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Plant Profile - Thyme

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Thyme

Thyme is a perennial native to the Mediterranean. Thyme is a semi-woody sub shrub with aromatic, linear to oval, slightly tomentose (fuzzy), gray-green leaves that are about a half inch long. Like most mints, the stem is square in cross section and the leaves are arranged in pairs opposite each other. Thyme grows in a bushy, many-branched, spreading mound 15-30 cm high and up to twice as wide. In summer, thyme produces tiny lilac to purple flowers arranged in dense, compact heads. There are many cultivars in the trade. 'Aureus' has yellowish leaves; 'Orange Blossom' has foliage that smells like oranges; 'Silver Posie' has leaves with white margins. Lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus) is a hybrid between garden thyme and T. pulegioides, sometimes called mother-of-thyme. There are several cultivars of lemon thyme, including 'Argenteus' with silver-edged leaves, 'Aureus' with gold flecks in the leaves, and 'Archer's Gold', with yellow-edged leave

Uses

Medicinally, thyme has been used to treat depression, nightmares, leprosy, paralysis, and excessive infestations of body lice. More currently, the thyme oil derivative thymol has been used as an antiseptic on World War II battlefields and today in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Thyme is said to aid digestion, especially of fats. This may explain its wide use in stews, soups, meat, fish, and egg dishes, either on its own, as part of a bouquet garni (where it is tied in a bundle with a bay leaf and parsley or chervil), or in combination with parsley, sage, and rosemary.

Planting

Thyme

Before plant amend soil with compost. Sow after last frost. Germination between 17-22 C soil temperature takes 7-21 days Sandy , well drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Alkaline soils, so add lime if yours is acidic. Cover seed with of fine soil or roll properly until it is well pressed down. Keep soil moist until the seeds start to grow.

Growing

Thyme

A spring application of fertilizer rich in trace elements may increase fragrance and flavour. Don't use more than the recommended fertilizers (over done fertilizers makes bigger plants but the essential oils are not as strong, neither the flavour or medicinal value). Native to the western Mediterranean region and southern Italy. It is cultivated all over the world and has naturalized in some areas including the north-eastern US. Enjoys hot, dry climates and needs a weekly watering of at least 15mm deep. In winter water once a month


Watering Schedule

Time Pivot % How long?
1st 3 weeks after planting 100%, 5-7m per watering 1 to 2 times /day depending on day time heat and evaporation
Week 4 to picking 100%, 5-7m per watering, 2 to 3 times per week As required use discretion-soil must remain moist at all times
Picking once per week As required

Harvesting

Thyme harvest

The thyme is ready for harvesting right before the plant is in full bloom, and the best time of day for harvesting is in the early morning after the dew has dried. Snip the stems at the point at which they are no longer tender. Be sure to leave 3-4 inches of foliage, as the plant may not recover if snipped too short. The entire plant is used for the production of essential oils and the distillation is carried on at two periods. For distilling, the fresh herb should be collected on a dry day, when just coming into flower; the lower portions of the stem, together with any yellow or brown leaves, should be rejected and the herbs conveyed to the distillery as soon as possible. In order to survive harsh winters, the mounding types of thyme need to be cut back by about half their new growth (don't cut into the old wood) no later than the end of April. Provide them with some loose cover through the winter to keep ice out of plants crowns. Without cover plants would not survive temperatures beneath -12 degrees Celsius

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