THE PERFECT WAY TO CULTIVATE ORGANIC THYME

Refreshingly aromatic, the leaves of the dwarf (6 in. high) evergreen herb called thyme are used in making stuffing and for flavouring soups and sauces. It grows well in any sunny spot, and it prefers dryish ground. Varieties are Common and Lemon Thyme.

Young plants can be purchased. Or a stock can be raised by means of cuttings or root divisions from an old plant – obtained by barter with a fellow gardener. The slowest method is that of sowing seed.

Seedlings of the herb must be allowed a year of grace before sprigs can be picked. Established plants offer suitable small shoots all the year round, being evergreen. Shoots can also be dried for winter use.

Soil Preparation.

Plants are apt to perish in winter if the ground is very heavy and water-holding. This type of soil should be made thoroughly porous by means of sand or sharp grit dug in before planting. Very fight soil should be stiffened with hop manure or leaf-mould. The warmest corner of the piece of ground is the most suitable.

When and How to Sow.

During March or April seeds can be sown in a -in. deep drill, as thinly as they can be spaced, and the seedlings lifted three or four months later and planted where they are to remain, about 6 in. apart.

When and How to Plant.

Either March or September is suitable for planting purchased plants. They should be set out about 6 in. apart, and at once watered in. Apart from keeping them free of weeds no other attention is required – except the replanting which is necessary every three years or so; they are apt to die out in winter when they become too woody.

Dividing and Replanting.

The plants form straggling tufts, and at the end of three or four years need to be divided. Lifted with a trowel, a plant is pulled apart into as many pieces as will come away with roots. These divisions are replanted, as deeply as the lowest shoots, and the soil pressed firmly around them. Late March or April is the best time in which to do this.

In order to take cuttings, side shoots, or sprigs, are removed from the old woody main stems in such a manner that they have attached to them a piece of the parent bark – technically, a heel. Ragged edges of this are trimmed with a sharp knife, and the cuttings are ready for planting, 6 in. apart, where they are to remain. They may be anything between 2 in. and 4 in. long, and 1 in. of the stem should be below ground, which is afterwards firmed with the fingers or boot heel.

This may be done any time during summer. The cuttings must be kept supplied with water during dry weather, and if the soil is very light and thirsty they will take root more quickly in a lightly shaded spot; they can be transplanted to a more open position the following March or April.

Gathering Shoots.

Shoots can be picked for use whenever required, but should not be removed complete; 1 in. of stem should remain where each sprig is taken, to send out fresh growth.

For Winter Use. Method of storing a supply of thyme is explained in the section EASY HOME PRESERVATION OF VEGETABLES.

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