Isn’t it about time you conquered your fears about growing thyme? Bad joke, I know, but I really couldn’t help it. I absolutely adore growing this aromatic herb in my garden. Just the smell takes me back to summer months spent on my grandparents’ farm, watching them grow this herb with tender loving care. I picked up a lot from them and grew my own stash at home using research as well as trial and error.
From classic Italian seasoning to bouquets of thyme, which can bring out the flavour of almost any dish you want to make, thyme or thymus vulgaris, should be a part of your herb garden. It has over 50 varieties (https://www.ehow.com/how_6804107_identify-different-types-thyme.html) of this hardy perennial out there, which can add savoury notes to grilled veggies, soups and meat dishes. The good news is that thyme can thrive even in a drought, so you won’t have to worry about watering it frequently.
How to Grow Thyme
Here are some tips that worked well for me when I started growing thyme in my personal garden:
Time and Location
Thyme grows well under bright light, so make sure you plant it in a spot that gets regular sun exposure. It can also thrive under fluorescent lights if you want to grow it in a greenhouse or indoors. Plant the herb in containers or near other herbs, such as rosemary.
The best time to plant thyme herb in your garden is when the temperature of the ground reaches 70°F i.e. a couple of weeks before the last frost.
Propagate by Cutting and Layering
There are two ways you can grow thyme plants:
By Layering – Take a long stem of thyme and stick it into the soil using a wire. Make sure that at least four inches of the tip free and the pinned part should be in direct contact with the soil as well. If done right, you should see roots starting to form in about a month. Once you see those, cut out the rooted part from the main plant and transfer it into a pot or your garden.
With Cuttings – Thyme can be difficult to grow if you start from the seed, so one of the best ways to grow it is by using cuttings. Just cut off a three-inch piece of the herb from the tip of the stem. Then apply some rooting hormone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzhTv5bVS0M) to the exposed part and plant it in vermiculite or some sterile sand. The roots should start to emerge in a few weeks and when they do, transfer the plant into a small pot to allow the root ball to form. Then, transplant the plant in your herb garden.
Plant from Seeds
If you want to plant thyme from its seed, you will have your work cut out for you. The seeds do not germinate easily, but you can increase their chances of doing so by following these steps:
- Scatter the thyme seeds over the soil in the container you are using gently.
- Scatter soil over the seeds gently.
- Water the soil thoroughly and then cover with a plastic wrap.
- Place the container in a warm location.
- The seeds should start to germinate in 12 weeks.
- Once the thyme plants or seedlings reach four inches in height, transplant them in your garden.
Thyme Cultivating Tips
- Plant thyme plants in soil that drains well and that has an optimal pH between 6.0 and 8.0. If you are planting in early spring, you can fertilize using organic compost.
- If you are planting thyme indoors, place the pot in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. If you want to plant it outdoors, plant thyme with other perennials that are tolerant to drought and in a spot that gives plenty of sunlight.
- Only water thyme when the soil is completely dry.
- Some types, such as lemon thyme, can grow fast so make sure you put plenty of space between each thyme plant. 12 to 24 inches should do, depending on the type you are growing.
- Thyme grows well with certain plants, such as rosemary. However, you can also plant it with other companion plants, besides herbs such as cabbages, tomatoes and broccoli (https://www.masterclass.com/articles/thyme-companion-planting-guide).
- Feed your indoor thyme with plenty of organic compost or herb fertilizer, but don’t add fertilizer in winter. The herb will almost stop growing in the cold weather.
- If you are growing the herb indoors out of the sun, just place a fluorescent light over it. Keep it on 14 hours a day and make sure it is about six inches above the plant.
- Never allow your thyme plant to sit in water. The roots will rot otherwise.
The best time to harvest lemon thyme or any type of thyme for that matter is just before it starts to put out flowers. That is when the herb is at its most potent flavour and the more you trim it, the more it will thrive. Cut some fresh stems from your mature thyme plants first thing in the morning, but leave the woody portions alone as well as five inches of the herb so it can flourish.
To remove the leaves, just slide your finger down the stem. This should dislodge the leaves easily. Crumble them by rubbing the leaves between your hands before adding them to a dish. This will release the herb’s natural aroma and flavour. If you want the herb to last longer, hang it upside down in a cool, dark place. When it is completely dry, store the leaves in sealed glass jars.
Section 3: FAQ
Q: Is thyme easy to grow?
A: Yes it is provided you do not overwater it. It is a drought-friendly plant, after all.
Q: How long does it take for thyme to grow?
A: Thyme such as thymus vulgaris or thyme thymus takes at least 14 to 28 days to mature enough to be pruned.
Q: Why is my thyme dying?
A: Chances are you are overwatering it. This herb grows well in slightly dry soil and its roots can develop rot or mildew if you add too much water to the soil. The roots will then suffocate and die and the leaves will not take long to die after that.
Q: How long do thyme plants live?
A: These plants can live forever provided you follow the tips that are mentioned in this guide and remain vigilant when it comes to their health. Whether you use seeds or propagate with plants, just make sure you don’t add too much water. That is the number one mistake most novice gardeners make.
Growing thyme thymus is really not that difficult and you can use it as a gateway herb if you want to try your hand at growing complex herbs. Just make sure you:
- Propagate first, then try your hand at seeds.
- Water scarcely and only add more water if the soil is completely dry.
- Place the plants under plenty of sunlight.
If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this guide, feel free to mention them in the comments below and I will get back to you.