You don’t have to be an herb gardener to find a reason to grow thyme (Thymus vulgaris). There are many reasons to include this versatile, herb in perennial beds or in container plantings and, it’s so easy to grow that You Can Grow That!
On the 4th of each month, C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening urges garden bloggers to champion the virtues of gardening by sharing You Can Grow That! suggestions. Read the rest of the June 2013 posts, as well as previous posts, at the You Can Grow That! website. You are bound to get some ideas for trying something new in your garden.
Now back to thyme … Does an image such as this carpet of bloom come to mind when you think of thyme?
This is a lovely, and traditional, way to plant thyme but when considering where you might grow thyme think outside of the traditional herb garden.
Thyme is a wonderful edging plant for garden beds in full or part-sun.
It softens the base of a stone wall or boulder.
It acts as a ground cover at garden edges and at the base of a tree.
It will can handle light foot traffic while filling the space between fieldstones in paths.
There are multiple varieties and shades of thyme. The wooly thyme above grows just an inch tall in a blue-green hue. Golden thyme, on the left below, has yellow-green leaves while the leaves of common thyme are medium green.
There’s also silver-edged thyme, carpet thyme, creeping thyme, variegated lemon thyme … all with names that explain their special attributes.
Like many herbs, thyme grows well in lean soil and does not like wet feet. Varieties bloom during summer in shades of white, pink and magenta, and bees love the blossoms. Thyme also grows well in containers, as long as the containers are not overwatered. To use thyme fresh, simply snip off the number of sprigs needed for your recipe.
Shear off thyme flowers after they have faded. The plants will send up new growth and will soon look refreshed. This is when I like to take cuttings to dry for winter use, but you can also take early spring cuttings, before thyme blooms. Place the cuttings in a paper bag, making sure they are not packed so tightly that air cannot circulate. Staple the bag closed and place in a dry area out of direct sunlight (I use the tops of my kitchen cabinets). Once dry, rub the leaves from the stems and store the leaves in a jar in a dark cabinet. The stems can go to the compost pile. Dried thyme holds its flavor over the winter and is wonderful in soups and sauces.
Thyme has a long history as a flavoring and a medicinal plant. According to the Rodale Herb Book, thyme was used to attract pollinating insects in Mediterranean orchards and young sheep were set out to graze on fields of wild thyme to enhance the flavor of lamb. Different cultures have seen thyme as a symbol of courage and grace, used the herb in scented soaps and oils, and touted its antiseptic properties.
You don’t have to like the flavor of thyme to see its usefulness in the garden. Small plants may take a while to establish but once they do you will have plenty of thyme to divide and use elsewhere. Thyme is a go-to edging and groundcover in my gardens.
It even does well in the lawn and is often suggested as a lawn replacement in low-traffic areas.
Make time for thyme … it’s a multipurpose You Can Grow That! plant.