Oregano is a rustic, herbaceous plant. Its growth is perennial, the first planting lasting approximately four years. It is a bushy shrub, growing to a height of 35-45cm. It originates from Mediterranean Europe. The main producers in Latin America are Mexico, Brasil, Chile and Costa Rica.
Oregano is resistant to the cold, although temperatures below 5°C stunt growth and burn the leaf edges. The crop is suitable in any soil type that is not over-saline, although it will flourish best in Franco-sandy and Franco soils. Oregano is a species with very high tolerance in terms of altitude and temperature. However, the majority of essential oils come from colder zones.
Preparing the Ground
- Choosing the site. Plantations are best situated on flat or mildly undulating land. If the ground is sloping, terraces or platforms must be built.
- Fallow or thrash irrigation (watering). This is done three days before ploughing. Turn the earth two or three times in order to allow the manure to decompose, to prevent weeds growing, and to eliminate grubs and soil blights.
- Fallow / Ploughing. Deep ploughing is required. The previous crop must be very thoroughly cleared, and the earth turned at least twice to prevent weeds and to renew the ground. In order to improve the texture and fertility of the soil, it is a good idea to integrate ten metric tons of manure per hectare during preparation of the land.
a. The correct season. For agro-climatic mountain conditions, the best time to plant [in the Southern
Hemisphere] is September to December, when temperatures are favorable and
the rains are beginning.
b. A good choice of cuttings. The choice and preparation of good cuttings is an essential part of the process. The branches or cuttings that you choose must have the following characteristics:
- 20-30cm long
- Thick stalks, darkish red in colour
- Wide leaves of deep green
Mother plants should be just beginning to flower, with healthy flowering buds. When cuttings from mature flowers are used, branching and yield will be delayed.
c. Taking cuttings. Once you have chosen the cuttings to be taken and planted, cut them with secateurs. Every so often, disinfect the secateurs with soapy or bleachy water in order to avoid transmitting diseases. Cutting is recommended at sunrise, and planting the same day. Keep the cuttings cool, in the shade, to stop them from drying out.
d. Furrows. Having leveled the ground, you must lay out furrows and channels in a way which facilitates the flow of irrigation water, whilst also avoiding any formation of pools which will drown plant roots and kill them.
e. Density of planting. This will vary between 70 000 and 90 000 trios of cuttings per hectare, equivalent to 600-660 kilos. It is very important to work out how many cuttings must be planted in order to avoid a surplus of cuttings and thus the risk of their failing. Furrows should be 35-45cm apart, and plants 30-35cm apart.
f. Planting. Take three or four cuttings in one go, planting them 5-10cm deep, in an L-shape, on the flank of the furrow. Before doing this, carefully pluck the leaves from the lower 10cm of each cutting: this will help it to establish roots.
g. Watering. Immediately after planting, water lightly. Water again two more times, 3-4 and 6-8 days (respectively) after planting – depending on the soil type. This will keep the crop moist and ensure that it takes root. The next two waterings should follow five to seven days apart, these intervals depending on the circumstances.