Thyme is a pretty amazing herb and the best thing is that it is also relatively simple to grow. However, in this instance we are going to be looking more specifically at how you are able to grow the herb indoors because when doing so there are a number of different things that you have to take into consideration in order to give yourself the best possible chance of growing this amazingly fragrant and powerful herb throughout the entire year.
So, where do we begin? Well, the best place is to look at the types of thyme that you are going to have to choose between.
1. The Types of Thyme.
When it comes to the initial types of thyme for you to check out then there are two options that are primarily available to you, the ornamental variety and the culinary variety and clearly we need to provide an explanation regarding both options.
Generally speaking, ornamental thyme is used more for decoration in the garden along with the amazing scent that it is capable of giving off. This is often the type of thyme that you will see in gardens between paving slabs in order to just add a bit of greenery and it is capable of surviving here as it is not only hardy but certain varieties love to be handled a bit on the rough side.
However, on the other side you have the culinary versions and even though there are only a few varieties that you can generally choose from, they are growing specifically to be included in recipes. It should also be noted that there are some varieties that are classed as ornamental but can, at a push, be included in cooking although you do have to be careful that you are choosing the correct ones or you will run into problems.
But what about the names of some varieties? Well, there are a few to choose from and in actual fact there are somewhere in the region of 350 different variants that are on the market. Clearly with there being so many it is difficult to list them all, so just a handful of the most popular names will suffice as they are easy to find and, most importantly of all, easy to grow.
In the case of culinary thyme, then you may wish to choose between names such as French thyme, lemon thyme or caraway. For more ornamental versions, then creeping thyme is always a favorite and there should be no real issues in getting this plant to germinate no matter how new you are to the entire process.
2. Is it a Perennial or an Annual?
The next point that we need to address is just how hardy this herb is going to be and whether or not it is a perennial or an annual. This in itself is important because it gives some kind of an indication as to the conditions that the herb is capable of withstanding and whether or not you can extend the growing season thanks to you growing it indoors.
Thyme is a hardy perennial and what is even better is that this is a herb that is pretty good at growing all on its own with very little in the way of maintenance being required on your part. It can withstand a considerable amount of punishment and that pretty much applies for any version of the plant as they are all capable of contending with a lot of pruning and still surviving.
3. Your Options when Planting Thyme.
When it comes to you planting thyme then you do have three different options available to you and it is important to examine each one to help you decide which direction you have to go. Now, clearly some options are easier than others so do consider how advanced your experience is with gardening in general for you to make up your mind as to which one you would like to go for.
Option 1:- Seeds.
Thyme seeds are plentiful and they are absolutely tiny. In actual fact, in one ounce there are 170,000 thyme seeds which kind of gives you an understanding of how small and light they are going to be. Also, if you harvest thyme seeds from the plant then you can sow them up to three years after their harvest as they do retain so much of their ability to germinate for that period of time.
However, you should be aware that trying to germinate thyme from its seed is notoriously difficult and due to its difficulty a lot of people will avoid doing it. If you do want to do it, then there are various steps that you need to take.
First, as the seeds are so small it does mean you have to sow them very thinly and then lightly cover them in a dusting of soil rather than trying to plant them individually. The actual germination is going to take several weeks under ideal conditions, but we will look at what the plant actually needs in order to grow later on.
After you have sown the seeds, you should cover the container in plastic as this is going to increase the amount of humidity that the seeds will experience and this is something that they are going to love you for. You should also water the seeds before then putting the container in a warm condition and then keep an eye out for any movement. Be aware that this could take up to 12 weeks so you do need some patience.
Option 2:- Cuttings.
The other option is to propagate the thyme plants from seedlings or cuttings and, once again, this is something that is going to be quite easy to do. However, this does mean that you need to have some kind of gardening knowledge although there is no need for you to be an expert by any means.
In order to use cuttings it is important that you use a mature plant that is healthy and is not covered in pests or diseases. When you have this plant, you should remove three inches of the plant from the tip of a stem and then with that cutting you need to place it in rooting hormone powder and then plant it in either vermiculite or sand that is sterile. The cutting should then stay in this mixture for up to six weeks as that is how long it is going to take for the roots to develop.
After this period of time, you should move the cutting into a small pot that contains a quality potting mix and after you see some growth on the plant it is then time to transplant it once more into a larger pot where it is going to stay for the rest of its growing period.
However, in order to do all of this you have to understand the various aspects of what thyme needs to grow successfully which is what we will look at now.
4. Cultivation of Thyme.
So, when it comes to the cultivation of thyme then there are a number of important factors to take into consideration. As you may expect, you cannot simply take a cutting of a thyme plant, put it in any kind of soil, and then hope for the best as the chances of you being able to grow a healthy and strong thyme plant will be relatively low.
However, if you take the following points into consideration then it should become a lot easier for you to go ahead and grow thyme indoors rather than it being in a greenhouse or even planted in the great outdoors.
Step 1: Soil.
The first thing to think about is the type of soil that thyme loves because provide it with the ideal soil conditions then the plant is going to reward you by growing like never before.
Thyme absolutely loves to be in well-drained soil so if you are thinking about using soil straight from your garden, then think again. That soil will be too heavy and stick together as well as holding onto the moisture for too long and the roots of your thyme plants will hate those conditions. With a light potting mix you might also want to add in some sand to help with the drainage.
In addition, the soil should be of a pH that varies between 6.0 and 8.0. In other words, thyme likes soil that is just slightly alkaline in nature so it is important to check the pH and if it is too acidic then add some lime to raise the pH just enough to provide it with its optimum growing soil.
Furthermore, you should add some slow-releasing fertilizer and do this at the start of the thyme being moved into the pot. After this, you do not have to do anything else regarding feeding as thyme is so hardy that it does not require too much maintenance for you to be able to grow a plant that is strong and capable of providing you with some amazing flavor when it is being harvested.
So, that is all you need to know about the soil and as you can see there is nothing too complex.
Step 2: Light.
It is also important to be aware of how much light thyme needs on a daily basis as all plants take light and convert it into energy. Thyme does thrive in full sunlight and it needs a number of hours of light per day for it to really thrive so as you are growing it indoors then you either have to place it in a sunny spot (and possibly even move it around your home as the light changes) or, alternatively, use LED grow lights. Thyme loves the light and it also enjoys some heat so do not be too concerned about it being too warm as thyme is hardy and can cope with it.
Step 3: Watering.
This is where thyme is different to so many different herbs because it is drought resistant and that does mean that there is no need to spend a lot of time watering it on a constant basis. In actual fact, you only have to water thyme thoroughly when it is clear that the soil is dry. However, you also do not have to then soak it because remember that thyme can cope with so much that you throw at it.
Step 4: The Spacing.
You also have to think carefully about the spacing that exists between your different plants because they can compete with one another for nutrients and this then leads to none of your plants actually being able to grow to a satisfactory standard. The one thing that you need to remember is that thyme is going to really grow quite vigorously so it is important to keep different plants far enough apart in order to give them the room to do so. In actual fact, the distance between them should vary from 12 to 24 inches although this is going to depend on the actual variety that you are growing.
Step 5: The Concept of Companion Planting.
There are a number of plants that work well when planted alongside thyme as they can be mutually beneficial to one another. One such example is planting it with rosemary as they both enjoy the same conditions from the amount of light to the amount of water that they need. In addition, you might want to also plant it next to your tomato plants as they complement one another wonderfully well.
Step 6: Pests and Diseases.
Finally in this section, we have to look at the kinds of pests and diseases that you need to be aware of. However, this brings with it some good news because herbs that are aromatic, such as thyme, will very rarely be affected by pests and at the same time it is also highly unlikely that it is going to be hit by any diseases that will ultimately lead to the death of the plant.
The oil in the plant is seen as being so volatile to the pests that could otherwise have affected the plant that they have been able to learn to leave it alone. However, do just keep an eye out for aphids and spider mites although, as we said, it is unusual for them to attack it. When it comes to diseases, then the only ones to perhaps be aware of include root rot due to overwatering and also fungal diseases.
5. Propagation of Thyme.
If we now move onto the propagation of thyme and with this you can grow them either from seed, cuttings, or by dividing up older plants. We covered the first two options earlier, so in this instance we will focus on root division so you are able to make your own decision between all three things.
With root division, you take a mature and healthy plant, and divide it and this has to be done in either the springtime or fall. With this, you do not have to be all gentle because you take the old thyme and simply tear out a small clump from the old plant although you do have to make sure that there are roots on the bottom of the clump. You simply then have to plant both of the sections and give them some light water. You now have two thyme plants that will be able to survive this ordeal.
6. Harvesting Thyme.
When it comes to harvesting thyme then there should be no difficulties. The best time to harvest it is just before it flowers as it is going to be packed full of flavor. Another major advantage is that thyme can be harvested time and time again and the more you cut it then the more it grows. However, the main time to harvest time is generally in August and September but as you are growing it indoors then this is going to alter the growing season quite considerably due to the artificial conditions.
7. Harvesting Thyme Seeds.
We just described how to harvest the plant, but what if you are wanting to harvest the seeds in order to then grow more plants later on? Well, that should also not be too difficult to do even if you have never done this kind of thing before.
When you see that the seeds have developed, take some paper bags and place them around the plant when it is dry. Shake the plant and the ripe seeds will fall onto the paper bags allowing you to collect them. They will then be able to germinate for up to three years so there is no rush to go and plant them.
8. Wintering Thyme.
Next, we have to look at how you get thyme through the winter even if you live in a colder climate. Remember that this plant is very hardy and it is capable of withstanding most conditions but any plant is going to need some additional help from time to time.
In the case of thyme, you would have to mulch as much of the plant as possible during the winter in order to just give it some extra protection throughout the winter months. However, as you are growing them indoors it does remove a lot of the problems that you would otherwise have to face. Making sure that you keep it in warm temperatures and providing it with adequate light will ertainly suffice in this instance.
9. Storing Thyme.
When storing thyme, you do have a number of options available to you. Drying thyme is easy as you do not have to do anything after harvesting the thyme as the air is going to dry out those small leaves in next to no time.
However, if you prefer to use the herb fresh, then you can either refrigerate it or put the leaves into the freezer where they will be able to maintain their aroma and flavor for a number of months. Wash the herbs and package them up in a storage container.
We can also mention two other ways to preserve and store thyme and those two methods are in oil or vinegar and the best part is that the thyme is going to infuse both of them and they can then be a wonderful addition to your recipes or dressings. Simply harvest the leaves, wash them, and then place them in the liquid for a number of days to allow the flavor to work its way through the oil or vinegar.
10. Uses of Thyme.
Finally, we have to look at the uses of thyme and this is a herb that is quite versatile which is great news.
First, extracting the oil from thyme is wonderful when it comes to aromatherapy as thyme oil is very effective and it has a number of healing properties. However, using thyme in this way is often not going to be the first port of call for most people as they will have been growing the herb for use in cooking so we have to focus on those areas.
One way to use thyme is to add it to either butter or mayo and this is going to give a number of recipes a real boost. Furthermore, another way in which it can be used is in dishes such as meat stews or alongside strong vegetables such as cabbage but the main thing is that it is going to work best with dishes that are cooked slowly.
Finally, if you are focusing on growing lemon thyme then clearly this opens up a number of other recipes that you might want to try out. For example, lemon thyme is going to be amazing with seafood or chicken where that lemon taste is going to just add something special. In addition, you can add it to tea for an extra zing to the drink.
As you can see, thyme can be used in a number of ways and it is just a case of exploring various recipes that could appeal. However, you want to grow them indoors via grow lights to further expand on the growing season because at least then you can look forward to thyme over an extended part of the year.