Reader Gardening Advice: Growing Thyme

| 10/8/2010 10:49:37 AM

L.CleekQ: I live in Los Angeles and I recently planted thyme between the stepping stones in my walkway. I also planted some sedum. The sedum is doing okay but the thyme is dead. I also planted thyme in a pot with chives. The thyme died but the chives survived. Did I add too much water?

I really want some flourishing thyme! I have not tested the pH levels, but the pot had organic mulch in it. Also, the soil on the walkway was plain clayish soil with a bit of organic matter added to it. Help!

A: First of all, you’ve made a good choice of venue since thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a creeping herb that thrives in areas with rocky soil, just like your walkway. However, you have one main problem, which you seem to already have suspected—too much water.

According to Yvonne Savio, Common Ground Garden Program Manager for the University of California’s Los Angeles County Cooperative Extension, the plants you’re growing in your walkway have three different watering frequencies. Sedum needs a lot of water followed by a drying out period of up to several weeks before receiving more water. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) thrive on regular watering. Thyme, on the other hand, flourishes best with very minimal watering.

The clayish soil you’ve described using holds in any water it gets and excessive water invites diseases like root rot (Rhizoctonia), which occurs when excess water cuts the roots off from oxygen. If planted in clay soil, thyme only needs to be watered a couple times each month. In order to grow these three plants in harmony, you should change the type of soil you’re using to a sandy loam mixture. This more porous soil will allow you to sufficiently water the sedum and chives while the increased drainage will keep your thyme from drowning. 


Lastly, because of its Mediterranean roots, thyme should be planted in areas of full sun and needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. So you may need to assess your walkway’s sun exposure as well.

With these tips I'm sure you'll have flourishing thyme in no time!

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