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Plant a Thyme Lawn

Thyme makes a good, natural lawn replacement. Here's how to grow this attractive, drought-resistant herb instead of grass.

Growing a Thyme LawnIn an effort to reduce water use and time spent caring for lawns, some gardeners are replacing their turf with thyme. Thyme is an ideal grass alternative. It requires less water, is generally tough (see “walking on thyme” below), drought resistant, hardy all the way north to zone 4 if it’s healthy, and will spread easily to fill in most of the space that you want it to. Best thing: it becomes a carpet of attractive, lavender-colored flowers that lasts long into the season. If you’re looking to replace your thirsty grass with something more xeric, consider thyme.

There are downsides to putting in a thyme lawn. It can be expensive. When you’re planting plugs of thyme 6 to 12 inches apart, you can burn up a lot of cash fast. Most sources recommend planting smaller areas. If you have a croquet court-sized yard (in other words, large) you might want to consider planting only part of it in thyme to start. You can always go back and expand your thyme planting another season. The other downside is the labor it takes to get your thyme in the ground. You’ll need to kill off all the grass where you intend to plant first. This can be a slow and difficult process.

Here’s your best weapon in the War on Weeds. AllDown Organic Herbicide — a 20% vinegar weed killer, plus citric acid — is the product to reach for when you’re tempted to give up or resort to chemicals. OMRI Listed for use in organic production.

How to do it? The easiest way is to use multiple applications of some nasty herbicide like Roundup®. But you’re not in this for easy, you’re in it to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays. Digging it up is a poison-less way to do it but a lot of work. You can’t just yank up sod, leaving behind roots that will result in another layer of grass popping up. If you do dig — say you have a small space that will be manageable — dig deeply and make sure you remove any trace of roots.

Another tried and true way to remove turf is to smother it in black plastic. Make sure the plastic has no holes and that it extends several inches beyond the turf. Weigh it down with rocks or mulch. It may take as long as a full season — 3 months — to completely kill the grass. Be sure to till once the plastic is removed.

Another way is to cover the grass completely with newspaper and then mulch. Water evenly to soak the mulch and press the paper against the grass. The paper will eventually decompose (we like to say “compost”) and at that point the grass will have decomposed as well. Again, turn the soil completely, pulling out any roots that remain. We told you it was work, didn’t we?

Soil for thyme should drain well for best results. It’s also wise to add bone meal or rock phosphate before planting. Organic compost — as always — is a good idea. When tilling in these amendments, do it to a depth of only six inches or so; not the standard 12 inches (thyme is a shallow rooter). If conditions are dry, water the thyme in pots thoroughly before placing in the ground, then water your new thyme lawn thoroughly, to a depth of at least four inches. Thyme may be drought tolerant but it needs water to get established. Plant different kinds of thyme — silver, creeping, wooly — for a variety of colors and flowering times. A few of the popular culinary herbs — English thyme, citriodorus —  could go around the edges for easy access.

Some gardeners mow their thyme after it flowers to keep it neat looking and encourage it to spread. Your practical and sometimes lazy Planet Natural Blogger doesn’t think this is necessary.

Can you walk on thyme, like you could turf grass? Yes, once it’s established, but not too much, especially when dry. But make a path with stones or pavers for high traffic areas. And when you do walk on it, enjoy the smell that rises from your feet!

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64 Responses to “Plant a Thyme Lawn”

  1. Ginny on June 28th, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    “through Zone 4” — does that mean from 1 South to 4? Or does that mean, “as far north as 4”?

  2. E. Vinje on June 28th, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Good point…means as far north as zone 4…thanks for the smart edit!

  3. chantal on June 28th, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Roundup its so bad for the environment just plow your lawn and plant the thyme — no need for poison.

    • Carol on June 28th, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      I think the best way to do it is to lay down cardboard/newspaper over top of the present lawn, then add mulch/soil/etc. on top of the cardboard/newspaper and plant in that. The cardboard layer will kill the grass/weeds, and so much better for the earth than Roundup. Boycott Monsanto and their products!

      • Mike Brunt on June 8th, 2014 at 9:43 am #

        Yes indeed, sheet mulching the current lawn is a good way to go.

  4. amy on October 16th, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    I have planted thyme seeds in my lawn, without digging up the grass, and the thyme seems to be taking over the grass. It’s a slow process, but where the thyme is spreading, there is no grass.

    Is anyone concerned about thyme becoming invasive in rural environments?

  5. Juliet nelson on October 16th, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Great idea- except for the Round Up! There is no reason to use this awful poison. Boycott all Monsanto products, starting with this one.

    • E. Vinje on July 16th, 2014 at 3:39 am #

      I think you misread our comments… Here’s what we said about RoundUp in the post:

      How to do it? The easiest way is to use multiple applications of Roundup. But you’re not in this for easy, you’re in it to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays.

      We’ve also written several articles against RoundUp and Monsanto in general. Here’s just a few:

      https://www.planetnatural.com/herbicide-mothers-milk/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/water-purity-organic-gardening/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/bees-neonicotinoid/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/organic-dandelion-control/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/roundup-killing-soil/

      • Kim Walrath on June 5th, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

        Well, I have finally put down my first Thyme Lawn. I read this article for the first time like 5 years ago. I remember it specifically because of all the stupid comments. Lol. Who said that’s a bad thing? Anyway did what you said and used several different kinds. The Wooly Thyme seems to be my best grower but I am partial to the Elfin Thyme. I am in Northern Utah and it is quite arid here. Even when it rained this spring the wind would dry out the area pretty quick. So I am using a lot more water than I first expected. I watch for the first sign of yellow leaves and hold off for a day or two. Anyway, I love it so far. Thanks for planting the seed!

  6. Dean on December 20th, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Wow, I love the idea of a lawn made of Thyme. Mainly for the idea (and I’m completely with you on this) that there will be no need to mow it :-)

  7. Kajo on January 28th, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    How does it do in the hot humid south? What barriers do we install to keep it from spreading where we don’t want it?

  8. Scott on January 28th, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    I visited an herb farm in Burley, WA where she used wooly thyme as all the path covering. It was lush and soft to walk on; encouraged bare feet. I’ve been looking forward to doing that in my own garden sometime soon.

    • renzo on June 8th, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      Be cautious about bare feet when its flowering-bees are super-attracted to it. Have you ever stepped on a bee with bare feet?

      • Zina on July 13th, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

        In fact I have, as a child, memorable experience and one I’d care never to repeat.

  9. Paula on May 9th, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    My front lawn is very acidic with pine trees, and I also discovered grubs… we can’t grow grass, we’ve tried for years. Do you think thyme would work for me in this situation?

    • Lynette on July 20th, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      Paula, did you receive a response. I also have many pine trees. I plan on planting a large area with mini-clover and would like to plant another area with creeping thyme. Is there something I need to do to the soil to make it less acidic?

  10. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com on May 20th, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    My husband takes care of our limited lawn areas. Though he is on board with the organic food gardening (How could he NOT be after all these years with ME!), he is taking some convincing regarding the lawn. I’m sending him a link to this site.

  11. C. Quinn on June 8th, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Sorry I had to stop reading the article at the mere mention of Roundup. Why would it be necessary to even suggest this as a possible remedy to eradicating the lawn.

  12. Fran G. on June 8th, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    I am appalled that you would recommend using RoundUp!! It has been proven it’s ingredients are toxic to basicly all & it’s ingredients are showing up in our food & water!! There are MANY non-toxic ways to kill of grass, you should be advocating them, not RoundUp!!!

    • E. Vinje on July 16th, 2014 at 3:38 am #

      Of course, we don’t recommend the use of Roundup or any chemical pesticide. And we didn’t think our slightly tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Roundup was the lazy man’s way out would be taken seriously. After all, the sentence that follows makes it clear what we think.
      But you’re not in this for easy, you’re in it to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays.

      Here’s our response to one of our forum questions Is Roundup Safe?

  13. Carol on June 8th, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Like others have already said, I can’t believe you would suggest Roundup! That toxic chemical has nothing to do with “Planet Natural” and is the furthest thing from organic! Please rethink your suggestion and post an apology after you learn how toxic it is to the soil, the bees, the butterflies, the bats, and the birds.

    • E. Vinje on July 16th, 2014 at 3:39 am #

      I think you misread our comments… Here’s what we said about RoundUp in the post:

      How to do it? The easiest way is to use multiple applications of Roundup. But you’re not in this for easy, you’re in it to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays.

      We’ve also written several articles against RoundUp and Monsanto in general. Here’s just a few:

      https://www.planetnatural.com/herbicide-mothers-milk/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/water-purity-organic-gardening/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/bees-neonicotinoid/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/organic-dandelion-control/
      https://www.planetnatural.com/roundup-killing-soil/

      • Gloria on June 4th, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

        E. Vinje,

        Just now (June 2015) reading these posts, and geeez!, folks just need to take a breath and finish reading your post. I did, and understood immediately what you were getting at regarding your “tongue-in-cheek suggestion about using Roundup”. I actually laughed!

        Good grief, these days it seems people have lost the ability to recognize humor. Every day I see people all wound-up so tight, I am amazed folks can even walk or breath.

        I am much less worried about things like RoundUp, than I am about such events as we see on the news these days that CAN REALLY RUIN OUR LIVES AND ECONOMY!

        We all need to relax a bit and breath….

        • Jerica on June 28th, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

          Was just thinking the same thing Gloria.. If they just keep reading they will see that they are not suggesting Round Up

          • Anonymous on November 7th, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

            Yes, it’s a bit crazy that people have such strong reactions and judgements after reading half a sentence!! I loved the article… I’m zone 5 btw, are there any varieties that could work for me? And what brand of roundup do you recommend? JUST KIDDING!!!!!!!

  14. Kelly on June 8th, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    To all you fussing about Roundup go back and re-read. It says “the easiest way to clear would be to use an application of Roundup. But we’re not in this for easy, we’re in it to protect ourselves, our families, our loved ones, our pets etc.”

    • E. Vinje on July 16th, 2014 at 3:34 am #

      Thank you!

      • Shelley A on June 20th, 2015 at 8:45 am #

        Had you mentioned it at the end of your article you could probably have avoided so many critical remarks.

  15. Susan A. Legler on June 8th, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    Although thyme sounds like a wonderful grass replacement, please do NOT suggest people use ROUNDUP to remove grass from their existing lawn. First of all it is a Monsanto product. Second – it is highly toxic. A natural remedy for killing unwanted grass/weeds is: white vinegar, Dawn Dish Soap and Epsom Salt. Combine and spray.

    • E. Vinje on July 16th, 2014 at 3:37 am #

      Of course, we don’t recommend the use of Roundup or any chemical pesticide. And we didn’t think our slightly tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Roundup was the lazy man’s way out would be taken seriously. After all, the sentence that follows makes it clear what we think.

      But you’re not in this for easy, you’re in it to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays.

  16. Maynard on June 8th, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    I am installing a thyme lawn. There are MANY different varieties and it overwinters in sub zero with no die-out. I even did everything wrong, did not fully kill lawn,(just dumped mulch and planted directly in it) spread calcium hydroxide lime directly on top of the soil (no tilling) and have strong freezing winds and poor soggy soil and it is growing in fine. An observation: adding the calcium hydroxide and pellitized lime was very beneficial, every plant in the yard exhibited evergreen behavior. The thyme stayed green while frozen (slight browning), sage stayed green (moderate browning) and the jasmine vines on the fence stayed green all winter despite freezing. Over watering can kill thyme, I have raised the soil level with mulch, rock dust, sand, and the top layer should be pea gravel for a quick dry after rains.

  17. Audra on July 14th, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    DO NOT USE ROUNDUP. I love planting alternatives to grass and thyme is my favorite. It is cost effective for DIYers and it is a better solution for the environment. Thyme smells great and it is fun to walk on.

    Roundup is linked to many health problems. Please do your research before suggesting anyone use this.

    Monsanto is an awful company with no care for your health, my health or the health of our soil/planet.
    “In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean…Indeed, according to Dr. Seneff, glyphosate [active ingredient] is possibly “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies”

  18. Lisa Nunez on August 4th, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    I am so aggrivated at all of the people making derogatory comments about the round-up. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE! (Great, well written and informative article bt the way!)

  19. Mars on August 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi, Thank you for your article. We recently bought a house in San Jose, CA (hardiness zone 9b) and we have a new yard (meaning it’s just dirt, we have to plant whatever we want on it). I intend to build a path for the heavy traffic, but would like to plant a thyme lawn. A few questions maybe you wonderful people can answer:
    1) do all varieties of thyme bloom purple?
    2) I have a dog. Would thyme be a good potty-lawn for her? Should I take any special precautions?
    3) I’m not familiar with the pattern of growth. Is it a trip hazard?
    4) How does this compare with a clover lawn or white star creeper lawn?

  20. toni on August 24th, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    clover are growing in thyme, how do you get ride of colver?

  21. diana on September 12th, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    I agree, everyone needs to calm down in regards to the roundup, I’ve used it (on my fathers advice I will never use it again there is safer methods) but and I will repeat BUT the fact is the author of this article mentioned that product is because most new people to gardening have been bombarded by television would immediately think of that for killing weeds, so the fact that he has explained in detail more than one other method to rid your self of grass should be complemented. He clearly cares about the earth our children and our pets other wise he would of left or at that terrible poisonous chemical which we all hate. Not once in his article did he say it was a preferred method (which we all know its not) I personally, and I’m sure many others will agree, that the article is well written and informative. And should be left at that.

  22. wick on November 19th, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I planted a few plants of creeping thyme at my cottage in Western Quebec and it has spread and seems to even have jumped around to different areas. The competition is grass, daises, painters brush, and while theses are wonderful, they don’t last and wish the thyme would take over. The question is, how did it jump from spot to spot, i.e., how does it spread?

  23. Elena swope on March 9th, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    I was wondering about pests. My lawn was destroyed by the Cheber beetle and the crows, skunks and raccoons pulled up the week grass by the clumps. Could this happen with the Tyme plants? I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars only to find a repeat of this with the thyme plants.
    I’d appreciate any knowledge about this from those of you8 who may have come up against this or other pests.

  24. Alex on March 25th, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Will a thyme lawn work in an area that doesn’t have very good drainage? Also, will woolly thyme attract bees?

  25. Kat on April 13th, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Use your brains while reading, people. The author is saying don’t use roundup.

  26. Karliapril on April 27th, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    I’m not sure how old this article is but I’m considering planting a very very large area to creeping thyme. Where I live it’s gets hot hot in the summer and we are in a terrible drought. (Zone 5)
    I live on a working ranch so I have several questions about this plant?
    If our cows, horses, pigs etc get out will creeping thyme be toxic? I’ve read that yes it is and I’ve also read that it’s not…?
    Also for such a large are is it easier/cheaper to plant it from seed or is best to plant plugs? I’ve been looking everywhere for advice on this and have come up with nothing! TIA :)

  27. Carolyn on May 1st, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    I would love to redo my lawn with thyme. My question is: will it spread to the neighbors?

    I don’t want to be the neighbor who infests everyone else’s lawns with non-grass seeds. We are separated from them by concrete but how much risk is there to their lawn if I cover ours in thyme?

  28. Glynis on June 12th, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    Nice idea this.
    A couple of thoughts…
    If you happen to have chickens and do have time they can help you clear the grass. Of course this applies only to some people. They helped us clear a whole area of field to plant veg and are now busy on another patch. Although you still have plenty of work to do it’s definitely easier when they’ve destroyed the top vegetation first.

    The other is to raise thyme from seed. I’m in the UK but I just found a packet of 3500 creeping thyme seeds for £0.99. That’s is much cheaper than lots of plugs and cheap enough to “try it and see”.

    • CFB on August 7th, 2016 at 10:38 am #

      I was considering renting goats to clear the grass ☺

  29. Glynis on June 12th, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    Another possibility is to add some Corsican mint – which has tiny leaves and forms dense carpets. It smells divine!

  30. jane on February 6th, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    PLANET NATURAL????? I cannot believe you would even suggest using ROUNDUP a known carcinogen to remove existing lawn. Very sad.

    • Ilehana on February 18th, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      Go back and read the article.

  31. JT on March 21st, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    Hello, I planted elfin thyme around my deck area in between stone and now I have several variety of weeds growing with the ground cover. What can I do to kill the weed and not kill the thyme? I have to much to pick by hand. Thank you, JT

    • E. Vinje on March 21st, 2016 at 10:50 am #

      JT –

      All of our organic herbicides are not specific to weeds and will kill whatever you spray them on. We suggest spot treating the weeds, as opposed to blanket applications, when applying them. With that said, we know several customers that will use a surgical glove under a cloth glove to make applications. They simply dip their protected hand in the concentrated solution and grab ahold of the unwanted vegetation. It’s an effective way to minimize drift and prevent damage to the plants you want, especially in confined areas.

      https://www.planetnatural.com/product-category/organic-gardening/lawn-landscape/weed-control/

      Hope this helps!

  32. Penny on March 24th, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I live on Long Island in New York State (Zone 7a). What is the best type of creeping thyme to have foliage as much of the year as possible? I would like leaves early in the spring and late into the fall.

    Thanks.

  33. Susan on April 8th, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    What season should I plant the thyme? I’m in zone 7b and would like to do it in the fall.

  34. JT on April 20th, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    I planted elphin thyme in between my stone pavement and it is having trouble with weed growth. I did not use black plastic before planting now I have clover and several weeds that are killing the thyme. Is there any weed killer that is available other than pulling the weeds which are now to numerous to take out or that won’t kill the thyme? Thanks JT

  35. Brian on May 15th, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    I have thyme seed and I just sheet mulched, any advice for how to actually plant it?

  36. Dj on August 11th, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Leave the clover, encourage the thyme…Benificials (bees, wasps and butterflies) that pollinate our food sources, will love it!! So glad the Round-Up comment got people’s attention.. It’s bad stuff for all the good critters….

  37. LJY on October 19th, 2016 at 6:10 am #

    Considering how many people have a problem with reading comprehension and might get the wrong impression, I would highly suggest editing your comment about using Roundup. I “got it.” but did have to read it twice to make sure. My suggestion:

    While the easiest way would be to use multiple applications of some nasty herbicide like Roundup, we are certainly not in this for easy ways that do nothing to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the environment at large from harmful sprays.

  38. kevin on December 1st, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    I live in fort Lauderdale and am in the process of putting down new compost right now. I have purchased seeds and was wondering if I could seed now while the compost is new or is it too late in the year. I’m in zone 10b.

  39. isabel on April 3rd, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    I want to install a thyme lawn but there are so many different thymes. I’d like one that does not have many or any blooms, just be green, like a lawn. Also, it must be solid and dense, no more than 2″ high, and require very little water. Which thymes would you recommend?
    I also have to take out the old mostly dead grass and living weeds and rototill the soil.
    Thanks.

    • Chris on June 4th, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      I have had a thyme lawn for over 5 years now. I so love it. Creeping thyme and wooly thyme are both classes as “ornamental” herbs rather than culinary . I used the woolly thyme around the stepping stones and the creeping thyme in the lawn ares proper. The creeping thyme is a dark green and the wholly is blue green and I like the contrast. One ore two weeds pop up but if I pull them the day I see them their is never a problem and I don’t spend more than 5 minutes a week. As for cost you can literally take one stock and plant in a small container which will become a plug sized plant in a few weeks. I do take shears to mine in the fall as the roots are close to the surface and I don’t like seeing them. Hope this helps. As far as cultural I have only seen deep rose and white. Blooms for about a month and thou you mentioned you don’t want bloom I’m sure you will love it. Height is about 2 1/2 inches. . If you buy culinary thyme it can be up to 10 inches tall.

  40. amelia on July 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am #

    I have lemon thyme accidentally taking over my lawn. It smells great when i mow. Will I have stinging pollinator problems? Also, it is on a good slope. Will it hold the soil as well as grass?

  41. John Palochak on September 9th, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    I planted red thyme a few years ago in a flower bed, got tired of replanting flowers and weed control, not a gardener. The thyme filled in nicely. There a few spots where it died, why I have no idea. But, the way it grows I’m sure it will return. I am trying to find out the best way to keep it weed free if that’s possible. Thank you for any suggestion…JP

  42. Lissie on March 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am #

    A quick and cheap way to kill off a large area of grass or weeds is to mix vinegar, table salt and a little dish soap in a sprayer and go to town! It will kill off anything it touches so be careful around other garden plants you want to keep. The hotter and sunnier the day, the quicker the grass dies off, but it works pretty fast either way.

  43. Richard Stum on June 19th, 2018 at 11:09 am #

    I have a so-called Thyme lawn but the maintenance is killing me. Is there a responsible weed killer that I might use to reduce the weeds, yarrow or crab grass that keeps coming up between the Thyme? (Something that will NOT kill the Thyme of course).

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