Growing your own herbs is such a fun process. It does take a little bit (more like a lot) of patience, but it’s so rewarding and produces such a great harvest in more ways than one.
Thyme is the noticeable savory flavor in sausage, and it goes well with many different types of foods, from simple sides to tacos. This vivacious herb pairs well with olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Cultures the world over have treasured its robust flavor, and it has some of the most widespread uses of all herbs. The common saying in my house is “never let yourself run out of thyme,” a pun intended.
Below, I’ve put together some of the best practices to grow your own thyme plants indoors and outdoors. And I would love it if you shared your own best tips and tricks for growing and using thyme in the comments below. Also, feel free to drop your questions in the comments or email me at [email protected].
Thyme is a fast-growing herb, but it takes time to harvest because the leaves are so small. It is well worth the energy spent. Of course, all of the best things in life take “thyme” and effort.
Tips For Growing Indoors
It is ideal to plant seeds in a biodegradable starter pot or container, a small pot where they can germinate and begin to take root.
You will also want to use good gardening soil. A sandy or granulated soil works best for thyme. If you don’t know which one to use, it would be best to consult your local nursery or growing expert to help you decide which is best for your needs.
Add your chosen soil to your starter pots. You can mix a bit of sand with your seeds. They are tiny, and adding sand will help keep them from over-sprouting. Scatter your thyme seed mixture across the top of the soil. You can press the seeds down gently but don’t bury them. Instead, sprinkle just a bit more soil over the top and leave them loose in the soil.
Thyme isn’t easy to grow from seed, and most people grow it from cuttings. To do this:
- Cut a three-inch piece of stem that isn’t too woody and contains lots of leaves.
- Remove all the lower leaves, leaving two to three sets at the top.
- Place your cutting in your potting soil. You can use a rooting hormone, but it’s not necessary.
At this stage, thyme needs good airflow, so do not cover it. Set it in a sunny location and keep the soil moist until new growth begins. After about six weeks or so, you should have roots, and your thyme will be ready to transplant.
Find a windowsill in your apartment or house that lets in a lot of sunlight. My apartment doesn’t get much sunlight, so I got a couple of LED Grow Lights to help out.
If growing thyme from seed, you will want to give an initial thorough but gentle watering to get the seeds to germinate. Then, cover your pots with plastic wrap to lock in the moisture. These seeds can take some time to germinate… up to twelve weeks, but it’s well worth the wait. Once they sprout, they grow fast.
Thyme loves to keep its feet dry, so keep that plastic wrap on and moisture locked in. Once the seeds have started to sprout, you will regularly check the soil moisture. You’ll pamper your plants a bit more at this stage and keep the soil only slightly moist until the roots are well established with a spray bottle and filtered water. It is essential thyme germinates in a full light area with temperatures above 50 degrees F.
Your thyme is ready to transplant into your bigger indoor pots or outdoor area once it’s approximately four inches tall. Thyme bushes and spreads out, so you will need a broad bases pot if you keep it indoors. Also, you will want to make sure it has excellent drainage.
To transplant your thyme, fill your pot with good quality soil and dig out a hole where you will be transplanting the thyme with its roots and soil in-tacked. Before transplanting, lay down some herb fertilizer in your chosen spot. I use Jobe’s Organic Herb Granular Plant Food. I simply place the whole starter pot in the hole in the larger pot. The containers are biodegradable, and I love them. If you use a regular small pot, you will want to gently remove soil, root, and plant from the starter pot and place them in the holes.
You will want to water your plants about every other week when growing thyme indoors. Once the roots are well established, you will let the plants completely dry out, then saturate and repeat. Use filtered water for optimal results.
Here are a few extra tips:
- Don’t plant your plants next to a heater or air conditioner
- You will want to fertilize at half strength
- Fertilize once a year in the spring
- Try not to water your seedlings directly on top of the leaves but rather at the base, especially when they are young and fragile
Tips for Growing Outdoors
Wait for at least two weeks after the last frost or any time after the ground reaches 70 degrees F to move your potted plants outdoors. Thyme can last for many years under the right conditions and will grow right into the early winter months before going dormant for the year. Ensure the area receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight or place them in a planter that you can move around in the sunlight throughout the day.
You can begin harvesting your thyme pretty much any time after it reaches six or seven inches, as long as you don’t cut more than one-third of the plant and be sure to leave about five inches of the woody stem. You can even cut it after it flowers, and it will be fine. Just snip a piece off anytime you feel like using some of it.
Preparing and Storing
If you plan on using your harvested thyme within ten to fourteen days, rinse the thyme sprigs and let them air dry on a clean dish towel or paper towel. Once dried, strip off the leaves and use them. You can place the leftover in a Ziploc bag or airtight Tupperware and put them in the fridge. Keep the thyme on the sprig when using it for a garnish.
You can also create delicious thyme-infused olive oil by adding a few thyme sprigs to a bottle of olive oil, which will last for a few months. Make sure you use a colored glass bottle like amber or cobalt blue to keep the olive oil from spoiling. Try mixing your thyme and rosemary for a beautiful Italian herbed olive oil!
- Rinse and pat dry your thyme. Gather a small bundle of evenly sized thyme sprigs together. Don’t gather too many or they may mold.
- Tie them together with a string or twist tie.
- Hang your bundles of fresh thyme to dry for ten to fourteen days in a dry, dark, well-ventilated area.
- On day ten or so, the leaves will be dry enough to strip right off the sprig by clasping your fingers along the sides of the stems and dragging downward. These are small sprigs, so this takes some time. You may want to do this over a piece of wax paper.
- Place the dried thyme leaves in an air-tight container or jars. It is best to enjoy it within one year of drying.
- When harvesting, never cut the woody part of the stem.
- Thyme, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, and mint are perennials and can pretty much live forever.
- Thyme grows well with fruits, vegetables, and flowers. You can plant it with blueberries, strawberries and even roses.
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