Growing Thyme in the garden is easy and rewarding. Originally from southern Europe it has attractive foliage and flowers and it is easy to care for.
Thyme is a hardy perennial herb, which means it survives throughout he winter months and will last for several years. Thyme grows to a height of up to 30cm. It is highly aromatic and emits a wonderful scent when trodden on. Some low-growing varieties of thyme are used as an alternative to a lawn.
Varieties of Thyme to Grow
There are many varieties of thyme to choose from:
- Golden-scented thyme – slight lemon scent, with small, purple flowers.
- Garden thyme – the most common thyme used for flavouring.
- Ground cover thyme – this thyme is good for cooking and ground cover, including an alternative to a lawn.
How to Grow Thyme
Thyme thrives in a well-drained light soil, of average fertility. It enjoys a sunny, sheltered position.
Growing Thyme from Seed & Cuttings
Thyme can be grown from seed, root division and cuttings. Growing from seed can take up to a year to develop into a harvestable plant; growing from division can produce a good sized plant in just a few months.
- To grow thyme from seed, sow into small pots (5cm diameter) in potting compost in March.
- Cover with a very thin layer of potting compost and keep the pots warm, preferably indoors or in a greenhouse. Seedlings should emerge within a week.
- Thin to 2-3 seedlings and keep the compost moist.
- When the first true leaves have grown (when the plants are 10cm tall), harden the plants off by moving the pots outside in the day then taking them in at night. Do this for up to a week, before leaving the pots out at night. This gradually acclimatises the plants so they are not shocked when planted outside.
- Transplant the young plants into their final positions, roughly 30cm apart in a well-drained soil in full sunlight. Harvest sparingly in the first year.
- To divide thyme, choose a healthy plant at least 3 years old. Simply dig it up in early spring and remove as much soil as possible from the roots. Then gently tear the plant into 3 or 4 pieces, each with sufficient roots and foliage to grow independently from the main plant. Place each new plant back in the ground and water thoroughly. The new plants should be robust enough to harvest the leaves from late summer.
Caring for Thyme
Once established, thyme requires very little attention. Water only in very dry conditions and avoid feeding (too many nutrients can cause thyme to grow leggy and lose its flavour). A mulch of organic matter such as leafmould, well-rotted animal manure or homemade compost placed around the roots in autumn will protect thyme from severe frosts and deliver a moderate amount of nutrients throughout the year.
After 3 years, thyme will become woody and produce fewer leaves. At this stage it should be dug up and divided to make new plants.
Thyme may be harvested throughout the year. However, its leaves taste best in June and July. Simply remove the sprigs using scissors or secateurs.
Growing Thyme in a Container
Thyme will thrive if grown in a container, and requires no extra attention. During the summer, and organic liquid feed such as seaweed will be necessary every fortnight.
Thyme is a great plant to have growing in the garden. It can be used as ground cover in the herb garden, herbaceous borders, or even as an alternative to a lawn. It is a great herb to cook with, adding flavour to a variety of dishes, especially fish. What’s more, thyme is easy to grow.