Introduction to Growing Organic Oregano in Containers
Oregano is a bushy, woody-branched perennial member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Used extensively in a variety of cuisines, it is known for its earthy, robust, and aromatic flavor. It is one of the most popular herbs around the world, and it’s preferred by gardeners because of its resilience and easy care. Although the Oregano plant is a hardy, adaptable herb, it prefers well-drained, sandy soils and requires very little watering, characteristics that make it an ideal aromatic herb for any home garden.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Organic Oregano in Containers and Pots
The oregano plant is a sun-loving, heat-loving plant that does well in areas prone to drought. It is a wonderful companion plant for basil, beans, and broccoli. Try growing Oregano indoors during the winter months for a fresh and steady supply of this fragrant herb.
Making Organic Soil for Growing Oregano in Containers
Use any regular potting soil and it should be well-drained, light, and crumbly in texture. You could add 1/3 part compost or aged manure in the potting soil to make it rich in organic matter. Oregano plant 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. Oregano plant grows best in full sun in well-drained soil of average to low fertility. Prepare the bed by digging it over thoroughly and incorporating organic matter like leaf mould, well-rotted animal manure, or homemade compost. Then, this will help break up any heavy soils and improve drainage.
Make sure the soil has enough organic matter. If it doesn’t, it can be added in the form of compost. Plough the soil thoroughly and deeply enough using a gardening rake to allow for adequate development of the root system and also good drainage. If planting Oregano in pots, it is preferable to loosen the soil in sandbags before pouring it into each pot. Although Oregano does not demand many nutrients and compost will feed it the whole growing cycle, in poor soils, the application of fertilizer can be considered to enhance growth and development. Water the soil heavily and then let any excess water drain before planting.
Container Size for Growing Organic Oregano
Container size depends on the type of Oregano you’ve decided to grow. In pots, regular Oregano seldom grows more than 12 to 18 inches tall. You can grow it in a medium 8 to 10 inches deep pot with a similar spread. Some low growing varieties such as creeping Oregano and golden Oregano can be grown in shallow but wide 6-8 inches deep pot. Plant tall varieties such as Lebanese and Mexican Oregano in a minimum 12 inches pot.
Oregano Plant Spacing
Oregano plants should be spaced between 12 and 15 inches apart.
How to Propagate Oregano Plants
Seeds, divisions, and cuttings are the three ways to propagate Oregano;
Oregano seeds are tiny, patter them on seed pot, and then cover with a thin layer of soil. You can divide Oregano in spring and then plant it in a separate pot. Growing Oregano from cuttings is also an option; take cuttings from 3 to 5 inches long young stems of a healthy Oregano plant. Remove the plant leaves from the bottom half and turn the cuttings in rooting hormone before planting.
Start Growing Organic Oregano from Seeds
To get your Oregano seeds to germinate, you need to provide them with a source of light, so cover them lightly with soil. When kept at temperatures above 7°C, the seeds should germinate within 8 to 14 days. Many gardeners mostly prefer to plant their Oregano in pots. Then, this ensures it doesn’t take over their entire garden bed.
Oregano seeds need light to germinate, so just loosen the soil and place seeds directly on top and mist gently when watering. There’s no need to cover the Oregano seeds with soil when planting. Growing Oregano indoors and transplant when temperatures remain above 7°C. Oregano plants must be cut back to the ground and covered with a layer of mulch for overwintering outdoors. You can grow them inside if you wish to be able to harvest Oregano year-round. If you are planting Oregano seeds, you can direct sow them after the risk of frost has passed, or get a jump on the growing season by starting seeds indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost date. Cuttings can be planted once the ground temperature has warmed up to at least 21°C. Be sure to space your plants between 8 and 10 inches apart. Because they can easily grow to over 2 feet tall, you will want plenty of breathing room between plants.
Once your seedlings have grown about 4 inches, you can pinch off the tops to encourage the plant to grow denser and bushier. Trimming them regularly throughout the summer season will help the plant to avoid legginess and grow more robustly.
Oregano plants will spread quickly throughout your garden, so continue to harvest from the spreading branches to keep it under control. As flowers begin to appear, pinch them back to prevent the Oregano plant from bolting and prematurely producing seeds. These flowers have a mild flavor and are great in salads.
Growing Organic Oregano from Cuttings
In the spring, use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut 4 to 5-inch pieces of softwood stem at a 45-degree angle. Remove the leaves from the bottom 2 inches.
Put cuttings in water or a peat moss and vermiculite mixture. Change the water every 2 to 3 days, if you choose that option. If planting in a soilless mix and make sure you keep it moist.
Then, place the cuttings in an area with bright light, but not in direct sun. Cuttings will be ready to transplant in 4 to 5 weeks when the roots are about an inch long.
Growing Organic Oregano from Root Division
Oregano plants are vigorous growers and very easy to divide. The best time to do this is in spring or at the beginning of the fall when the ground is still warm. Simply dig up an existing plant and cut it through the root ball into two or more sections, and then replant the divisions in pots or a different area of your garden.
Water Requirement for Growing Organic Oregano Herb
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Unlike most herbs, the Oregano plant needs barely any water and should be watered when the soil it’s growing in feels dry and powdery. Because the Oregano plant does well with intense bursts of water, it’s better to water this herb thoroughly but less often.
Organic Fertilizer for Growing Oregano in Containers
The fertilizer needs for Oregano plants are almost nonexistent during the growing season if you added compost to the garden bed in the early spring. Though, container-grown Oregano will need regular fertilizer boosts as the plants will quickly deplete the nutrients in the soil. Neighboring weeds can quickly overtake Oregano, so be sure to hoe around plants frequently to keep them in check. Then, you can apply an organic mulch like hay or wood chips to the base of your plants to prevent them from growing.
If you already added compost or aged manure in soil, there’s no need to feed your Oregano plant during one growing season unless it’s showing a lack of growth. If you did not apply compost or if the Oregano looks needy, and fertilize it once or twice in a month with NPK 5-10-5, or easily available 10-10-10 balanced liquid fertilizer, diluted half to its strength. You can also opt for organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or compost tea.
Use a liquid fertilizer, and supplement the soil with controlled-release pellets. For organic Oregano, plants use organic fertilizer or fortify the soil with compost. Oregano is low-demand in terms of nutrients, and adequately-prepared soil must provide enough for the plant’s development. In soils with a low content of organic matter, NPK fertilizer can be applied. Then, it will provide nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is recommendable to apply half of the recommended dose before planting and the second half after pruning in the soil surrounding the neck of the plant stem. Be aware that excessive fertilizer can reduce the flavor of Oregano plant leaves. Nutritional deficiencies may manifest as retarded growth, light-colored plant leaves, yellowish spots, tips on the leaves, or any other similar sign that could be a response to a lack of certain nutrients. Those deficiencies can be remediated by applying a liquid micronutrient corrector, preferably by spraying it over the plant leaves.
Organic Pests and Diseases Control for Growing Oregano Plants in Containers
Oregano tends to do well against some pests and diseases that affect other plants, but overly wet plants mainly suffer from the root and stem rots. To keep them rot free, allow your plants to fully dry out between watering and pull off any brown or spotted plant leaves. Some insects such as aphids and spider mites are also often a problem for Oregano. Both pests can affect the vitality of your plants by sucking out the juices from the plant leaves and stems. You can fend off these pests by keeping the surrounding foliage close to your plants under control to prevent pests from crossing over and introducing their natural predator ladybugs to garden space.
Watch for spider mites, leaf miners, and aphids, especially on Oregano plants grown in containers. If pests are found, apply some organic solutions when necessary. Prevent rust disease by removing weeds and pruning Oregano plants to improve air circulation. Apply plant fungicides like copper or sulfur when symptoms first appear. No significant insect pests or diseases affect Oregano plants. If you do get an infestation, be careful when using pesticides and other chemicals around your plants, especially if you plan to eat your Oregano. Use an insecticidal soap or other organic means of protecting your Oregano from insect pests and disease.
Leaf miners – Leaf miners leave narrow, white trails or white blotches on leaves. These 1/8-inch-long flies can be yellow, or black. The fly larvae feed on the insides of leaves. Then, spray with neem oil to get rid of these pests.
Spider mites – Though these miniature bugs are so tiny you may not be able to see them clearly with the naked eye, you will probably notice little webs dotted with white specks if you have an infestation. They damage plants by sucking out fluids, causing leaves to turn brown and fall off the plant. Treat a spider mite infestation by spraying with neem oil.
While Oregano pests are few, they should still be mentioned as inclusion for common Oregano plant problems. Aphids and spider mites also sometimes infest Oregano plants. You can control mild infestations with a strong spray of water from a hose every other day until the affected insects are gone. Once knocked off the Oregano plant, these insects are unable to return. For stubborn infestations, use insecticidal soap and neem oil spray. These insecticides should come into direct contact to kill the insect, so spray the plant thoroughly, paying particular attention to the undersides of leaves. Leaf miners are the larvae of black flies. These tiny, wormlike larvae feed inside leaves, leaving meandering tan or brown trails. Insecticides can’t reach leaf miner larvae inside the leaves, so the treatment is to pick off and destroy affected leaves before the larvae mature. Don’t let the few diseases affecting Oregano plants or pests put you off in growing this herb. With proper plant care, these Oregano problems can be prevented and you’ll be rewarded with a flavorful harvest.
When and How to Harvest Oregano
Harvest Oregano plants often for continued new growth. Harvest Oregano any time after they have reached 4 to 6 inches tall. Harvest Oregano leaves in the morning hours as soon as the dew has dried for the best flavor. Once harvested Oregano leaves use fresh or store leaves whole, placed in freezer bags. The flavor of Oregano is most intense in mid-summer, just before it blooms, making this the best time to harvest plant 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.
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