Chamomile or Thyme Ground Cover in Minden, Ontario
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Marlene Robinson
Posted on: May 15, 2002

We have just built a cottage near Minden (Haliburton Highlands) and would like to use a groundcover instead of grass. I am considering Roman chamomile or possibly Creeping thyme. Your website shows seed for chamomile, but not thyme.

1. Is there seed for thyme?

It is true that the thyme called "creeping thyme" in our catalogue is not available in seed form. But often when people use the words "creeping thyme" they are referring to what we call "wild thyme", a variety that also creeps and grows from seeds (but is not as low as the true "creeping thyme" that we carry).

Look under "T" herbs, then choose "Thyme Varieties" and then under "Other Varieties" click on "Wild Thyme".

2. Will both/either of these survive well in this climate? (We face south and are partly shaded.) Is one better than the other?

Chamomile (here I am writing of roman chamomile; the german chamomile is neither perennial not creeping) is not hardy enough in southern Ontario to consistently survive our winters. In Goodwood, for example, it does not survive most winters; it fares better in southwestern Ontario where winters are warmer than the northeastern edge of the Greater Toronto Area where Goodwood is located.

Wild thyme will work, but it can only tolerate partial shade, meaning shade for part of the day, but full sun the rest of the day.

3. Our soil is clay with two feet of sandy fill on top and then topsoil. What other preparation do I need before sowing?

The biggest concern would be weed control: make sure that you prepare the ground well, removing as much of the weeds, roots, etc. as possible. The more carefully you prepare the bed now the less work you will have to do to keep the weeds down while the thyme seedlings develop to a size at which they can compete against weeds.

4. How many grams of seed per square metre (or whatever measurement you prefer) would I need?

You need 0.5-1.0 gram of seed per 100 square feet if you sow indirectly in seedflats and transplant to the bed, or you will need twice that per 100 square feet if you sow directly in the bed without the transplanting step. (For more details see the article "Wild Thyme Lawn: Seeds or Plugs?" in the "Q&A" section of our website.)

5. Is the seed popular with birds? My husband thinks we will lose a lot in the sowing, and it is pretty expensive. Any suggestions?

Wild thyme seeds are very small, smaller than poppy seeds. I have never known birds to go after the seeds.

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