Oregano (Origanum vulgare) and its cultivars are the most familiar forms of oregano. This is a perennial hardy to Zone 5 and bloom with rose, purple or white flowers. As such, it makes a good ground cover coming back
each season to deliver fresh herbs for the culinary gardener. Oregano is used in a wide variety of Greek and Italian dishes including sprinkling it on salads and pizzas. The taste is zesty and earthy somewhat like that of thyme.
To start from seed, use basic seed sowing techniques for germinating in a seed starting mix. Or, sow on a bed of well-soaked sphagnum moss. Cover with a sheet of glass, and place in the dark at 60 to 65 degrees F. Germination will occur after about five days. After germination, water with a weak fertilizer to spur growth. After a month, transplant to pots, growing cells or seeding flats of potting soil. After all danger of frost is over, harden the seedlings for a week by putting them in full sun for several hours each day, and then returning them to the shade before night. Transplant to the garden in full sun. Alternatively, cuttings can be taken from existing plants and rooted in well-drained soil. Pinch to trim oregano plants to encourage bushier growth.
Harvesting and Storing Oregano
Oregano can be used fresh but is most often dried. To dry, cut the stems to the base just as the plants come into flower. Place tips down in a paper bag. Tie the bag around the stems and hang in a warm place. Check for drying after two or three weeks by rubbing the bag between your hands. If you hear leaves falling to the bottom of the bag, it is ready to be opened. Strip the leaves off the stems and finish drying in a 100-degree oven, checking frequently. Let cool, and then run the leaves through a coarse screen before bottling. If saving whole leaves, be sure to remove any bits of stem.