Planting Thyme: A Quirky Aromatic


Native to Mediterranean regions, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is typical of the garrigue landscapes so beautifully depicted by Marcel Pagnol. Limestone earth crushed by the sun. However, it is these difficult living conditions that this shrub likes, which is also called wild thyme or of varigoula in the country of Provence. This aromatic plant, a kitchen essential, does well in a planter or vegetable patch, but remains quite capricious to grow. Perfectly rustic, it is not as cold as thyme is afraid of but rather the moisture of the soil, the one that likes arid soils.

A Concentrate Of Small Aromatic Leaves!

Le thyme is a low shrub, 25 to 30 cm high, growing upright or spreading branches. It is covered with small evergreen (or semi-evergreen) leaves, dark green on top in the case of the more classic variety, gray on the underside. It is these leaves that give off that pleasant smell that is reminiscent of running your hand over the foliage or quite naturally a beautiful sunny summer day.

The properties of Thyme are not limited to the sound aromatic foliage. It is also a very melodious ornamental plant. Its numerous and lovely small purple flowers appear in bouquets in spring, from April to late June depending on the region. They attract many pollinating insects helping to bring life and biodiversity to the garden.

Thyme Loves The Sun

On the exposure side, thyme likes sun, sun even all day!

On the ground side, it’s more complicated. This aromatic thrives in light, dry soils. It can thus participate in the composition of beautiful rocks and is content with this poor mineral environment that many other plants would not support. On the contrary, thyme hates excessive moisture, especially in frost, or very rich soil in which the stump wilts quickly. For the gardener, the challenge is therefore to reproduce his natural living conditions as closely as possible: i.e. a poor and perfectly drained growing medium!

Planting Thyme? In spring !

Plant thyme from potted seedlings by early spring, late March to early April, in a 20cm diameter hole. Feel free to put a layer of gravel on the bottom or incorporate a good amount of sand into the soil to improve drainage.

Shall we recap? tie up the plant. In swollen soils, which are really very wet, planting in slightly raised mounds is smart to drain water quickly. the thyme plantation is also possible in fall but I advise you not to do it in the ground, not because of the winter cold (thyme is very resistant), but rather because of the significant amounts of rain that fall at this time. The danger of planting in autumn is to see the thyme wither before it even has time to take root.

The Seed Is Useless

Le thyme does sow itself, especially on the gravel paths it borders. Collect the seedlings and transplant them into pots or directly in place: this way you avoid worrying about capricious seedlings!

Growing Thyme In Pots

Le thyme is actually easier to grow in a pot than in the ground. Place it in a 20 to 25 cm diameter pot or large planter, on a balcony or windowsill with other herbs that don’t need a lot of water like this (oregano, rosemary for example).

In these conditions it adapts to regular watering, without excesses.

Little tip: remember to remove the saucer from the pot to avoid letting the roots soak in the water. Instead, prop up the container with two wooden wedges to facilitate drainage.

When to Harvest Thyme?

Almost all year round, depending on the needs. However, thyme is most fragrant from late spring to early fall. The aromatic substances of its foliage are also more concentrated when it is picked in the middle of the day, under a bright sun. Cut the young branches leaving leaves on the rest of the plant so as not to exhaust it.

You can put to dry the branches just picked in the sun. When they are dry, store them in an airtight container so you can use them all year round.

When and How to Prune Thyme?

Like lavender, common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) forms with age small lignified trunks in which the buds have difficulty re-piercing. All severe pruning Therefore, execution on this old wood should be ruled out, as the plant then has all the trouble in the world to reform the young shoots. Pruning therefore takes place rather after flowering, in late spring, on the thinnest stems and while the plant is in full growth. It’s just meant to give the thyme a nice ball shape.

Avoid pruning in autumn or even winter, when the plant enters its resting phase. I hate thyme and have a hard time getting over it.

Thyme Withers And Rots: Why?

There are many gardeners who, despite many attempts, fail to grow thyme. So, in the loamy soil rotted thyme or dried often. This is explained by the fact that these soils are colder in winter, take longer to warm up in spring as well, but mostly wetter than others. In short: all thyme hate because in these conditions its roots suffocate! Try growing them in a potted planter or amend the clay soil with a good amount of gravel and sand.

How to use it?

Le thyme is, along with parsley and noble laurel, one of the most important plants of the bouquet garni. Its leaves are eaten both dried and fresh. Then they pleasantly flavor grilled meats or slightly strong goat cheeses. The small purple flowers can also be eaten, as a decoction or to lightly flavor dishes.

The medicinal properties of thyme are numerous. The essential oil of the plant has been used since the beginning of time in the form of decoctions, fumigation or liqueur.

It can be interesting to plant it at the edge of a low vegetable garden (distance 20 to 30 cm between the legs) for its decorative aspect but also to take advantage of its repellent properties for many insects.

Recommended Thyme Varieties

Next to the official thyme (Thymus vulgaris), other more original varieties are very popular:

Thymus Citron, Thymus Citriodorus

Le lemon thyme forms a small bush 20 cm high with green or yellow leaves for some varieties. Placed in the sun, its foliage gives off a delicate lemon scent. It is ideal for flavoring teas with relaxing properties or grilled fish.

Le Thyme Orange, Thymus Fragantissimus

Le Orange Thyme exudes a subtle orange scent associated with the usual notes of thyme. Forms a clump 20 to 25 cm high and 40 cm wide. Its thin greenish-grey leaves are evergreen. Its flowers, pink-lilac, grow at the end of the stems in June. Like classic thyme, plant it in well-drained soil, in a sunny position, at the edge of the vegetable garden, in a bed, in a planter, or even on a rock.

You can use it to marinate meat, fish, prepare sauces and stews or in teas: its orange notes are noticeable.


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