Oregano, an herb with a robust scent and flavour, loves to grow in pots where it can spill over an edge of a pot or low wall. However, its trailing growth also makes it a good seasonal ground cover, or it can serve as a nice edging along a path. In late summer, enjoy Greek or Italian oregano’s white flowers against its bright-green leaves. Grow oregano in an herb garden or in containers.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Oregano prefers a sunny spot; however, in zone 7 and farther south, it benefits from a little afternoon shade. Set plants in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Most herbs don’t like much fertilizer; feed occasionally with Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘N Feed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Plant Food throughout the growing season and always in early spring as the new season begins. Oregano spreads easily; in late spring, cut it back to one-third of its size in order to make the plant bushier. In milder climates (zone 8 and southward), oregano is evergreen. In zone 7 and northward, protect plants with mulch through the winter, or cover them with a cold frame. Small plants in containers can be moved indoors for the winter. Cut out dead stems in the spring before the plants begin new growth.
Root rot, spider mites, and aphids can all attack oregano. Be sure oregano is well drained to prevent disease, and pick off any browning or spotted foliage. In the garden it is easy to mistake an oregano plant for look-alike sweet marjoram, although the two are easily distinguished by their flavours and scents.
Harvest and Storage
Harvest plants often for continued new growth. Begin by snipping sprigs of oregano as soon as the plant is several inches tall. The flavour of oregano is most intense in mid-summer, just before it blooms, making this the best time to harvest leaves for drying. This herb is stronger dried than fresh. For a big harvest, cut the stems just above the plant’s lowest set of leaves; this encourages new growth for the next cutting in late summer. Oregano leaves may be dried, frozen, or refrigerated.
The “secret” ingredient in Aunt Bee’s spaghetti sauce, oregano adds deep flavour to Italian or Greek dishes, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and vegetables such as beans and zucchini. A light sprinkling over a green salad before dressing it is a tasty enhancement. Oregano does not hold up well to prolonged cooking when used fresh, so add fresh leaves at the end of the cooking process or use dried leaves for sauces or anything that requires lengthy simmering. Dried oregano flower stalks may be used in craft-making (e.g. wreaths).