Monday, July 2, 2012

Permaculture Plant: Oregano

The well known Oregano is a great Forest Garden addition.

Common Name: Oregano
Scientific Name: Origanum vulgare
Family: Lamiaceae (the Mint family)
  • Origanum vulgare gracile: Kyrgyzstan Oregano
  • Origanum vulgare hirtum: Greek Oregano
  • Origanum vulgare onites: Turkish Oregano
  • Origanum vulgare syriacum: Syrian Oregano

Great photo kids picking Oregano in the garden.

Oregano is a very common perennial herb whose deep green leaves are used primarily for cooking. It tolerates some shade and light foot traffic which makes it a nice groundcover plant. Its small pink flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects, and its strong aroma is believed to confuse pest insects' ability to find host plants. Everyone should grow a few plants of Oregano, and it is a great addition to any Forest Garden.

Native to southwestern Asia and the Mediterranean area, Oregano has been used by humans a such a long time, it is hard to determine when it was first cultivated

  • In the U.S., Oregano is primarily thought of as an Italian herb; however, Oregano is used in Middle Eastern, Filipino, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American cuisines.
  • Oregano grown in colder climates tends to have less flavor... you may just need to use more!
  • Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic.
  • Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus), also in the Mint (Lamiaceae) Family, and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) in the Verbena (Verbenaceae) Family are both commonly called "Oregeno" but are not true oregano.

Oregano flowers are pretty and they attract beneficial insects.

Primary Uses:
  • Cullinary herb - fresh or dried, raw or cooked... meats, poultry, fish, pasta, stews, salads, etc.
  • Infused with oils or vinegars

Secondary Uses:
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant
  • Groundcover (plant about 1 foot (30 cm) apart) - clump forming
  • Aromatic pest confusor
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant
  • Tea Plant (flowers or dried leaves)
  • Essential Oil used for aroma in soaps, perfumes, etc.
  • Medicinal Plant - long history of many uses

Harvesting: Throughout the growing season
Storage: Best if used fresh. Dried leaves can be used for sure, but the dried leaves lose a lot of flavor compared to the fresh leaves.

Chill Requirement: No reliable information, but not likely

Plant Type: Small to Medium Herbaceous Perennial
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Groundcover Layer, Herbaceous Layer 
Cultivars/Varieties: Many varieties available.

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile
Flowering: Summer (July - September)

Life Span: Basically not relevant as the plant can reseed and can spread through rhizomes.
Size: 1.5-2 feet (45-60 centimeters) tall and 1-4 foot (30-120 centimeters) wide
Roots: Shallow and flat, rhizomatous (runners) but Oregano does not spread much
Growth Rate: Fast
Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade
Moisture: Dry to Medium
pH: prefers fairly neutral to alkaline soil (6.1 - 8.0)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Can tolerate windy locations. Reportedly does not tolerate maritime conditions - I'll let you know later this season.

Propagation:  Typically by seed. Division of clumps in Spring. Cuttings in late Spring.
Maintenance: Basically none. It is possible for the plant to spread outside of its bounds while the central planting begins to die back a bit. If this occurs, consider taking clumps from the edges and replanting in the desired, cleared location.

Concerns: None


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