Gardening and Living in Grand Style
Still more herbs to know and grow…
by Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County
Apr 04, 2013 | 1199 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Those who read the two articles I wrote last year on herbs have already seen that there are many good herbs that do well here in Grand County. Those two articles discussed basil, chives, cilantro/coriander, dill, fennel, French tarragon, and lemongrass, and can be found on The Times-Independent’s website, www.moabtimes.com. All of those herbs, and the ones I will be writing about now and in the future, have shown themselves to be great garden plants as well as great herbs to use when cooking.

In this article I will discuss mint and oregano – two very nice and easy to find herbs.

Mint

Mint is one of those great smelling, love-to-have-it-around herbs, but if you don’t keep an eye on it, mint can turn into the plant that took over the garden.

I used to grow mint out in the garden but its very competitive nature made me relegate it to pots years ago. However, I recently noticed that my potted mint finally figured out how to come out the bottom of my fairly deep pots, and now it’s once again loose.

There’s an incredibly wide range of mints to grow and enjoy. Those range from the usually very winter-hardy peppermint, spearmint, orange and apple mints to the more delicate ginger, pineapple, chocolate, basil and Moroccan mints. And an even wider assortment of mint variations is available.

Most mints will grow rapidly and can grow in full sun to partial shade. Providing good, even moisture is best, but don’t overwater as this can lead to diseases. While most people buy plants or take cuttings from friends, if you’re trying to grow mint from seed make sure the seeds are from a good source since mint hybridizes readily and may not grow up to be what you expected. An early spring application of fertilizer is enough to get mint going and keep it happy for the season. Also, thinning or digging up and dividing plants on a fairly regular basis is best.

While there are many culinary uses for mint, having plants around that you can cut, crush or mow will bring the pleasant scent of mint into the garden while you’re sitting outside enjoying the fresh air.

Oregano

Oregano is a common ingredient in Italian foods but can also be found in a variety of non-Italian stews, soups and other dishes. Native to the Mediterranean region, this perennial grows well in sandy, well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine, and doesn’t require a particularly fertile soil.

There are actually a number of plants that have been or are called oreganos. These include Origanum vulgare, or common oregano, Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum, which is sought after for its flavor, and Origanum majorana, or sweet marjoram. Outside the Origanum family there is Lippia graveolens or Mexican oregano, and Plectranthus amboinicus, or Cuban oregano, both of which contain carvacrol, which is the signature chemical largely responsible for the sharp, pungent flavor of oregano.

While the common oregano can be grown from seed, it’s considered more of an ornamental than an oregano to be used for cooking. The Greek oregano is what most people want to use when cooking.

When buying plants do so from a reputable source, or take cuttings, layer or divide known quality plants. Also, if buying plants always smell the plant to make sure it has a good oregano scent and isn’t just an ornamental subspecies of O. vulgare.

Greek oregano has a low-creeping growth habit, with upright growth usually not exceeding six to eight inches, and will produce tiny white flowers in mid-summer. I have been growing this herb for many years and find that digging up some clumps and moving them around the garden keeps the plant fresh and growing well.

Thought for the day: “As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.” —Anonymous.

For more information about these topics call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at mike.johnson@usu.edu.

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