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Tips for farming Oregano

Crop
 

Oregano [iStockphoto]

Oregano is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family, known for its strong, aromatic flavour. It is widely used in cooking, particularly in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, to enhance the taste of dishes.

In Kenya, oregano is grown by small scale farmers, some of which grow it specifically for the export market. Herb farmer Steven Methu farms oregano among other herbs and spices like mint, thyme, dill, fenugreek and hibiscus.

Here are a few tips from him on how to go about farming oregano.

Climate and location

Oregano thrives in warm, sunny conditions. It is best to choose a location that receives full sunlight for most of the day. Oregano can tolerate a range of temperatures, but it generally prefers a warm climate.

Soil preparation

 Ensure the soil is well-drained and fertile. If the soil is heavy or compacted, consider adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and soil structure.

Oregano prefers slightly alkaline soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0. Sandy or loamy soil types are ideal for oregano cultivation as they provide good drainage. However, oregano can also grow in poor soil conditions as long as it is well-drained.

“Soil that is too compacted or waterlogged can lead to root rot and other issues. Adding organic matter such as compost can improve soil structure and fertility, enhancing oregano growth,” said Methu.

Planting

Oregano can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or transplants. You can sow the seeds directly to the soil. Cover the soil loosely fir easy germination. You can also start the seeds indoors in a container then later transplant them. If using cuttings or transplants, space them about 12 inches apart.

Watering

Oregano prefers moderate watering, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. In Kenya, where rainfall patterns may vary, you may need to supplement with irrigation during dry periods.

Maintenance

Trim the plants regularly to encourage bushier growth and to prevent them from becoming leggy. Oregano is a perennial herb, so it will come back year after year with proper care.

Harvesting

Start harvesting oregano leaves once the plant is established and has grown to a reasonable size. Harvest in the morning when the oils are most concentrated for the best flavour.

Pest and disease control

Keep an eye out for common pests and diseases that can affect oregano, such as aphids or powdery mildew.

“Consider using organic pest control methods such as neem oil or companion planting with insect-repelling plants,” said Methu.

Market

Methu sells oregano through referrals from friends and colleagues and in farmers’ markets. He is looking to join the export market where he says it is lucrative, when he is able to give steady supply.

A bunch goes for Sh30. He also sells dried oregano at Sh300 per 100 grams.

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