Thyme as Edging and as Lawn
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Carolyn Adolph
Posted on: March 28, 2000

I have a backyard herb patch, just sitting right out in the open beside a large swimming pool. The effect is of two rectangles cut into the grass: of course it looks awkward, but a swimming pool makes for awkwardness and I’m not responsible for its construction. I have done nothing whatever to edge my herb patch, and I’m tired of the disordered jumble of the last two years. I loved the effect of thyme at one edge last year, but it was winter thyme (English thyme) and thus a little too upright and bushy. What I’d like to do is edge the entire patch, aside from entrance pathways, in a mounding thyme. Do you have any suggestions? I’d favour something I could grow from seed, as there would be so many plants to plant. But most important is that I want to avoid winter kill as much as possible. I’m in Ottawa, a zone 4.

Second question: Actually, my great wish is to have thyme everywhere including in patches in the grass, the way people in southern Quebec have taken to doing it. But how do you give thyme a chance in an established lawn? How big a hole do you cut out? How dumb will it look, and for how long? The site I’m talking about would have full, blazing sun.

The most ground hugging thyme that is hardy in your zone would be creeping thyme, but it is only available as plants. The next best variety would be wild thyme and it is available as both seeds and plants. To direct seed seeds, you have to work the soil by either spading or rototilling it. If you want a mixture of thyme and grass in the lawn, then you don’t have to try to eradicate the grass before sowing the seed on the tilled surfaces. If you start with plug tray plants, you would just cut a hole large enough to accommodate the one inch (2.5 centimeter) rootball. The creeping thyme will probably push away some of the grass as it grows and will result in a nice mix within a year. For quickest results space the plants on six inch (15 centimeter) centers. If you want no grass you will have to eradicate it before planting the plants or seeds, because the thyme will not displace all of the grass. The earlier in the spring you start the faster the thyme will form a more or less solid mat. During the heat of the summer little growth takes place.

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