Herb Garden Essentials: Boost Your Own Oregano and Marjoram

If you love to cook, consider growing oregano and its sibling, sweet marjoram. They are pretty foolproof, perfect for beginner anglers. They are also a great addition to any number of dishes, and you can easily freeze or dry them.

The real issue is deciding which type to grow. Common oregano (Origanum vulgare) can be easily available, but it takes a culinary backseat to Greek and Italian oregano, known for their spicy flavor, and sweet marjoram, using a milder flavor that’s great for seasoning vegetables and vinaigrettes.

More summer crops

Missouri Botanical Garden

Oregano varieties are generally the taller and faster growing of both, reaching up to two feet. Sweet marjoram is a little bigger and slower to reach its complete 1-foot height. Both are perennials in warm weather climates but are often grown as annuals. It is ideal to begin from seedlings. You will want to smell and taste the leaves to be sure you’re getting a variety you desire.

You will also find other oregano varieties available that make colorful culinary and ornamental additions to a herb garden. The requirements will be the same. Once you’ve got your staple varieties in good shape, it can be time for you to experiment.

Light requirement: Full sun; might need some afternoon shade in the hottest summer climates
Water necessity: Little to your
Prime growing season: late spring through fall
When to plant: Spring into summer
Favorites: Greek Steak (Origanum vulgare hirtum, O. heracleoticum), Italian Steak (O. x majoricum), sweet marjoram (O. majorana)

Missouri Botanical Garden

Planting and care: Choose a place in sunlight once all the danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature is fairly warm. The plants are not fussy about soil types but do require decent drainage. Amend the soil before planting, then space seedlings about 12 inches apart for sweet marjoram and 12 to 18 inches apart for oregano. You might also grow sweet and sweet marjoram in pots at least 6 inches broad.

To prevent the plants from becoming woody, cut them back to 4 to 6 inches about a month after planting, then again in midsummer and early fall if climbing them as perennials. Cut back completely or split every few years to replenish the plants and fertilize lightly once per year at the spring.

Pests and diseases generally don’t bother oregano, even though there are occasional problems with rots, spider mites and aphids. Sweet marjoram is similarly trouble free, though whiteflies and rust can sometimes cause problems.

Habitat Design

Harvest: Begin harvesting when crops reach 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut fresh leaves as the flower buds form to the best flavor. You might observe a growth spurt right before flowering.

Freeze or dry the leaves for more storage; additionally harvest before the plants bloom. For the best results select the leaves when they’re dry.

More essential herbs: How to Grow Basil

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