Monday

Thyme for the Garden

Photo Common ThymeI couldn't help the play on words . . . although I tried. Thyme is the traditional herb of courage, and was often used as an ingredient in teas, soups, and as a main ingredient in tokens and sachets to encourage good luck in battle, in overcoming shyness, and in 'winning the day'. The word thyme may well derive from the Greek thymon, which means courage.

Growing Thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a hardy perennial that does well in a sunny location that has well-drained, alkaline soil. There are a number of varieties, but most are woody shrubs with stiff upturned stems on which grow small spade shaped leaves and small flowers. It can take some punishment, so is popular choice for walkways or borders. Most varieties grow to a height of about a foot, and spread out about two feet.

Thyme is a great fill-in plant that can cover a bare spot and thrive where other plants have failed. Give it a neglected corner by a set of stairs, or near a steppingstone, and it will probably reward you with years of service.

Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) makes an amazing, aromatic carpet in your garden when allowed to spread out, and it will add old world charm when placed near old stone buildings or walls.

There are many varieties of thyme, with very different scents and possible applications in cooking, home remedies, and potpourri. When selecting multiple varieties for the garden, be sure to plant them apart from one another. Thyme cross-pollinates readily, with unexpected results.

Propagating Thyme

Propagate thyme by root division, layering, or stem cutting in spring or autumn. You can also sow seeds in spring, although the seedlings grow very slowly. I have found layering and growing from seed less effective than stem cuttings (with a bit of the heal attached) and root division as methods of propagation.

Growing Thyme Indoors

I have a pot of thyme in my southern facing window, and keep it there year round in a small pot, positioned near the windowsill. The soil is composed of two parts potting mix to one part sand, with a pinch of ashes from the fireplace. I only harvest new shoots from this plant, and try to keep it shrub-shaped.

Uses for Thyme

This is where thyme really shines, particularly if you like surprises in the garden. Available in regional variations as well as: mint, caraway, lemon, lime, woolly, silver, broadleaf, and other varieties, thyme is the little herb that can. These thyme variations have flowers that range from white to crimson, with yellow and lilac too, and leaves that go from dark, shiny green to yellow.

Thyme's many fragrances and flavors have a cornucopia of applications from spicing up cheeses and soups, to adding that unexpected bite to your potpourri (store bought or homemade).

Thyme tea will treat a hangover and help you digest that big meal. It will also help sooth a sore throat or persistent cough. It is an essential ingredient in the herb blend bouquet garni, and is a natural in sauces that use tomatoes or red wine as a base.

A thyme and rosemary infusion (strong tea) will treat dandruff, and a thyme spray made with alcohol or vinegar is a natural disinfectant.

Thyme is also a delicious flavoring for game, poultry, beef, egg dishes and shellfish. It has a strong flavor, so use restraint when learning to use it in your cooking.

Harvesting Thyme

Small sprigs of thyme can be harvested before flowering. After flowering, leave the plant alone to provide needed nutrition to its roots for the remainder of the summer.

Thyme is a wonder in the garden, and you will be shorting yourself if you don't try it. Its hardiness, color, and fragrance make it a good friend, both in the garden and out.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:12:00 PM

    Hello there! I am a new gardener with some experience; which means I was involved with gardening throughout my childhood, but am attempting it on my own for the first time. So I have lots of random knowledge but I'm very naive about gardening at the same time. :)
    Your site is very well laid out and informative! I found it while searching for information on thyme.
    I bought two types of thyme this morning at a garden centre, Thymus serpyllum 'albus' and Thymus praecox 'pseudolanuginosus' (wow!) because the song "scarborough fair" was running through my mind... I've tossed around the idea of herb gardening, but these two tiny plants would be my humble beginnings.
    Thanks for renewing my interest, keep up the good work!
    Tamara

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  2. Hello there fellow gardener! I recently bought an oregano thyme and I did some root division. I hope it's as tough as people say it is. I'm not sure if it's healthy or not.

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  3. Hey Chris! Thanks for visiting. I haven't tried oregano thyme before. Good luck.

    Sara

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  4. Hi Sara! The Oregano Thyme is one of the creeping varieties. Based on my Internet search, it doesn't seem to be a very popular variety. In fact for care and propagation, I just read up on Thyme in general. I was also wondering for a while whether it was an Oregano, a Thyme or a hybrid. Apparently, it's just Thyme. How about you? You still have Thyme in your garden?

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  5. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the info.

    Yes, I do have time for thyme in the garden. (Sorry, I had to do it!) Actually I keep common thyme, silver, lemon and lime. They're all around the house, and the plain old common time variety (Thymus vulgaris)has been lurking near my front doorstep for almost a decade.

    Thanks for asking! It's always fun to brag a little bit.

    Sara

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  6. Hahaha...brag on. And the pun had to be delivered. I understand. ;-)

    Do drop by my blog sometimes. Let's check out each others plants.

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  7. Will do, Chris, and thanks for visiting.

    Sara

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  8. So, I was reading about thyme liking a more alkaline soil and was read the other article that you linked too and it mentioned adding ground limestone. However, I was wondering if the lime that you were talking about in your posts on Lavender and Rosemary was the same? If it is, could I use the crushed eggshells for natural lime with thyme as well, or do they need something stronger (like the ground limestone)?

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  9. So, I was reading about thyme liking a more alkaline soil and was read the other article that you linked too and it mentioned adding ground limestone. However, I was wondering if the lime that you were talking about in your posts on Lavender and Rosemary was the same? If it is, could I use the crushed eggshells for natural lime with thyme as well, or do they need something stronger (like the ground limestone)?

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  10. Kendall,

    The lime in eggshells will become available to the plants over time. To speed up the process a bit, eggshells can also be composted. If you have poor soil and need limestone now -- it's always a good idea to have your soil tested or call your local Cooperative Extension office to ask about general soil conditions in your area -- an additive is your best bet.

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  11. hi! just want to drop by and say that i find your blog interesting and very helpful especially for me, a beginner in gardening. Thanks )

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  12. hi! just want to drop by and say that i find your blog interesting and very helpful especially for me, a beginner in gardening. Thanks )

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    1. Hi Yoni,

      Thanks for visiting. I started my gardening adventure with herbs too. It's lots of fun -- and never boring.

      Sara

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  13. Over the years I have tried to grow Thymus time and time again and always managed to kill them,not realising that they needed a slightly alkaline soil.After reding you page I have decided to give them another try and adding some lime to my very acid soil.So wish me luck.Mike

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    Replies
    1. Good luck, Michael. Have fun!

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