leaf usually occurs just prior to flowering, but the quality of the flavor can vary considerably between plants from the same variety.

Oregano contains volatile oil, tannin, resin, sterols and flavonoids. Moreover, it contains thymol exhibiting antibacterial and antifungal properties. Oregano stimulates the secretion of bile and is used for centuries for the treatment of respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma. Furthermore, the essential oil of oregano, if well diluted, can be rubbed on the teeth or aching joints.

Cultivating Oregano.

The cultivation of oregano differs significantly on whether we are professional farmers or amateur gardeners.

The professional cultivation of oregano requires that we grow our seeds in seedbed and then to transplant in a field free from weeds and deeply plowed.

First select the seeds of oregano. Plants are easier to grow, but the seeds are much cheaper. On average, we find 300.000 oregano seeds per oz (8.000 – 10.000 seeds of oregano per gram).

We should keep in mind that the seeds of oregano, mint and rosemary have low germination (about 50%). That’s why these species create such a high quantity of seeds. Consequently, we may need 20.000 seeds (0,07 oz. - 2 gr) for only 2.000 to 3.000 good plants.

For every hectare (10.000 m2), we need to have about 100.000 – 120.000 plants. Thus, we have to sow a seedbed of 200 m2 (0.02 hectare) or many smaller ones, in which we use about 4,3 oz. (120 gr) of oregano seeds.

We can sow the oregano seeds in the seedbeds in August and transplant in November. Alternatively, we can sow the seeds in February and transplant in May.  

Oregano prefers well-drained soil and a location with enough sun. Oregano begins to germinate 7-14 days after sowing. We harvest oregano when we see the flowering of the plant. Most often, oregano is ready to be harvested when the plant reaches a height of 6 inches (15 cm). We can cut the plant about 1 inch (3 cm) from the ground. In winter we cover the soil with mulch until spring. We replace the cultivation of oregano every 2-4 years.

The amateur cultivation of oregano is much easier than the professional, but we should expect lower results. The most common technique is to mix the oregano seeds with river sand and sow directly to a field free from weeds and deeply plowed. We mix the seeds with river sand in order to help the seeds stay on the surface of the field and not be taken away from the air, from insects, from termites etc. For every hectare, we need 14-17 oz. (400-500 gr) of seeds and about 176 oz. (5 kg) of river sand. We mix slowly the seeds with the sand in a can and then we sow the mixture carefully at the surface. We should not place the mixture deep in the soil, the sowing should take place in the surface. Keep in mind that although we have removed all the weeds from the soil, the weeds have wisely left their seeds in the soil and they will appear again, being a major competitor to our oregano plants.

Do you have experience in cultivating oregano? Please share your experience, methods and practices in the comments below.

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