Thyme, like other woody-stemmed herbs, tends to grow very slowly, and benefits from an early start if grown from seed. Unlike basil and other annual herbs, you shouldn’t count on harvesting thyme in the first (or even the second) year, except for very light picking of leaves. What follows are some tips on how to grow thyme from seed.
English or Common Thyme: Thymus vulgaris & Creeping Thyme: T. serpyllum
Challenging and slow going
Season & Zone
Season: spring through fall
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: Hardy to Zone 4
Sow indoors late winter to mid-spring. Transplant out once soil begins to warm, or direct sow late May through June. Ideal soil temperature for germination: 15-21°C (60-70°F).
Sow the dust-like seeds on the surface of dampened, sterilized seed starting mix under bright light with bottom heat. Keep watering to a minimum, as thyme seedlings are prone to damping off. When seedlings are large enough, harden them off and transplant to the garden or to containers, spacing them at 23-38cm (9-15″) apart.
Trim plants back after flowering to encourage bushy growth. Protect container-grown plants from cold as winter approaches, and water only as necessary. Damp, cold soil will kill thyme.
Fresh thyme leaves can be harvested at any time of the year as long as the plants are established. Prune back any dead branches. Whole stems/branches can be clipped and dried whole, or individual leaves can be left to dry in a dark, airy spot for long term storage.
An all around beneficial plant for the garden, thyme is particularly worth planting near Brassicas, as it repels cabbage moths, and strawberries, as it enhances flavour.
More on Companion Planting.