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Growing Thyme: a Complete Guide for Your Herb Garden (2023)

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tips for growing thyme in your herb gardenYou open your eyes each morning to the rising sun’s rays of hope. The misty dew clings to green leaves, sparkling with promise. Your bare feet meet the cool, damp earth as you walk to your herb garden, that little patch of nature’s bounty you call your own.

You smile as you brush your fingers over aromatic thyme, its tiny leaves releasing notes of honeyed woodlands. This hardy herb nourishes both body and spirit. As you pluck a few fresh sprigs and inhale deeply, you are filled with joy and purpose.

For your garden is more than rich dill for fish, rosemary for roasts, or lemon balm for tea. It is a sanctuary, where you feel a deeper connection to the cycles of life. Through caring for your herbs, you cultivate mindfulness and find meaning.

So grab your trowel and put on your sun hat. A day of growth awaits, thyme springs eternal.

Key Takeaways

  • Test and amend the soil to the proper pH before planting. Provide good drainage.
  • Plant thyme outdoors in spring after the last frost, when the soil is warm. Space the plants 8-12 inches apart.
  • Water deeply after the soil dries out to avoid shallow watering. Pinch off the tips to prevent leggy growth.
  • Frequently harvest by clipping the top growth, leaving the lower stems intact. Hang bundles or spread clippings on trays to dry, then store the dried thyme in sealed containers.

Soil Needs for Thyme

Soil Needs for Thyme
Growing thyme requires well-drained soil with a pH near neutral. To get the best results, test your soil and amend it with compost or lime to achieve proper drainage and a pH of 6.


Thyme needs you to give it some breathing room, so make sure its roots don’t get waterlogged. Aerating the soil improves drainage and removes buildup, allowing excess water to drain while still retaining soil nutrients.

Dry soil is ideal for thyme leaves to thrive in the herb garden without risk of root rot.

PH Level

Test the soil pH annually. Amend the soil with dolomitic lime if the pH is below 6n5.

Thyme thrives in mildly alkaline soil conditions. Monitoring and correcting the pH regularly helps ensure healthy, flavorful herbs.

When to Plant Thyme

When to Plant Thyme
When to Plant Thyme

Plant thyme outdoors after the last spring frost when daytime temps stay in the 60s. The perfect time to sow thyme seeds or plant starts is in early to mid spring after the danger of frost has passed. Thyme can tolerate some cold but extended freezing temps damage young plants. Wait until soil has warmed and nighttime lows remain above 50°F before transplanting thyme outdoors.

This is usually 4-6 weeks after the last expected frost. For many areas, late April to early May is ideal.

From seed – Early – mid spring after final frost

From starts – Mid – late spring after final frost

In containers – Early spring onwards

Hold off on transplanting tender thyme starts until freezing nights have passed. Thyme grows best when planted outdoors in the springtime warmth. Tailor sowing and transplant dates to fit your region’s usual last frost timing.

Adjust for microclimates as needed. With a little forethought, you’ll be harvesting homegrown thyme leaves in no time.

Spacing Thyme Plants

Spacing Thyme Plants

  • Didn’t we just talk about spacing thyme plants 12-24 inches apart for proper growth and air circulation? How much room will that new plant need with its bushy habit?
  • Space 8-12 inches apart for groundcover
  • Allow 12-24 inches between plants in beds
  • Neighborly spacing prevents overcrowding concerns
  • Proper distances improve air circulation and fertility

With its tendency to grow woody and spreading, thyme planted too closely will compete for natural nutrition. Transplant starts or fresh cuttings with proper distances to prevent this neighborly overcrowding.

Caring for Thyme Plants

Caring for Thyme Plants
Growing hearty thyme plants requires attentive care. Provide deep watering only when the soil dries completely, fertilize occasionally with water-soluble plant foods, prune regularly to maintain shape and prevent disease, and be vigilant about pests like spider mites that thrive in hot, dry conditions.


Deeply hydrate the soil only after it’s bone dry. Avoid frequent watering that keeps soil shallowly moist. Use high moisture-retaining soil, not boggy conditions. Watch for wilting leaves or stressed plants.

Generously water container plants. Tailor watering to your local temperature, climate, and soil type.


  • Slow release granules provide steady nutrients over time.
  • Compost top dressing feeds the soil microbiome.
  • Liquid seaweed makes robust plants.

An organic fertilizer like fish and seaweed keeps your thyme healthy and aromatic for harvest.


Let’s keep those thyme plants trimmed! Pinch off the tips regularly with your fingers to prevent leggy growth. Trim back thyme frequently, pinching stems often. This keeps plants full and renewed.

Pest Management

Watch for spider mites during dry spells and improve airflow to prevent disease. Invite beneficial insects. Use row covers, companion planting. Rotate plants, use neem oil to deter pests organically.

Harvesting Thyme

Harvesting Thyme
Looking to boost your herb garden’s productivity? The key is knowing when and how to properly harvest thyme to maximize flavor and yield over multiple cuttings. With the right techniques, you’ll be able to gather handfuls of aromatic leaves and tender stems while keeping plants going strong all season long.

When to Harvest

You’ll gather stems when leaves are most flavorful before flowers form.

  1. Clip thyme early in the day after dew has dried.
  2. Use sharp, clean shears for a clean cut.
  3. Start clipping after the plant is 4-6 inches tall.
  4. Always leave the lower growth intact for plant health.
  5. Harvesting often keeps it productive.

How to Harvest

Gather stems with shears before thyme blooms for the most intense flavor.

Cutting: Use clean, sharp scissors or shears to snip stems above leaf sets. Always leave some growth behind.

Stripping: Hold the stem upside down and slide fingers from tip to base, removing leaves.

Drying: Hang small bundles or spread on a tray to dry. Store in sealed containers.

Regular pinching, proper lighting, and ideal humidity keep your thyme bushy and productive. Fertilizing and frequent watering when the soil is dry results in abundant harvests. With care, your thyme will continue providing flavorful leaves season after season.

Drying and Storing Thyme

Drying and Storing Thyme

  • Make small bundles of 5-10 stems and hang them upside down to dry.
  • Find an area that’s around 85-90°F with low humidity.
  • The leaves will dry in 7-10 days; the stems shrink as moisture leaves.
  • Crumble the dried leaves into an airtight container for storage.
  • Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years.
  • Dried thyme loses strength over time.
  • Refrigerate it for maximum retention of essential oils.
  • You’ll know the thyme is fully dried when the stems are brittle.
  • Enjoy the intensely concentrated flavor all year long.

Thyme Varieties to Grow

Thyme Varieties to Grow
There’s French, English, lemon, or caraway to try growing for varied heights, scents, and flavors.

Select thyme varieties like creeping lemon balm, upright marjoram oregano, or prostrate savory mint to suit your garden’s needs.

The lemony notes of creeping lemon thyme make it perfect for rock gardens.

Upright French thyme grows 12-15 inches tall on woody stems, with floral undertones.

English thyme is the most common culinary variety.

Caraway thyme has an anise flavor and silver foliage.

For something unusual, grow spicy curry plant thyme. It has a distinctive curry scent when leaves are crushed.

With so many choices, you’re sure to find a thyme that fits your tastes and brings joy to your herb garden.

Container Gardening With Thyme

Container Gardening With Thyme
After choosing your thyme varieties, it’s time to plant. Thyme thrives in containers, making it perfect for small space gardens. Use a pot at least 6 inches deep with drainage holes. A mix of potting soil, compost, and perlite provides excellent drainage.

Place your thyme in full sun. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. To overwinter, move the pot to a sheltered location. Clip back stems by half in late winter before new growth emerges. Thyme is a hardy perennial but protect roots from extreme cold.

With good sun exposure, soil moisture, and yearly pruning, thyme will continue providing fragrant leaves year after year.

  • Grow different thyme varieties together in a container garden
  • Try mixing with other herbs like oregano, sage, and lavender
  • Display your thyme pots on an outdoor kitchen windowsill or table
  • Enjoy the beauty and aroma right outside your door

Cooking With Thyme

Cooking With Thyme
Add an earthy, lemony flavor to your dishes by using fresh thyme leaves and stems from your garden. Thyme’s minty, floral notes pair deliciously with eggs, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, meats, and more. Use whole sprigs to infuse flavor when simmering soups, stews, and sauces, then remove the woody stems before serving.

For quicker infusing, strip leaves off stems and sprinkle into dishes. Mince leaves to blend into marinades, salad dressings, compound butters, and rubs. The possibilities are endless for this aromatic herb. Let your taste buds explore thyme’s nuanced flavors and make your dishes shine.

Companion Planting With Thyme

Companion Planting With Thyme
Pair thyme with cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The aromatics deter cabbage worms. Grow thyme alongside basil to attract pollinators like bees to your garden. The lemon notes of thyme complement the sweeter herbs like chives and oregano.

Planting chives nearby deters common garden pests. Oregano thrives when paired with thyme, enhancing the flavors of both. Add rosemary to repel insects and lace the thyme with its piney essence. Sage planted among thyme creates an aromatic wonderland in your garden while keeping pests at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much sun does thyme need each day?

You’ll want to give your thyme at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for the best growth and flavor production. Locate it in a sunny spot with southern or western exposure. Thyme thrives on sunlight.

Is thyme deer resistant?

Can plant-eaters tiptoe safely by thyme? Deer surely love a leafy snack, but this lemony herb’s fragrance deters their nibble and helps you rest easy that they won’t invade this corner of your garden.

How do I prune thyme plants?

Prune thyme plants regularly to promote bushy growth and prevent leggy stems. Pinch off the top two sets of leaves on each stem every few weeks during the growing season. This encourages the plant to branch out while directing energy toward new leaf growth.

What pests commonly affect thyme?

Aphids and spider mites love your thyme’s tender leaves and stems. Use neem oil or insecticidal soap to gently deter these pesky bugs before they swarm your prized herb. Regular pruning also improves air circulation. Attract beneficial ladybugs to let nature take its course.

Can I grow thyme indoors?

Growing thyme indoors is definitely possible with the proper conditions. Adequate light from a sunny window, grow lights, or a greenhouse cabinet and even moisture are key. Trim your thyme often to encourage new growth. With ample light and humidity, you can successfully grow thyme inside your home.


You, my green-thumbed friend, have learned the secrets to a bountiful thyme harvest. With proper planning and steadfast care, your herb garden shall overflow with the sweet scent of this delicate herb.

Let the tips herein guide you in nourishing the soil, selecting hardy starts, and tending your plants through the seasons. Monitor moisture lest the soil grow too parched. Prune regularly to encourage dense growth.

And harvest only what is needed, leaving some for the busy pollinators. Follow these steps and your thyme shall thrive.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.