Thyme - Seeds
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All thymes are perennial herbs with very small leaves and tiny flowers ranging in color from white through pink to deep rose-magenta.
Thyme is a highly aromatic herb which grows especially well in somewhat dry, sunny conditions. A Mediterranean herb, thyme holds its flavor in cooking and blends well with other flavors of the region, like garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
Thyme is a low growing, woody perennial. It is extremely fragrant and flavorful and grows well in tough, dry conditions. The pink, lavender or white tubular flowers are very popular with bees. Tiny gray-green leaves remain evergreen. There are about 350 different species.
Thymes need full sun and a dry, gritty soil. Buy named cultivars as plants, or plant thyme seed outdoors in a prepared bed in fall or spring, or start your seeds in flats indoors. Bush thymes (except for variegated cultivars) often seed themselves freely, so there should be no shortage of new plants if the old ones don’t come through a hard winter. To propagate cultivars, separate rooted pieces or take cuttings.
Thyme will grow well indoors, if given a bright, sunny window. However, since it survives quite well outdoors all winter, you might want to consider giving it a sheltered location outside, where you can continue to harvest. Avoid growing under heavy shade since the plants will become leggy and lose their coloring.
Test the soil acidity around the thyme plants using a soil pH test kit, which you can find at most home improvement stores. Look for a soil pH of between 6.9 to 7.5, which is the acceptable range. Sprinkle a 1/2 tablespoon of hydrated lime around the base of the plant if the soil pH is 6.9 or below. Water well.
Mulch around the base of thyme plants with a thin layer of horticultural sand to distribute water evenly into the soil, which will help prevent fungal infections in the roots. Make the layer of sand approximately 1/16 inch thick and in a 4-inch radius around the base of the plant.
Water thyme plants to a depth of 1 inch every 10 to 15 days during the summer months. Cease watering in early autumn several weeks before the first rain. Water during the winter only if rainfall is very scant, with dry spells lasting more than two to three weeks. In that case, water to 1 inch every 10 to 15 days.
Feed thyme plants each spring with all-purpose 10-10-10 ratio fertilizer. Apply it at half-strength to keep the plant from producing too much foliage, which will diminish the potency of thyme's fragrant oils. Water the plants thoroughly after feeding to distribute the fertilizer into the soil.
Cut back thyme plants by one-third in spring after the last frost. Snip the branches just below where the newest growth emerges. Use clean, sharp floral snips or pruning shears. Pinch off uneven growth during the summer months to encourage branching, but cease pruning at least one month before the first expected autumn frost.
- Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. While summer-seasonal, fresh greenhouse thyme is often available year round.
- Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters ("leaves") spaced 1/2 to 1" apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia (called Urc) in teas.
- Thymol, an antiseptic, is the main active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. Thymol has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails.
- A tea made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.
- One study by Leeds Metropolitan University found that thyme may be beneficial in treating acne.
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