Growing Thyme

Latest Update 3rd July 2016.

  • Thyme is a small spreading plant with lots of small white flowers.  It has always been a bit untidy in my garden as you can see in the photo, but our weather can be a bit wild at times. 
  • I grow it mainly as a culinary herb used fresh, or dried and blended with other herbs.  It is an important ingredient in my general purpose herb mix.  
  • I grow it in my fruit and herb garden where it provides habitat for predatory and pollinating insects, and its a useful fill-in between the larger herbs and fruiting shrubs and trees.
  • I don't usually need to worry about pests on my thyme, like most of the aromatic herbs, it seems to provide an adequate deterrent of its own.
  • Variety:                                                  Thymus Vulgaris.
  • Family group:                                         Lamiaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                     Drip line irrigation.
  • Recommended soil pH.                            6.0 - 6.75.
  • Minimum sun per day:                             3 hours.
  • Plant spacings (centres):                         300 mm.
  • Climate:                                                  Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                             Southern hemisphere.
  • This food is very low in cholesterol and sodium.
  • It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.
  • More from nutrition
Growing Conditions: 
  • Thyme grows best in full sun.
  • It prefers sandy soil but grows well in most organically actives soils. 
  • It grows well in hot dry conditions, and is drought tolerant.
Soil Preparation. 
  • Clear a space for thyme in a drip line bed, add a 60mm layer of thermal compost and cover with 50mm of straw mulch.  Try not to plant new seedlings where it has been growing recently.
  • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity.
Growing Instructions. 
  • Thyme is a perennial plant and I propagated it from seed in spring.  It can be propagated from cuttings, but it looks a bit too fiddly for me.
  • Sow thyme seeds in August on the surface of an organic seed growing mix in a mini pot, and cover lightly with the mix finely sieved.
  • Soak the mini pot for an hour in a tray containing 10mm of dilute seaweed extract (preferably in rainwater).  The liquid will move up into the soil without flooding it. 
  • Sink the mini pot up to its rim in a propagator.  This will keep the soil moist until the seedlings are ready to transplant.  Protect the seedlings against frost. 
  • Transplant the seedlings individually after 4 weeks into organic potting soil in jiffy pots, soak them in dilute seaweed extract and returned them to the propagator.
  • When propagating from cuttings, choose your strongest most vigorous plant.
  • Take cuttings in spring from new shoots about 100mm long.  Remove the lower leaves leaving 15mm of leaves in place at the top and plant the cuttings 50mm deep in a propagator.  Water the cutting in well with dilute seaweed extract.
  • The propagator's high microbial activity and constant soil moisture stimulates root growth, so I don't use rooting powder, and I only water once.
  • Once the plant starts to grow vigorously, transplant it into prepared soil in your herb bed.
  • Water it in and follow up with a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks. 
  • Thyme is a light feeder, however, a top dressing of home made compost in winter is very beneficial.
  • If left to its own devices a thyme plant will become woody after a couple of years, however, regular pruning will extend its productive life to 4 years. 
  • You should prune the established plant in spring after flowering.  Remove the flowers including the stem, and cut the green growth back by 1/3rd.  Do not cut back into old wood.  
Harvesting and Storage. 
  • Thyme can be harvested at any time, but don't strip the leaves too much or you could check the plants growth.
  • Begin using the leaves as soon as the plant is large enough to spare some.
  • You can air-dry thyme in small, loose bunches.  Once the leaves are dry, crush them and store them in an airtight container.
  • I use an electric dehydrator.  I remove the leaves from the stems after they are dry, and grind them down to small flakes with a mortar and pestle.  I store the thyme flakes in a small airtight bottle.
Organic Pest Control.
    • Greenhouse whitefly.  
      • Aerated compost tea improves the plants resistance to whitefly damage.
      • Control any infestations by spraying your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).
      • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.