Native to the western Mediterranean, home gardeners are growing thyme (Thymus vulgaris) from seed for its earthy, slightly minty flavor. This versatile culinary herb blends nicely with other flavors and is often used to season meat, egg or vegetable dishes.
Thyme grows virtually anywhere and is equally at home inside or out. Plant in pots, along walkways or in a sunny garden spot. In some cultures, thyme was even thought to bring fairies to homes whose families planted it nearby.
A low-growing, compact and tough perennial plant, thyme can tolerate moderate foot traffic and is often used as a lawn alternative or “walkable” groundcover. It spreads easily, requires less water than grass, and is hardy all the way north to zone 4 if it’s healthy.
Fun Fact: In earlier days, the Scottish highlanders drank thyme tea for strength and courage. It was also believed that a concoction of beer and thyme could cure shyness.
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Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Thyme
- Perfect seasoning for eggs, soups, meat and vegetables
- Tough perennial that overwinters well
- Easy to propagate from divisions or cuttings
- Start seeds 6-8 weeks before last frost; prepare for a long germination
- Harvest sparingly during the first season — use fresh or dried
- Watch for botrytis rot, rhizoctonia, aphids and spider mites
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 90-180 days from seed
Height: 4 to 12 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart
Thyme prefers full sun to light shade and a well-drained soil amended with plenty of organic compost or well-rotted animal manure. Plants thrive in pots and will spread between pavers to soften stone walkways. Used as a garden border, thyme’s delicate flowers attract many beneficial garden insects.
Keep sheltered from cold winds. Thyme may not survive severe winters unless covered or heavily mulched (watch our video How to Grow an Herb Garden).
How to Plant
Thyme is easy to propagate from cuttings or plant from nursery stock. Space 6- to 12-inches apart in all directions.
Start seeds indoors, covering lightly with soil and keeping moist until seedlings appear. Transplant outside after all danger of frost has passed. If you prefer, direct-sow in prepared garden beds two weeks before last frost.
Harvesting and Storage
Begin harvesting thyme sprigs during the first year from cuttings; snip seedlings sparingly until the second season. For best flavor, harvest herbs in the morning just before bloom. Strip leaves from the stem and use them fresh or dried.
To dry herbs, cut stems just as the flowers start to open. Hang upside down in small bunches.
Insect & Disease Problems
- Remove weeds and other garden debris to eliminate alternate hosts.
- Discard severely infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash.
- Release commercially available beneficial insects to attack and destroy insect pests.
- Spot treat pest problem areas with diatomaceous earth, neem oil or other organic pesticide.
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