Thymus

Common name: Thyme

Thyme originates from southern Europe is a hardy perennial herb with attractive foliage and flowers.

The plants are highly aromatic, emitting a powerful scent when brushed against or trodden on.

It is an easy to care for culinary herb that grows to around 250-300mm (10"-12") high.

Plants produce clusters of purple flowers from the leaf axils in June.

They can be located in containers near to the house for easy picking, or set 300mm (12") apart in sunny borders.

It is a short lived perennial meaning it is best to replace the plants every three to four years, when they become thin and straggly.

There are many types of thyme to choose from for example;

There is Golden-scented thyme with its slight lemon scent,and small, purple flowers.

Ground cover thyme which can be used to form a sweet smelling lawn feature.

Garden thyme is the most common type, and is the one usually used for flavouring.

Thyme prefers a sunny sheltered spot with well-drained soil that is not too rich in nutrients.

Cultivation

Week 13: Sow seeds in pots/trays of seed compost and germinate in a coldframe.

Germination should take about a week.

Week 15: Prick off the seedlings, when large enough to handle, into 75mm (3") pots of potting compost.

Circa Week 18: replenishing plants that have become straggly can be done in a number of ways, e.g. heel, tip cuttings, layering or division.

Heel cuttings: tear off a 50-75mm (2"-3") non-flowering lateral shoots from the main plant with a heel of older wood.

Remove its lower leaves and insert it into a well-drained loam-based compost.

Put in a propagator, or pull a plastic bag loosely over the cutting to retain moisture, seal it and place on a warm windowsill (not in full sun).

Roots should form in six weeks.

Tip cuttings: select the tip a non-flowering lateral shoot on the main plant.

Cut the tip off approximately 50-75mm (2"-3") down the stem; make the cut under the nearest leaf node.

Dip the cuttings into a hormone rooting powder and insert them into pots containing a 50-50 mix (by volume) of compost and sharp sand.

Pot the rooted cuttings singly into 75mm (3") pots of potting compost and grow on in a cold frame until planting out time.

Roots should form in six weeks.

Layering: layering involves burying a woody stem, still attached to the parent plant, until it roots.

Do this by removing the leaves from the stem in the area to be buried, and scrape the underside to create a wound.

Loosen the soil and pin the stem down with wire.

Cover with soil, leaving the growing tip clear of the surface, then water the area well.

Alternatively, the cutting can be pinned into a small pot of compost sunk into the underlying soil.

New plants should be ready to detach with a well-developed root system by autumn if layered in spring.

When rooted, sever the cutting from the parent plant and plant in its permanent quarters.

Divide established clumps and replant immediately.

Week 22: Plant out seedlings in a sunny border 300mm (12") apart.

Pot up a couple into 150mm pots for use during the winter months.

Week 48: Small plants can be dug up from the garden and potted up to grow on for winter use.

Aftercare:

Once established, thyme needs very little attention.

Water only in very dry weather.

Feeding is unecessary as a rule, usually an annual organic mulch will suffice, this will also double up as root protection during the winter months.

Too many nutrients can cause thyme to grow leggy and lose its flavour.

Harvesting:

Pick the the fresh leaves/shoots at anytime, although the leaves taste best in June and July.

The leaves can be dried or deep frozen.





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