By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Fresh available herbs are a delight for the home cook. What could be better than having the scents and flavors near at hand in the kitchen? Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a useful herb that can be used in a variety of ways. It adds a delicate aroma and almost grassy spice to any dish. Growing thyme indoors requires plenty of sunshine and well drained soil. Growing thyme inside is one of the easiest indoor herbs to cultivate.
Thyme is both a culinary and aromatic herb. An excellent container for growing thyme is a clay planter. Other types of pots will suffice, but a clay pot will allow the thyme herb to dry out between watering and prevent overly wet roots as thyme isn’t tolerant of soggy root conditions. The container should have at least one large drainage hole.
A good mix of sand, potting soil, peat moss and perlite will provide adequate nutrients and drainage.
Thyme can tolerate indirect light, which makes it perfect for the kitchen herb garden. The best results will be found when thyme is planted where it receives six hours of daylight. Once the thyme has been planted, place the container in a southern- or western-facing window if possible.
Growing thyme inside will require temperatures in the daytime around 60 F. (16 C.) or more.
Herb care for plants indoors is much the same as for those outdoors. Water completely each time but allow the pot to dry before watering again.
Fertilize thyme with a weak solution of fish emulsion or liquid seaweed, diluted by half every two weeks.
Cut back overly woody stems on the thyme plant to force fresh new growth. Trim off flowers and dry them for a sachet or use them in tea. Removal of flowers increases foliage production.
Container grown thyme needs to be repotted every season or two depending on the size of the pot and rate of growth. You’ll know it’s time when the roots are growing out of the bottom of the container. Thyme plants divide easily when repotted to reproduce even more plants.
Thyme growing indoors will benefit from relocation to the outdoors in summer. Begin by exposing the potted thyme to a semi-shade location to acclimate it to outdoor light and temperatures. Gradually move it to full sun.
Growing thyme indoors allows you to have a constant ready supply of fresh seasoning. You can start using your thyme as soon as the plant has plenty of foliage. Cut off the stems and rinse them. Pick off the leaves or simply run your thumb and index finger down the length of the stem to push off the leaves.
Chop the leaves or add them whole to sauces, soups and other dishes. The stems can be stewed in stock to release their flavor but remember to strain them out. Thyme leaves can also be dried by spreading them on a cookie sheet for a day or so in a warm dry area.
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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an evergreen, supplying perennial color and fragrant leaves for cooking, and when it is grown in your outdoor garden, thyme does well in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9. However, planting thyme seeds in pots for the indoors or outdoors also provides a great harvest. You can start seedlings indoors as early as four weeks before the last spring frost for transplanting outside or at any time if you plan on growing thyme in pots as an indoor-only plant.
Wild thyme is perhaps the most common form of this strongly aromatic herb, although there are many other varieties of this native Mediterranean herb. It is commonly grown in the herb garden, and its leaves are commonly used in salads as garnishes and as flavoring for poultry, fish, beef, lamb, soups, herb butters, vinegars, beans, and vegetables. Thyme is usually blended with other herbs when used in meat dishes, poultry, stuffing (parsley and thyme is a nice combination), and soups. It adds a nice flavor to clam chowder and is often used along with a bay leaf to give a delicate lift to a white sauce or a cheese soufflé. There are many different species and varieties that vary in shape, color, and aroma. Many of them grow fairly thick, which makes for an aromatic groundcover.
Thyme prefers a mild climate but can survive temperatures below freezing. It tolerates cold better in well-drained soil. Plant Thyme from seed anywhere in the United States two to three weeks before your average date of last frost. It likes sandy loam soil and full sun to partial shade.
Thyme likes well-drained soil, preferably low in fertility rich soil will produce large but less fragrant plants. The first year, work a low-nitrogen (5-10-10) fertilizer into the soil before planting at the rate of about a half-pound per 100 square feet. This is generous of you because in adverse soil conditions, thyme, like many herbs, will have better flavor. Whatever the soil’s like, it’s important to give thyme a place in the sun.
Seeds should be sown indoors at 70°F for optimum germination, then transplanted to permanent location. Plant seeds in early spring, two to three weeks before your average last frost date.
|Germination||60 - 70 F|
|Soil and Water|
|pH||4.5 - 8.0|
|Height||Space between plants|
|space between rows||16 - 24"|
|Incompatibles||Onion family, weeds during first 6 weeks of growth.|
|Cut both the leaves and flowers of thyme as you need them. Don't worry about taking too much at a time, an established plant will keep coming back.|
Plant the seeds 1/4″ deep in rows 16 to 24 inches apart, and when the seedlings are two to three inches tall thin them about a foot apart. You can also plant thyme cuttings or root divisions. Plant them at the same time, and space them a foot apart.
Thyme seldom needs watering it does best on the dry side. Like many other herbs, it does not require fertilizer during the growing season. Some herbs, like mints, grow like weeds, whatever the competition. Thyme can’t handle competition, especially from grassy weeds, and needs an orderly environment cultivate conscientiously. Start new plants every three to four years because thyme gets woody. If you’ve no room in the garden for extra plants, plant them in a hanging basket.
|Store fresh thyme leaves in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Leaves can be finely chopped and mixed with a small amount of olive oil to be frozen. Dry entire branches in a slow oven, a food dehydrator, or hang in a warm, dry and dark place. Store in airtight jars in a dark place for the best flavor retention.|
Thyme is a fragrant, small, hardy, evergreen, perennial shrub. It spreads well and is often used for ground cover. Thyme grows to a maximum height of about 1 foot. Its pungent leaves are gray-green, tiny, and dotted with scent glands on 6-8″ stems spread out over the ground. It’s a mint family member and has square stems with small opposite leaves and mint-like flowers. Small lilac to pink flowers appear at the end of leaf stems in summer. Thyme is a charming, cheerful little plant and will last for years once it’s established. It’s a good plant for a border or rock garden. There are more than 200 species and human-made hybrids, but the most common form is grown for flavoring.
Pick thyme as needed. For drying, harvest when the plants begin to bloom. Cut off the tops of the branches with four to five inches of flowering stems. After drying, crumble the thyme and put it into tightly capped jars.
Do you enjoy the fresh flavor of thyme? Would you like to have fresh herbs for culinary uses year-round? By growing thyme indoors, you can have it.
Thyme is a wonderful herb that can be easily grown right in your kitchen window. It does have certain needs that must be met for this growing process to work.
However, if you’re willing to learn, you might be surprised at how smoothly the process can go. If you’d like to grow thyme, in your kitchen, here’s what you should know.
When growing thyme indoors, it begins with choosing the right pot. Clay pots are best for growing this herb because it allows the plants to dry fully between watering.
If you don’t have a clay pot, make sure you choose one that has plenty of drainage holes to allow the plants to dry.
Thyme should be planted in sandy, well-draining soil. It also needs to be placed in a window where it’ll receive a minimum of six hours of indirect light. If you don’t have a window where the plant can receive this, consider placing it under grow lights to supplement its lighting needs.
You should also keep your home at 60-degrees Fahrenheit or above. By providing the proper growing conditions, thyme should thrive under your care.
When growing thyme indoors, many gardeners opt for purchasing a seedling and transplanting it. If this is your preference, begin by purchasing the plants you like.
Once at home, dig a hole in the soil of your pot, and place the plant in it. The hole should be deep enough to comfortably support the roots of the plant.
When the plant is in the hole, fill it in with the soil in the pot. Press down firmly around the base of the plant to block any air from getting to the roots. If you’d prefer to start your thyme from seeds, you can direct sow two to three seeds in your pot. This is a germination insurance policy.
Cover the seeds, lightly, with soil. Ensure the soil remains moist while the seeds germinate. The pot should be kept in a draft-free sunny location. Grow lights would be helpful during this step in the process.
After three to four weeks, the seeds should begin to sprout. Seeds sprout best in conditions which are 70-degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
If all the seeds sprout, pick the strongest one and discard the rest. Continue to provide water and sunlight to the plant as it grows.
Thyme isn’t an overly complicated plant to care for while indoors. However, it does require more care than when growing outdoors.
The first thing thyme will need is water. A good rule of thumb is it’s better to underwater thyme than to apply too much water.
This is why I recommend using the deep watering method. Even indoors, you can use this style of watering to ensure the health of your crops.
Place the pot in your kitchen sink. Let water run into the pot until it’s flowing out of the bottom. Leave the pot in the sink to finish draining.
You should use the knuckle test before each watering session to ensure the plant has dried out completely before adding more water.
Stick your finger into the soil next to the plant. If the soil is moist to the second knuckle, don’t add any more water. If it’s dry, it’s time to have another watering session.
The next thing you should do when caring for thyme indoors is to fertilize the plant but only in its early stages of growth.
Apply a balanced fertilizer that’s diluted by half. This will help the plant adjust during its first few weeks of growth.
After this period, leave it alone. Thyme tends to thrive under neglect. If you see thyme forming fibrous stems or flowers, remove them. This will help increase production in the plant.
During the summer months, you can move your thyme outdoors to ensure it gets the proper temperatures and lighting. Be sure to harden the plant off prior to moving it outside over the summer months.
You might feel tempted to propagate thyme, as many gardeners like to grow more plants from their current plants. In most cases, this isn’t recommended with thyme because the plants don’t usually grow well.
Finally, ensure you repot your thyme every two years. When the plants begin to appear root bound, it’s time to divide them to make more plants or move the plant to a larger pot.
If you choose to divide them, remove the plant from the pot. Break the roots apart and transplant the multiple new plants per the instructions above. By performing these few tasks, you’re giving thyme a great chance to thrive under your care.
There are only a couple of pests and diseases you should be aware of when growing thyme indoors. The most common pests to impact these plants are whiteflies and mealybugs.
Whiteflies will buzz around your plant like small moths. They’ll also suck the sap of the foliage of your thyme.
You can get rid of this infestation by spraying your plants with an insecticidal soap or by applying neem oil to your plant.
The next pest is a mealybug. They’re so white they almost look transparent. These pests will suck the sap from your plant causing abnormal growth and potential death.
You can get rid of mealybugs by wiping the leaves down with rubbing alcohol, spraying the plant with soapy water, or applying neem oil.
The diseases you should be aware of are root rot and mold. Both occur due to overwatering the plant. Avoid overwatering, and your plants should be fine.
Stay alert to the things which could harm your herb, and you’ll have a greater chance of catching things early and avoiding unnecessary harm to your plant.
Thyme is simple to harvest. You can harvest the foliage at any time and any size. It boils down to your personal preference.
When ready, you can pluck the leaves or use scissors to remove the leaves from the plant.
Bring the leaves indoors and give them a quick rinse. Place the leaves inside a moist paper towel and put them inside an airtight bag. Store the bag in your refrigerator.
You can use the leaves whole and fresh in the coming days, or you can dry them for later use.
Growing thyme indoors may look a little different than if you were growing it outdoors, but the same facts apply. Give it the right growing conditions, proper care, and stay alert to potential threats, and you should have a thriving plant on your hands.
Space thyme plants about one foot apart. To plant thyme from transplant , choose sturdy well-branched plants with growth spilling over the pot. Avoid tall and gangly plants. Don’t buy transplants with brown leaves or dry spots.
To plant thyme from seed , be patient. Thyme seeds may take several weeks to germinate. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date.
Thyme can also be propagated by stem cuttings, root divisions, and layering.
This variety of thyme smells of lemon along with its leaves are of golden variegated and minty quality.
These are particularly attractive and hardy evergreen plants, have pink flowers and mid-green leaves.
It is very soft and flat like a carpet, it has no smell. Woolly is not used for cooking. It grows well in rock gardens.
These are also hardy plants and also have pink flowers and silver-edged leaves.
This variety has golden leaves and pink flowers.
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