Growing thyme at home is an easy project, and with this advice you can start an herb garden of your very own. Thyme is a fragrant, perennial herb commonly used in French and Mediterranean dishes. The plant grows as a little shrub or ground cover, depending upon the variety. Several hundred species are found worldwide, but the herb is native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia. The flowers, leaves and sprigs are all useful and make fragrant bouquets. Thyme is also marvelous when dried and useful for cooking or decorating purposes.
The most common variety is French thyme, which is used in cooking and often in decorating. Other varieties include lemon thyme, caraway thyme, and silver thyme. Some varieties of thyme are purely ornamental like red creeping thyme and woolly thyme. Both of these varieties grow as creeping ground cover and make beautiful additions to waterfalls, rock walls, and in between stepping stones.
Thyme can be grown from seeds, divisions, or cuttings. The plants are hardy in zones 4 through 9. Creeping varieties last the longest. Plant thyme where it will receive full sun a minimum of six hours daily. Thyme prefers moderately dry soil that is slightly sandy and drains well. This type of soil actually helps thyme produce stronger essential oils which enhance the herb's taste and fragrance.
Start seeds in egg cartons filled with organic potting soil during late winter. Once the threat of frost has passed, the seedlings can be moved outdoors. Plant them about one foot apart.
Divisions and cuttings can be taken from mature thyme plants. Cut creeping varieties along the stem, which forms roots as it grows. Use a spade or sharp cutting tool to break the stem without damaging the roots. Treat the new plant as you would a seedling.
Another way to raise thyme is by container gardening. When grown alone, thyme grows best in small containers, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Be sure to mix potting soil with equal parts of clean sand, and place several large stones at the bottom of the container for drainage. Leave the planters in full sun and water them as the soil dries out.
Vegetable companions for thyme include tomatoes, carrots and cabbage. You may choose any of the mints, too, as thyme is part of this family.
Once thyme is established, it's easy to maintain. However, remember that some varieties don't last long. A good rule of thumb with thyme is the less woody, the shorter the life span. To prolong the plant's life, take care not to over-fertilize. Remember that thyme prefers poor soil and good drainage.
When you plant thyme in a garden, place it where the surrounding soil won't be disturbed. Because thyme doesn't grow very tall, put it in the front or middle part of the garden so its flowers and leaves can easily been seen. Additionally, note that cats love thyme. If you want the herb to survive, keep felines away as they will destroy young plants.
Thyme's volatile oils have been used in medicines for centuries. It is believed that thyme aids in the recovery from upper respiratory conditions. Thyme also is an antioxidant and food preservative. The herb contains calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin K and fiber.