Thymus Vulgaris

Thyme has been a constant garden companion of mine for many years. A member of the Lamiaceae or mint family, thyme is a sun worshipper. Always place it in full sunlight if you want your plant to thrive. Thyme is easy to grow. It likes sandy soils with good drainage. I have had excellent results growing it in clay pots as the pots don’t hold water and tend to dry out quicker. Ensure roots aren’t left in ground that doesn’t dry. Your thyme won’t thrive in soggy soils. However, ensure your pots are large enough to accommodate growth as this little plant likes to spread.

Thyme can be started from seeds or cuttings. I have started from seeds and they germinate quickly. Be careful the seedlings aren’t too wet as they will suffer from damp off, a fungal disease where the seedling suddenly topples over. At this point, it is too late and it will most likely die. If you have started thyme or any other seedlings using grow lights indoors, it is best to have a fan in the room that operates at least 8 hours per day. This will help prevent any fungal growth. Starting from cuttings can begin indoors in the spring if you have kept a plant overwinter. Simply cut a few stems(not to the base of the plant), dip them in rooting powder, and place in damp soil. Roots will begin growing along the parts of the stem covered with soil. Repot the thyme cuttings into smaller individual pots once roots have substantial growth.

I used to grow thyme in my garden when living up in northern Alberta. I have tried it here in our community near Edmonton, Alberta (further south than where I used to live) without any luck. While my oregano thrives here, the thyme I try to overwinter does not. This year, I covered it with dried grass and filled a clay pot with the grass and covered the plant. It was covered with snow as well and was not located in a windy spot. However, I suspect I created a lovely home for mice to sleep away their winter in. Nonetheless, I will wait patiently until the ground has thawed and spring frosts have retreated from rays of the sun. And then, and only then, I will lift that clay pot and see if my thyme has endured the winter.

Common thyme or Thymus Vulgaris is a garden staple each year, but I usually buy one or two other varieties as I just can’t help myself. Too often, I find myself attracted to variegated varieties or others, such as lemon thyme whose smell I can’t resist. There are truly hundreds of varieties to choose from.

Thyme has many uses. I often throw fresh or dried thyme into soups or stews. Tiny leaves added to fish and salads offer bits of flavour. For years, thyme has stocked many medicinal shelves. Two parts of the essential oil, thymol and carvacrol, contribute to the flavour of the herb (The Uncommon Thyme: Thymus Vulgaris Rexford Talbert. By Rexford Talbert April/May1997,http://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/the-uncommon-thyme.asps). They also are part of the healing properties of thyme. In one study thyme was found to inhibit bacterial growth, especially thyme in flower. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10492476). For myself, I find picking a few stems and rubbing on my arms or bare legs help keep away mosquitos.

Whatever herbs you decide to include in your garden, I hope one of them is thyme.

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