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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Thyme

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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a fragrant herb that can be easily be grown indoors or outdoors. This versatile herb plant can be used in a variety of ways and will add beauty and fragrance to a garden, and a delicate aroma and grassy flavor to any recipe. (We love it in fish marinades!)

Provide this easy-care herb with plenty of sunshine, well-draining soil, and bi-monthly feeding, and this evergreen herb plant will thrive and provide year-around harvesting.

Planting Thyme

Thyme is a low-growing, hardy perennial that is evergreen in most gardening zones. It is drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly, and it needs plenty of sun to grow.

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This herb thrives in semi-drought conditions and must have well-draining soil to survive. It will not tolerate soggy soil. 

Thyme seeds can be difficult to germinate, so plant 2-3 times more seeds than desired to ensure a few seedlings develop. It’s simpler to start with plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend.

Plant seeds, plants, or cuttings of young thyme plants any time after the ground temperature reaches 70°F. Scatter seeds in rows or in a container, then thin plants after germination to 9-inches apart. Plant cuttings or plants and 9-inches apart.  Mature plants will be 6 -12 inches in height.

Caring for thyme plants

Use these general tips for caring for thyme plants to keep your herb happy and healthy!

  • Allow soil to completely dry out before watering. (Use the finger test to see if the soil is still moist an inch or so down.)
  • Feed thyme twice a month with a weak solution of fish emulsion or liquid seaweed. Dilute the plant food to half the recommended rate before feeding. (Check out Neptune Brand Fertilizer here.)
  • Prune the plants back in the spring and summer to contain the growth.
  • Add a 2-inch layer of organic mulch around thyme in climates that have cold winter weather.
  • Divide plants every 4 years so they won’t become overcrowded and will continue to produce tender new growth.

Harvesting and using thyme

Harvest thyme as soon as the plant has plenty of foliage. You don’t want to cut off the only leaves a plant has since that’s its source of making food.

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. (This is a super easy method that I personally use.) You can also use a leaf scraper that would be great for harvesting any type of herb leaf.

Chop leaves or add them whole to sauces, soups, and other dishes. The stems can be stewed in stock to release their flavor; use a cheesecloth bag to easily remove the stems from your soups and broths.

Thyme leaves can be dried by spreading them on a cookie sheet for 24-hours in a warm dry area. Store dried leaves in an air-tight container in a cool, dark location.

Herb Growing Guides

Need some help growing other herbs in the garden? Check out all of my guides on how to grow herbs: