(9 PRO Tips): how to harvest thyme so it keeps growing

Let’s see how it’s doing in the gardening world! If you are growing some, then learn how to harvest thyme! Thyme is one of the best herbs in the culinary world.

Do you like enhancing the flavor of your culinary creations by using fresh thyme? If this is the case, have you considered gathering it yourself from your backyard or balcony?

It is an alternative that is not only beneficial to one’s wallet but also offers a very satisfying experience.

This guide will give you a few simple pointers and suggestions for gathering thyme expertly.

The time has come to roll up our sleeves and go to work.

Thyme and Its Growth Cycle

The common thyme, scientifically known as Thymus vulgaris, is a perennial plant member of the mint family.

Growing thyme is simple and doesn’t take much attention once it’s sown. It is a plant that keeps its leaves year-round and may grow to a maximum height of 30 centimeters (12 inches).

The leaves are rather tiny and leathery, and their hue is grayish-green. The blooms are rather delicate and white, and they bloom in bunches.

1. Growing Thyme from Seeds

  • Growing thyme from seed is possible, but it is far simpler to begin with established young plants. While it thrives best in full sun, thyme may also be grown in partial shade.
  • Even though it favors soil with good drainage, it may survive in soil with poor draining. Both division and stem cuttings may be used to grow thyme.
  • Dig up the thyme plant, move it to a new area, and replant it for the desired result.
  • To take cuttings, clip off a few stems from the parent plant about 10 centimeters or four inches long and set them in a container of water or wet soil until they form roots.
  • The cuttings may be replanted into their containers or the soil when the roots have established themselves.
  • After the thyme leaves have dried out and become a dark green hue, the plant is ready to be harvested.
  • Remove the stems from the plant slightly above where they branch off the main stem. You may dry thyme by hanging it upside down in a cool, dry place without humidity.

Right Time to Harvest Thyme

When the plant has reached its full potential in terms of productivity and the leaves have reached their full potential in terms of taste, this is the ideal time to harvest thyme.

As thyme is an evergreen perennial herb, it may be picked many times throughout the growing season.

It is recommended to gather thyme before the plant blossoms to have a big supply of it available for cooking.

Preparing for Thyme Harvesting

Preparing for Thyme Harvesting

It is essential to understand when the thyme should be picked before beginning the harvesting process.

The optimum time to pick thyme is early in the morning after the dew has dried off but before the heat of the day has established itself.

While thyme may be picked at any time throughout the growing season, the optimal time to do it is right before the plant blossoms.

To harvest thyme, cut or snip off individual stems around one inch above where they branch off the main stem.

You may snip off individual thyme leaves as needed if you are utilizing a tiny quantity of the herb. Ensure you don’t remove all of the plant’s leaves since this will allow it to continue growing.

  • When you have gathered thyme, you have the option of using it fresh or drying it for use at a later time.
  • If you want to dry thyme, you should knot the stems together and then hang them upside down in a cold and dark area until the leaves get crispy.
  • After the leaves are dry, remove them from the stems and place them in a container to keep out air.
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Choosing the Right Tools for Harvesting Thyme

When it comes to harvesting thyme, a few various instruments can be utilized. The equipment that is best suited for the task will depend on the size of the thyme plant and the kind of thyme you are dealing with.

When dealing with delicate leaves or little plants, the ideal tool is a pair of small pruning shears or scissors. Remove the plant’s lower stems by cutting them off at the base, being careful not to harm the roots.

Before gently pulling the plant up by the roots, you may loosen the soil surrounding the plant using a garden hoe or rake if you are harvesting many thymes.

How to Cut Thyme for Optimal Yield

When cutting thyme, you must first locate the point at which the plant produces new growth.

Cut above this point, being sure to angle your cuts so that a greater portion of the plant is exposed to the sun. The next step is to make clean cuts right above a leaf node using sharp pruning shears.

 Be careful not to suffocate the plant since this will prevent it from growing properly. Lastly, to promote robust development, water the plants often and fertilize them once a month.

Techniques for Drying Thyme

Here are some practices for drying thyme:

1. Food Dehydrator

  • Spread the sprigs in a single layer on a dehydrator tray before washing them.
  • When it comes to drying hours, stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Take the leaves from the stalks after they’ve dried. (We highly recommend the following herb dehydrator.)

2. Oven

Remove the leaves from the stems. Make sure the leaves are spread out evenly on the baking sheet.

  • The tray should be placed on the center rack of the oven and heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check the leaf moisture content every 15 to 20 minutes by rearranging the leaves.
  • They are completely dry when you can snap them in half with your thumb and fingertips, and they have a crispy, crackly texture. 30–45 minutes is about right in my oven.
  • Thyme leaves on stems may also be dried in the oven but remember that this will take longer.

3. Hand Drying

  • Try using a drying rack to air your little bundles of thyme (I use a curtain rod).
  • Keep the bundles out of direct sunlight, and make sure they don’t touch.
  • After around three to four weeks, depending on the humidity, the thyme will be completely dry.
  • Prepare the leaves by removing them from the stems, either by hand or using an herb remover. The stems should be discarded in a compost bin.

Cooking Notes for Thyme!

Thyme gives almost any food a mild, pleasant taste, but it is particularly delicious with meats, soups, and potatoes.

The flavor has been characterized as having undertones of both lemon and mint, with a hint of earthiness. There’s a hint of flowers in the taste of that stuff.

Depending on your preference, you may use fresh thyme with or without the stem. On the other hand, if a recipe asks for a “sprig,” you should keep the stem attached to the herb.

During the cooking process, the leaves will fall off, and when the vegetable has cooled, the stem may be removed before it is served.

Timing: You can start harvesting thyme for cooking when the plant reaches a height of about 4-6 inches. This is typically a few months after planting, once the plant has established itself.

Method:

  1. Choose the Right Time: Select a sunny morning when the essential oils in the leaves are at their peak. This is when thyme is most flavorful.
  2. Use Sharp Shears or Scissors: To harvest thyme, use sharp garden shears or scissors. It’s essential to make clean cuts to minimize damage to the plant.
  3. Trim the Tops: Snip off the top 4-6 inches of the stems, just above a leaf node. This node is where new growth will emerge, ensuring the plant continues to thrive.
  4. Avoid Overharvesting: Never cut more than one-third of the plant at a time. Overharvesting can stress the plant and stunt its growth.
  5. Regular Harvesting: Continue to harvest thyme leaves throughout the growing season as needed. Frequent harvesting promotes bushier growth and a healthier plant.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Harvesting Thyme

  • Postpone harvesting until later in the season. If you pick the herb sooner, its flavor will be more delicate and subtle.
  • Take care not to crush or otherwise injure the thyme leaves. As a result, the essential oils that give thyme its flavor will be degraded.
  • Don’t over harvest from a single plant. Take just what you need, since this will let the plant continue producing throughout the season.
  • Avoid plucking all of the leaves off the stem at once. Consequently, the plant will have a considerably more difficult time recuperating, and it is conceivable that it could die as a result.
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How to harvest thyme for winter

Preserving thyme for use during the winter months allows you to enjoy its flavors even when it’s not in season. Here’s how to harvest and store thyme for winter:

Timing: The best time to harvest thyme for winter is before the first frost arrives. This ensures that you capture the herb’s peak flavor and fragrance.

Harvesting Process:

  1. Cut the Stems: Using garden shears or scissors cut the thyme stems a few inches above the ground. Leave some stems attached to the plant to encourage regrowth.
  2. Bundle for Drying: Gather several thyme stems into small bundles, securing them with twine or rubber bands.
  3. Hanging to Dry: Hang the bundles upside down in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. This can be indoors in a well-ventilated room or outdoors if the weather is dry.
  4. Drying Time: Thyme typically takes about 1-2 weeks to air dry completely. The leaves should feel crisp and crumble easily when touched.
  5. Remove Leaves: Once the thyme leaves are dry, carefully strip them from the stems. You can do this by running your fingers along the stems in the opposite direction of growth.

Storage:

  1. Airtight Containers: Store the dried thyme leaves in airtight containers such as glass jars or plastic bags. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent moisture and maintain freshness.
  2. Label and Date: Label the containers with the date of harvest to ensure you use the oldest thyme first.
  3. Storage Conditions: Keep the containers in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or cupboard. Properly stored dried thyme can retain its flavor for up to a year.

how to harvest thyme after flowering

Thyme plants often produce beautiful flowers that attract pollinators. However, even after flowering, thyme remains a flavorful herb suitable for culinary use. Here’s how to harvest thyme after it has flowered:

Timing: Thyme typically flowers in late spring or early summer. After flowering, the herb can still be harvested for culinary purposes.

Harvesting Process:

  1. Inspect the Plant: Examine the thyme plant and locate areas with fresh, green growth. These are the parts you’ll want to harvest.
  2. Trim the Tops: Use scissors or garden shears to snip the top 4-6 inches of the stems, just above a leaf node. This is the same technique used for non-flowering thyme.
  3. Flavor Consideration: Keep in mind that flowering thyme may have a slightly milder flavor compared to non-flowering thyme. Adjust the quantity you use in recipes accordingly.
  4. Regular Pruning: Continue to regularly prune your thyme plant throughout the growing season, even after flowering. This encourages new growth and maintains the plant’s overall health.

how to harvest thyme seeds

Harvesting thyme seeds is a process that allows you to collect seeds for future plantings. Here’s how to harvest thyme seeds:

Timing: Thyme seeds are ready for harvest after the plant has flowered, and the flowers have turned brown and dried.

Seed Harvesting Steps:

  1. Wait for Seed Formation: Allow the thyme plant to flower, and then let the flowers mature on the plant. You’ll know they’re ready when they turn brown and dry up.
  2. Collect the Seed Heads: Gently pinch the dried flower heads and rub them between your fingers or palms over a clean surface or container. This will release the tiny thyme seeds.
  3. Separate Seeds from Debris: After rubbing the seed heads, you’ll have a mixture of seeds and small bits of plant material. To separate the seeds, gently blow on them or use a fine sieve to remove any debris.
  4. Store the Seeds: Place the thyme seeds in an airtight container or small envelope. Be sure to label and date the container, so you know when the seeds were harvested.

Seed Viability and Planting:

  1. Seed Viability: Thyme seeds can remain viable for several years if stored in a cool, dry place. However, their germination rate may decrease over time.
  2. Planting Thyme Seeds: When you’re ready to plant thyme seeds, simply scatter them over prepared soil or pots, and lightly cover them with a thin layer of soil. Water gently, and keep the soil consistently moist until germination, which typically takes 14-28 days.

how long does it take to harvest thyme from the seed

The amount of time it takes to harvest thyme from seed is contingent upon a number of factors, including the plant’s stage of germination and its development. The following is a rundown of the procedure:

Germination:

The process of thyme seeds sprouting might take anywhere from 14 to 28 days. To ensure that the seeds successfully sprout, you will need to make sure that the soil is kept wet throughout this period.

Seedling Stage:

After the germination process, the thyme seedlings will continue to develop into their seedling stages. Once they have reached a size that is adequate, they may be ready for their first harvest of leaves in around three to four months.

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At this time, you are ready to start gathering thyme leaves for use in culinary preparations as required.

Maturity for Seed Harvest:

When the plant is mature and has produced blooms, you may collect the thyme seeds. However, you will need to wait until the plant has developed in order to do so.

Following the phase of flowering, the seeds will continue to mature for a few more weeks until they are ready to be harvested.

Does thyme grow back after cutting?

The capacity of thyme to re-grow after being cut is one of the plant’s most notable characteristics. When you cut back or harvest thyme, the plant will frequently put forth new shoots from the stems and branches that are left behind.

Since thyme is a hardy perennial herb, it should continue to provide fresh leaves for your culinary requirements as long as they are not picked to excess.

It is important to avoid cutting more than one-third of the plant at a time in order to maintain a healthy environment for the plant’s continued development.

This helps the plant to keep its vigor and also supports the development of new shoots from the base of the stems. If you prune or harvest your thyme plants on a regular basis, you may notice that they get bushier and more prolific.

How do you know when thyme is ready?

What you want to do with the harvested thyme is the most important factor in determining when it is ready to be picked.

For Cooking:

When the plant has reached a height of approximately 4 to 6 inches, you may begin gathering the leaves of the thyme plant to use in cooking.

Thyme is a culinary herb. This normally occurs a few months after the plant has been planted, once it has begun to establish itself. You’ll know it’s ready when the growth is robust and green, with leaves that are well formed.

If you want the leaves to have the most flavor, collect them on a bright morning. This will allow the essential oils in the leaves to reach their full potential.

For seed harvesting:

Wait until the plant has flowered and the blooms have turned brown and withered before harvesting thyme seeds.

This will allow you to pick the seeds without damaging the plant. At this stage, the seeds should be ready to be collected and used. It is possible to determine whether or not they are ready by gently rubbing the dried flower heads between your fingers; this should cause the small thyme seeds to be released.

To store for winter:

If you want to store thyme for the winter, the ideal time to harvest it is before the first frost occurs. This is also the greatest time to utilize it during the winter.

At this point, the thyme plant ought to be well-established and should be producing a plentiful amount of leaves that have a robust flavor.

After Flowering:

Thyme plants typically produce lovely blooms that entice pollinators to visit their plants. In spite of the fact that it has flowered, the herb can still be collected for use in cooking.

Keep an eye out for new growth that is still green, and trim the tops as necessary for the dishes you want to make.

How to harvest thyme FAQS

Q: What Is The Right Way To Cut Thyme?

With clean garden shears or scissors, remove a few leaves and cut a sprig several inches long from above a leaf node. Don’t sever the tough central stems.

Q: What To Do With Thyme In The Fall?

After you have gathered your thyme, you have many alternatives. If you reside in USDA Hardiness Zone 4 or a similar chilly area, you may grow thyme in pots and bring them inside in winter.

Keep it in a sunny area, and it will grow through the winter. If the thyme is already planted in the ground outdoors, you may either bring it inside or cover it with plastic.

 Put a few inches of mulch and dirt around the thyme’s base to keep the roots warm over the winter so you may leave the plant outside.

Conclusion

Thyme is a fantastic weed-controlling companion plant for taller plants like tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage.

It may be planted at the base of these plants and will grow up and around them.

Thyme’s anti-oviposition properties are a boon for gardeners trying to protect their tomatoes from the yellow-striped armyworm.

Now that you know how to harvest thyme and when to tackle the task, we hope you enjoy your gardening!