Learn How To Grow Thyme To Uplift The Flavour Of Your Dishes

Having your own garden is a blessing! You can grow your own ginger, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, saffron, lemongrass and so many more. Like thyme! Thyme is an aromatic herbal product used for cooking different dishes. Its tiny evergreen leaves show up mainly in the spring and summer months.

Hands are holding thyme growing in a pot

The plant is commonly used as a food spice by many for decades because of its distinctive flavour. In addition, it contains vitamins A and C, which help boost the immune system, treat acne, and reduces high blood pressure. Keep reading this article to learn how to grow thyme to uplift the flavour of your dishes.

How to plant thyme

Where

Thyme thrives in scorching weather conditions and prefers to enjoy the full sun because it brings essential oil and flavour to the leaves. You can plant thyme in containers using soil-based compost with plenty of grit. 

If you have a large herb garden with various plants, you may plant your thyme near rosemary because they both enjoy bright light. But, strangely enough, thyme grows tremendously in gravel gardens, edge of paths or cracks in paving and concrete floors.

When

Like rosemary and other mints, thyme seeds are challenging to plant because of slow and irregular germination. So, it will be helpful if you plant young plants in spring only when the ground temperature reaches 21°C and all signs of frost have disappeared. 

How

Gardeners tend to opt for mature thyme plants during the planting season because thyme seed takes time to grow. Generally, a dry condition is the best growing season for thyme. 

Also, it can grow with little or no soil nutrients, and while some flourish in flower stalks, others form rugs, and some create streams. 

You can get young plants in nurseries and garden centres. Plant thyme in free-draining soil or compost, and water regularly until it starts germinating. Once the plant is rooted, you don’t need to water that often. Allow the plant to grow freely instead of fussing over it.

Step-by-step guide: Hot to plant thyme

Pretty girl growing thyme in the eggshell

  • Get some cuttings from an established thyme plant
  • Plant the cuttings 5 to 10 weeks before frost. 
  • Plant young thyme after the ground temperature reaches 21°C in well-drained soil about 20cm apart
  • Space out the cuttings 30 – 50cm apart to give it enough room to grow.
  • The plants should grow up to 15-30cm in height.
  • Plant thyme close to tomatoes and cabbage in the garden.
  • If you are growing thyme in containers, plant alongside rosemary.

Thyme Care

Light

Thyme originates in the southern Mediterranean, which may explain why the plant thrives in full sunlight. 

Grow your thyme herbs in an exposed location in the garden, where they can get direct sunlight or in planters that you can move around throughout the day.

If you’re growing your thyme plant indoors during frost, place it on a south-facing window or in a room that receives a lot of sun rays throughout the day.

Soil

Unlike most plants, the fewer nutrients your soil has, the better your plant will grow. This beneficial herb prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0.  

Thyme grows quickly, so space your plants at least 30-50cm apart from each other when planting in your garden. If you choose a pot for growing thyme instead, choose a larger container to create more room for the thyme to grow. 

A well-draining vessel will also help you wick away additional water from the soil and create a conducive environment for your thyme to develop.

Water

Thyme Plants hate too much water and are relatively drought-resistant. The hardiness of thyme means it requires water only when the soil is completely dry. 

Ensure not to overwater your thyme, and let the soil dry out adequately before watering again. If you’re planting thyme indoors or in containers, make sure they have good drainage to keep the soil dry. To get the best from your plant, water it once in two weeks or once a month. 

Its drought-tolerant nature makes it perfect for people that don’t have much time to give,  so don’t worry if you miss days or weeks without giving it water.

A pot with thyme in a garden

Temperature and Humidity

When it comes to temperature, thyme develops tremendously without stress. It can endure all seasons of the year until there is frost, which makes them inactive. If it receives more sun, its flavours will get stronger.

They grow vibrantly throughout the summer months – the same period their flowers come out in full bloom.

Fertiliser

You can fertilise the plants with organic matter like compost in the early spring

Using a water-soluble fertiliser will prevent the plant from producing much foliage, reducing its fragrant oils. After this, your plant can thrive even without constant attention. 

Propagating thyme

Despite being an easy plant to grow and manage, thyme is difficult to propagate from seeds, so the best and more common strategy is to take some cuttings

Gently cut off a well-established stem of 15cm in length. The branches should have new growth, but the bottom part can be more mature.

Remove all the leaves, about 2 – 3 sets. Then, plant the cutting in a container filled with ordinary potting soil mixed with sand. Cover the container with plastic wrap to keep the humidity in there.

Place the container in a location with bright indirect sunlight. Ensure you keep the soil moist until it starts growing. 

Remove the plastic wrap to allow the cutting to take in some air. You should see the development of a root system. Check to make sure it is sufficient to transplant into a larger pot or directly into the garden.

Common Pests and Diseases

Luckily for newbie gardeners, thyme has no serious threats when it comes to pests or diseases, but it can develop root rot or grey mould (Botrytis cinerea). These diseases occur when you grow thyme in soil that contains lots of moisture. 

During cold winters, remember to lightly mulch around plants to prevent moisture from sitting at the plant base.

The symptoms of grey mould include grey or brown spots on leaves, causing them to wilt. 

Also, avoid planting thyme in dense or nutrient-filled soil. The more water your plants have, the more susceptible they are to infections. 

Finally, space out the plants to allow air circulation, and don’t forget to keep them neat by removing debris, cuttings, and dead leaves.

Harvesting and Storing Thyme

Harvesting these plants can be done anytime. You can harvest thyme in the summer, but also as late as the fall. Fresh thyme is ready for harvest right before its flowers open and tastes best when gathered in the morning. 

Container with fresh thyme in the garden

Clip a few stems any time you are ready to cook or use them for medicinal purposes. However, don’t harvest thyme sprigs too much in the first season, so they will still have protection to survive the colder temperatures of winter. 

After the first year, you can harvest more, but leave at least 10cm of growth to ensure it continues growing.

To store thyme, place your thyme in a jar of water like a bouquet of flowers, and put it in a refrigerator. Changing the water can keep it fresh for months. Also, you can roll it in a wet paper towel and place it in a plastic bag or toss it into a resealable container and place it inside the refrigerator.

Furthermore, you may dry thyme as a form of preservation. Hang the sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated spot, or dry the leaves by placing them on a flat tray or container. Once dry, keep them in an airtight container. This process should retain the thyme’s flavour for two years. 

Using thyme

A ladle and thyme on a table

  • You can use thyme in several dishes ranging from rice, eggs, soup, bread, beans, potato, and meat.
  • Thyme provides relief for a range of respiratory ailments and stimulates immune and circulatory responses.
  • Diluted thyme essential oil is a vital ingredient in relieving and healing mouth and skin infections.
  • Thyme essentials contain some fungicidal properties which you can use to disinfect your environment.
  • You can use thyme to control viruses, bacteria, and pests such as rats and mice.

Thyme recommended varieties

There are different species and varieties of thyme to choose from. The following are some of the most common and popular ones of garden thyme

Creeping theme on old wooden table

  • Golden lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Aureus’): If you need a hint of lemon, the golden lemon thyme is your best shot. Aside from the minty quality of thyme, the herb boasts golden streaked leaves.
  • Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus): It has dense, flat spreading tiny carpet leaves. The foliage barely has any fragrance scent, so it’s not ideal for cooking, but It is a beauty to behold in rock gardens and cracks.
  • Caraway thyme (Thymus Herba-Barona): This species of thyme grows pale pink flowers and offers a caraway scent.
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox): This variety grows creepily as a low mat (also used as a ground cover), about 5cm inches tall. It also grows with pink, magenta, lavender, or white flowers. 
  • Wild thyme(T. serpyllum): This variety grows upright and provides flowers in red and purple. The leaves colour can be gold, grow, or mixed.
  • Elfin thyme (T.serpyllum Elfin): Elfin grows not more than 5cm and has enhanced fragrant leaves. It produces its flowers in tiny purple and pink and thrives well in rock gardens and bricks.
  • Culinary or English Thyme(Thymus vulgaris): is the most popular and common thyme for culinary use. It has green leaves and mauve flowers.

Thyme goes beyond food flavour, as it enhances the immune system and cures respiratory illnesses like a cough. The plant is one of the best to grow in your garden because it requires little effort and is highly resistant to pests. You only need to follow a few measures to have this medicinal plant flourishing in your garden.

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