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How to Grow Thyme


Thyme is a fragrant, shrubby plant that is covered in pink to lavender flowers.  While most people would associate this plant with a kitchen garden, it is also used in rock gardens, and as a border to other plants.

To begin the process of thyme production, you need to first know the growing requirements of this plant.  It is really not picky as far as the soil type goes but really prefers a well draining soil that is a little sandy or loamy.  As far as the sun goes, it does best when it is grown in full sun.  Thyme is one of those plants that do not require supplemental feeding to do well.  Now that you know the requirements, let’s take a look at how to start your thyme.

Thyme can be grown from seed, tip cuttings, and division.  To start with, let’s learn how to grow thyme from seed.  To begin this process, you will need to pull out your calendar.  Thyme seeds can take 8 to 20 days to germinate.  In doing so, you will need to count back 10 weeks from your local frost free date.  The local frost free date is the last date by which you should expect frost.  Now that you have this date, the next step is to prepare your containers.  While you may be tempted to skip this step, do not.  The first thing you will need to do is to fill a basin with water and a capful of bleach.  Once that is done, place your container in the water and allow to soak.  After it has soaked for a few minutes, scrub to remove any soil and plant debris.  Rinse the container is plain water and set out to dry. 

The next step in this process is to add drainage material if you are using a pot.  If you are using a flat, do not add anything but soil.  To keep from burying the tiny seeds, moisten the soil before putting it into your chosen container. 

Once the container has been filled, gently tap on the table.  Now you are ready to plant your seed.  Open the seed packet and gently shake out the seeds.  Try to make sure that they are spaced out.  Next, sprinkle 1/8 inch of soil on top of the seed and move your container to a sunny window.  In 8 to 20 days, you will begin to see little green dots.  These represent the germinated seeds but do not be surprised if the number of green dots is down compared to the number of seeds planted.  Thyme is one of those plants that have a low germination rate.

After the seeds have germinated, allow the seedlings to remain in the container until the plants have two sets of true leaves.  Once that happens, the seedlings are ready to upsize into individual plants.  Continue to monitor soil moisture until your local frost date has passed.

The second technique by which you can start thyme is through tip cuttings.  A tip cutting is one that is taken at the end of a branch or stem and is the youngest part of the plant.  To begin this process, you will need to clean and sterilize the container along with filling it as described above.   Next, clean and sterilize your cutting shears.  This can be done with the water and bleach technique or you can simply wipe down the cutting surface with rubbing alcohol.

After your pot and equipment has been sterilized, the next step is to begin the cutting process.  What you are looking for is healthy plant material that is at least 3 inches in length.  While this process will provide you with new starts of thyme, it will also force the plant to become more bush in nature.

As far as the cutting goes, make sure to cut the start from the mother plant at an angle.  After you have cut the start, strip all the leaves off the stem until you have 3 to 4 leaves left on top of the stem.  Next, dip the cut end into a rooting hormone.  Poke a hole in the soil and put your cutting into the hole.  Gently push the soil around the cutting.  Place your cuttings on a sunny window and monitor the soil moisture.  In 8 to 10 weeks, you should see evidence of rooting.  To checking the rooting progress, gently tug on the cuttings.  If you feel resistance then the cutting has rooted. 

The last way of propagating the thyme is through division.  Propagating a plant through division is simply dividing the plant into parts.  The key to this technique is to make sure that you divide a healthy plant and that your divided parts have roots.

To begin this process, starts off with digging up a thyme plant from the garden or removing a thyme plant from a pot.  Once that is done, gently work around the roots so that you can develop a plan on how you want to divide.  Now that decision has been made, you can either cut the roots apart or just tear.  After you have your divisions, replant in the garden space or in a pot.

The next step in this process is the care of the thyme.  While thyme is pretty much carefree, it can use a good pruning in the spring and summer.  This will not only help control the plant, it will also help prevent a buildup of woody stems. 

The other garden task you will need to do is mulching.  Not only is this very important for weed control but it is equally important if you live in an environment that gets cold.  The simple act of mulching with wood or pine needles will prevent the cold from hurting the roots of the thyme and possibly killing it.

Thyme itself normally does not have a disease or pest problem but there are two issues that pop up when the weather is wet and that is gray mold and root rot.  If you find that your plant’s leaves have spot and/or a gray like webbing on the plant then chances are you have gray mold.  In this case, pull up the plant and destroy.

As far as root rot goes, the symptoms of this plant disease is overall plant drooping.  The thyme itself will look sick.  If your plant is drooping and the soil is wet, chances are you have root rot.  The only solution at this point is to destroy the plant and start over again.

While most people will associate thyme with the culinary variety, there are types that easily fit into any landscape.  The type I am talking about is the creeping thymes.  These plants look wonderful as a border and/or in rock gardens.  They also find home in container gardens as the cascading element in container garden designs.


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