Whether you've got a window box or an acre or two to play with, thyme is an essential herb.
One of the main components of the herb bundle - the bouquet garni - that underpins so many classic French recipes, not to mention its many uses in Italian, English, Spanish and other cuisines, it's difficult to imagine cooking without thyme. It brings all kinds of dishes to life, working especially well with Mediterranean vegetables, soups and chicken. Out in the garden, thyme makes a small evergreen shrub, perfect for people who don't like things to get out of control. In early summer it's smothered in pinkish flowers which are bursting with nectar and will draw bees from miles around. Easily grown, it asks only for sunlight and the occasional trim to keep it looking its best, and will provide you with year-round harvests.
Thyme is the cornerstone of any herb garden and will amply repay any effort you make to grow it.
Please note that the pot in the photograph is for illustrative purposes only and is not supplied with the plant.
Plant Type: Herb
Hardiness: H5 Hardy. Minimum temperature -15 to -10.
Plant Height & Spread (at maturity): H 30cm x W 30cm (Mature age: 2 Years)
Foliage Colour: Green, Grey
Flower Colour: Pink, White
Fragrant Flower: No
Aromatic Foliage: Yes
RHS Award of Garden Merit: No
RHS Perfect for Pollinators: Yes
Foliage Type: Evergreen
Soil Type: Alkaline, Sandy, Chalky, Loam
Soil Drainage: Well Drained, Dry
Light Exposure: Full Sun
Planting Style: Mediterranean Garden, Rock Garden, Gravel & Drought Resistant Garden, Flower Beds & Borders, Border Edging, Coastal Garden, Cottage Garden, Informal Garden, Urban Garden, Courtyard Garden, Banks & Slopes
Season of Interest: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
Flowering (from - to): May - June
Harvesting (from - to): January - December
Harvesting Instructions: Thymes are evergreen plants, so you can harvest the leaves all year round. However, their flavour will be best in summer when the plants are actively growing. Simply snip the quantity required, then strip the leaves from the stems once you're back in the kitchen. Regular harvesting is helpful to keep the plants naturally bushy. Thyme dries really well - cut the top few inches of the growth off with scissors and tie into small bunches or spread out on a tray. Place your thyme in a dry, airy spot out of direct sunlight. Once the leaves are fully dry and brittle, crush them, discarding the twigs and store in an airtight container. Thyme flowers can be eaten too - they make a wonderful garnish if you sprinkle them over dishes at the last minute, just before serving. But beware - they pack a punch so don't use too many!
Thymes are sun-lovers - in the wild they grow on rocky Mediterranean hillsides and sunny chalk downs - so give them as much light as you possibly can. They hate being crowded out by other plants, so they make ideal plants to grow in crevices, on patios, raised beds and the like. Poor, free-draining chalky (alkaline) soil is ideal - if you garden on heavy clay, consider adding grit to your soil, or growing thyme in raised beds.
Water plants only as they need it in their first season as they're becoming established - after that they need none at all. Unless that is, they're in pots, in which case you do need to keep an eye on them as although they don't need much water, they hate to dry out completely.
If you grow them in the ground, feeding isn't necessary - it will just give you leggy growth and impair the plants' flavour. In pots, the occasional liquid feed will help keep plants growing nicely.
If you harvest regularly, thymes don't need pruning: if you notice your plants becoming a little leggy, give them an all-over haircut with a pair of shears, ideally in summer after they've flowered or in early-mid spring before growth starts. Don't cut too far back into old wood as plants regenerate poorly - if they've become a bit straggly it's probably time to order some replacements or start taking cuttings.