Fresh Thyme
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Nancy Roberts
Posted on: August 6, 1999

I’ll try to be brief with my questions about how to prune and take care of thyme. We sell it fresh by the ounce.

What is the best way to harvest it. We use scissors, leaving about 1" of green leaf left on the plant. Is that too severe? And would it be better to cut the entire plant off at once or just a part at a time?

Using scissors is fine, but you should leave 6 inches (15 centimeters) at the base of the plants to allow for enough strength to regrow many times. When done this way, the entire plant can be shortened at one time.

Can it be cut numerous times and still grow properly?

You should be able to cut every plant about 4 or 5 times per year. If you supplement winter light you can do even better.

Does it need watering when cut? And if beds are well drained is regular watering of once a week too much?

It only needs watering when the soil begins to dry out. Fertilizing after cutting is a good idea though. Regular watering once a week is an excellent strategy. Make sure you water throughly.

When flowering begins, should more than just the flower be cut off to increase growth?

Only if the plants are tall enough to take more of an harvest.

Can it be divided at any point during the season?

In outdoor culture divide in spring or late summer. In indoor culture divide whenever the plant is starting a new growth spurt.

In the spring, is it normal to have dead-looking branches?

In outdoor culture, you have to expect some parts of some plants to winterkill. You can reduce the kill by mulching the plants with stone chips to prevent the branches of the plant of coming in contact with wet soil. A hard pruning in early spring will not harm the plants and will remove the dead parts and result in a clean harvest later in the year. Mulching the tops of the plants with straw for the winter will hold snow on them and prevent the freezing and thawing that is so detrimental to plants.

Do you recommend any particuliar variety for heavy yields?

The highest yields are obtained from English thyme. French thyme is stronger in flavour and therfore even though the yield is not quite as much, it will flavour just as much food.

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