Consider planting thyme in your herb garden, at the edge of a pathway, along a short garden wall, or in containers. You can even place it along a walkway or between steps to enjoy its aroma with every step. Thyme can also make a beautiful ground cover. It is evergreen in winter and can serve as an anchor in an herb garden. Thyme is also an excellent choice for containers, either alone or in combination with non-shading plants. The plant blooms in spring and summer with tiny, two-lipped blossoms that attract bees.
Quick Guide to Growing Thyme
- Plant it in the spring once the chances of frost have passed.
- For optimal growth, space thyme plants 12-24 inches apart.
- Plant in a sunny, well-drained area with fertile soil and a pH close to 7.0.
- Before planting in-ground, mix several inches of aged compost to improve existing soil.
- For best results, feed regularly with a water-soluble plant food.
- Keep soil moist and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Once the thyme plant is established, it can be harvested as needed. However, it is recommended to avoid pruning more than one-third of the plant at a time.
Growing Thyme from Seed
Thyme seeds can be sown directly or raised in containers and transplanted once established.
- Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
- Sow seeds 3mm deep.
- Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
- Seeds should germinate in around 14-21 days at a soil temperature of 18-21°C.
- Once they have their first true leaves, transplant seedlings to the garden and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
- Plant out, spacing plants 25cm apart.
It's important to handle thyme seeds with care. The seeds are quite small and can easily be blown or washed away. To ensure even spacing, mix the seeds with fine potting mix before sowing. A seed dispenser or damp toothpick can also be used. After sowing, press the seeds lightly into the soil surface to ensure they make good contact with the soil. Remember to keep the seeds and seedlings moist, taking extra care to avoid letting them dry out.
How long does it take to grow thyme from seed?
Thyme is a plant that takes a long time to grow from seed and it may take up to 28 days for the seeds to germinate after planting. That is why it is usually grown from divisions or cuttings. However, if you want to plant it from seed, you can start by sowing the seeds indoors and scatter them on top of the soil. It is not necessary to cover them completely, just lightly cover them or not at all.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Thyme is a herb that thrives best when grown in full sun. To get started, choosing young and healthy thyme plants is recommended. Plant them in soil with excellent drainage and a pH of about 7.0. You can improve drainage and prevent root rot by mulching with either limestone gravel or builder’s sand. Additionally, you can enrich soil texture and nutrition by adding a few inches of enriched aged compost.
If you want to grow thyme indoors, you can do it in a pot if you have a sunny window away from drafts or a grow light.
Thyme is an easy-to-grow herb that needs little care except for regular pruning. German thyme is a perennial plant in zones 5 to 9, while lemon thyme is a perennial in zones 7 to 9. After the first year, do a light pruning after the last spring frost. This pruning will keep the plant from becoming too woody and brittle. To keep the plant bushy, pinch the tips of the stems. However, stop clipping about a month before the first frost of fall to avoid tender new growth. In the spring, cut back the thyme by one-third. Always cut above points where you can see new growth, never below the leafless woody stem. Lemon thyme is more upright and vigorous than other thymes. In a cold climate, cover the plant with mulch after the soil freezes to protect it from winter damage.
During dry weather, spider mites can be problematic. In humid climates, watch out for root rot and fungus diseases. Prevent disease by ensuring good drainage, air circulation, and proper planting.
Harvest and Storage
You can harvest thyme leaves as and when you need them, even during winter in evergreen areas. The flavor of thyme is most intense just before the plant blooms, but its leaves are always flavorful due to their strong aroma. Before using, make sure to remove the tiny leaves from the woody stems.
Thyme is an herb that can easily be dried, refrigerated, frozen, or preserved in oil or vinegar. Its tiny leaves air-dry quickly and you can add thyme to butter or mayonnaise to taste. It is particularly great in dishes such as dried beans, meat stews, and strong vegetables like cabbage. Additionally, thyme adds great flavor to any slow-cooked soup, stew, vegetable, meat, or sauce. If you prefer a lemony taste, try lemon-flavored thyme in any dish that calls for a citrusy kick.
Increase Your Herb Garden Knowledge
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