Thyme is a low growing perennial herb with a pungent, piny aroma that smells of high summer and has culinary potential in the kitchen all year round. It is the perfect accompaniment for lamb, chicken, tomatoes, zucchini and capsicum as well as a tasty addition to fish and many soups and stews. The small white and pink flowers that open in summer are a favourite source of nectar for bees.
Companions Cabbage, tomato, aubergine. Thyme generally grows well alongside other herbs.
Quantity Several plants are often planted into even the smallest of gardens to take advantage of the range of varieties and their different flavours.
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Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) has a lemony fragrance.
Wild or Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) a ground cover variety.
Common or English thyme (Thymus vulgaris) grows to about a hand’s length above ground has the strongest flavour.
Plant from spring to late summer.
Thyme likes to be in full sun with good air circulation and no humidity. This can make it a great plant for coastal gardens. It grows very well in containers.
Thyme needs a free-draining, poor soil to thrive. If you have fertile soil with obvious particles of organic material in it then dig in plenty of fine pumice or coarse sand so that good drainage is assured.
It is easiest to grow thyme from cuttings or as a seedling. Plant shop-bought seedlings or cuttings with an average spacing of a good hand’s length between them. If planting in a container make sure you add plenty of fine pumice or coarse sand to your planting compost to assure good drainage.
Water cuttings and young seedlings in dry periods. Once they are established and starting to grow strongly you shouldn’t need to continue with watering unless weather is persistently dry and your soil dries out. Like rosemary and sage, thyme is a plant that can be killed with kindness – so don’t over feed or over water.
Cut stems all year round – best flavour is found just before flowers open. Plants slow down their growth in winter so harvest in summer and dry for use through winter. Tie sprigs into bundles and hang up to dry in paper bags.
Thyme can be dried and will keep good flavour for 6 months if stored in an airtight container. Trim plants with shears to keep them compact. If your area experiences heavy frosts, protect plants with a mulch of straw or frost cloth (remove when hard frosts are no longer forecast).