Thyme (Thymus) is a plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family, widely used in cooking, both for its aroma and for its properties. It is one of the most cultivated herbs, it is part of the classic aromatic herbs such as sage, rosemary, and basil.
Growing it in pots on your balcony is an excellent idea, not only to always have its fragrance available in the kitchen but also to enjoy the beauty of this shrub, especially when it blooms. The plant is perennial, with small evergreen leaves, easy to keep tidy.
Like various other aromatic herbs, thyme is very easy to grow in pots. We have already explained in general how to grow thyme in the garden. In this article, we explore the peculiarities of balcony cultivation. In fact, there are some precautions proper to have the plant in a container, from the choice of the pot and the soil to irrigation.
Description of the plant
Thyme is a medicinal plant native to the arid areas of the Mediterranean basin and some areas of Asia, where it was found mainly on rocky slopes. In Italy, it grows up to 2000 m of altitude.
Thyme seeds can be kept for 5 years and in just one gram we can find up to 6000 units. Almost fifty varieties of this medicinal herb have been described, it usually does not exceed 50 cm in height and has a shrubby and woody stem, the leaves are small and the flowers, white or pink, give off a strong and pleasant smell.
Due to its size and characteristics, it lends itself to being grown in pots and is also satisfied with small spaces.
Location and period
Thyme loves heat, but is also resistant to low temperatures, and dry, as it fears excess humidity. For this reason, if you want to keep it on the balcony, it is good to place the pots in areas well exposed to sunlight.
It is a perennial plant, able to resist outdoors all year round without major problems but to plant it is better to wait until spring, or in any case a moment of mild climate. In this way, the plant will be able to adapt to the new condition and root in the soil of the pot, facing the winter when it is well-formed.
Choice of the suitable vase
Thyme grows like a bush, so a pot with a diameter of at least 15-20 cm will be fine for our use, the ideal depth is at least 20 cm, to give the roots some ease.
We can also decide to associate the plant with other essences, possibly also perennial and of similar size, for example, sage. Among the herbs, we avoid putting thyme together with mint, too invasive to share the container.
On our website, you will find a general article dedicated to the choice of the pot and its materials, among the various options an excellent proposal is the geotextile fabric, but also the classic terracotta pot is fine, or in plastic, less desirable for ecological reasons.
Choose the soil and fill the pot
Once we have chosen the container we obviously have to fill it with the substrate. Before starting the soil, it is better to take care to provide for good drainage of any excess water, to avoid stagnation. We then make a state of expanded clay or simple stones.
We can buy the soil in any agricultural center. It is not necessary to buy a specific substrate for aromatic herbs: universal potting soil is cheaper and equally good, possibly certified organic. We can think of us to improve it, adding some well-ripened compost, so as to increase the availability of nutrients for our plant, and maybe even a little bit of country land, carrier of useful microorganisms present in nature. Since thyme loves draining soil, it is also good to mix river sand, available at a very little price in any construction center, which makes the soil looser.
I recommend filling the pot and leaving it to rest for a week before planting, so that the compost, the earth and its microorganisms come into contact with each other. After this time, which is optional, we can finally transplant the thyme seedling into our pot.
Cultivation on the terrace
The cultivation of thyme is very simple, to keep it on the balcony there are only two special precautions compared to having it in the open field and they concern the water and nutrients. The fact of having the plant in a limited space in fact implies that the resources available to the roots are more scarce, it is therefore good to intervene periodically with constancy, both irrigating and fertilizing.
How much to wet the potted thyme
As we have said, thyme prefers warm and dry climates, so the plant must not be watered too much, absolutely avoiding the accumulation of water that could lead to the birth of fungi harmful to our aromatic.
The criterion is to keep the soil in the pot slightly moist, the exact amount of water to be used varies according to the climate, as does the frequency.
It must always be borne in mind that it is better to irrigate often but with little water, rather than on the contrary to wet a lot once in a while.
Irrigation should not be given in the hottest hours of the day, trying to irrigate on the ground and not on the leaves.
To fertilize the potted plant we can add compost or manure in pellets once a year, as a contribution of organic matter and nutritional macroelements.
In addition to this, it is useful to irrigate every 3-4 months using nettle macerate with fertilizing action, it is completely natural fertigation that brings several useful elements to our medicinal plant. You can read how to prepare this macerate.
How to use thyme
Thyme has important antiseptic properties, useful at the gastrointestinal level, but its antibacterial qualities due to the presence of thymol, a phenol thanks to which it owes its characteristic odor, are no less important.
Thyme essential oil is excellent against fungi, it is also used for diseases such as cough or asthma, thanks to its expectorant function.
Its most widespread use is in the kitchen, in fact, it is very suitable for flavoring meat or fish dishes or to give an original touch to salads and risottos.
The term thymus derives from the Greek word Thumus which stands for courage, a quality that would be obtained simply by smelling a thyme plant, not surprisingly it was used a lot by the republicans during the French revolution. In addition to courage, the thyme plant has always been associated with positivity and good humor.
We just have to grow a plant on our balcony so as to benefit from all its qualities!
You may be interested to read about the How to sow rocket and when blogpost/ Grow rocket in the garden blog post/ Grow rosemary blogpost/ Lemon cultivation blogpost/ How to grow thyme blogpost/ Grow saffron blogpost/ How to grow salvia blogpost/ How to grow oregano blogpost/ Grow marjoram blogpost/ Grow wild fennel blogpost/ Aubergine pesto recipe/ Pub cake recipe.