To keep your thyme alive when harvesting, the root must be preserved. The best time to begin regular harvesting is the end of summer. You’ll need a pruner or appropriately sized garden shears. Only harvest healthy plants, as evidenced by full, thick clusters. Cutting individual stems is difficult and time-consuming. Instead, grasp a good handful of stems and cut them close to the base. Leave at least 2 inches (5 cm) of stem at the bottom. The very base of the stem is typically wooden, so don’t count that as part of the 2 inches. Always avoid twisting or tearing the stems from the base. This can damage the root.
Table of Contents
4 Tips for Picking Thyme Without Damaging the Plant
You can pick fresh leaves from your thyme plant without damaging it as long as you follow the correct process. The tips below will allow you to harvest fresh herbs without killing the thyme plant in your herb garden. Here’s how to do it:
Work With the Proper Tools
Use a clean sharp scissors pr pruner, like this one, when harvesting thyme. Tearing or twisting when picking thyme damages the herb. The wound created by twisting or breaking off thyme stems also increases the risk of plant disease or pest infestation. By cutting thyme with a sharp, clean tool you’ll get the best results.
Avoid Cutting the Woody Part of the Stem
Never cut thyme down to the point where the stem feels stiff and woody. In fact, leave 2 inches (5 cm) of green growth in addition to the woody stem for the best results. The woody section of the plant’s stem is vital to a healthy root and the herb’s eventual regrowth. By leaving 2 inches of green growth as well as the woody stems untouched, your plant will bounce back for future harvests.
Pick Thyme at Summer’s End
Avoid regular harvesting of thyme during colder seasons when the plant is growing slowly. Harvesting during periods of slow growth can kill your plant. The open wounds left by harvesting will be slow to close during colder months. This can result in disease or death. In order to safely harvest thyme, wait until summer.
Rotate Your Cutting Pattern
Keep your thyme plant healthy by rotating your cutting pattern. This means that if you harvested a pair of leaves from one area of the plant during your latest cutting choose another area next time. Try to avoid harvesting more than ⅓ of the bush at one time. Instead, harvest in small quantities throughout late summer to allow the plant to bounce back between cuttings.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Thyme?
Thyme can be harvested whenever it reaches 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) in height. However, it is essential to understand that during its first year of growth it is still regarded as a baby plant. You can harvest it at this time, but your chances of an abundant harvest and healthier plants increase significantly if you wait until the second year.
- The ideal time to first harvest thyme is during its second growing season.
- Wait until your thyme is 8–10 inches tall (20–25 cm) before implementing any harvesting methods.
- The best time to harvest thyme is at summer’s end, just before its buds blossom.
Thyme can be harvested from mid-spring to the end of summer, but its flavor is strongest at summer’s end before the plant flowers. For the most flavorful homegrown herbs, begin your harvesting methods in August.
Do You Remove Thyme Leaves from the Stems?
Unless the stem is super soft, thyme leaves should be removed from it before cooking. If the stem is very tender, it can be left intact. In most cases, however, it’s best to remove the leaves.
- Unless the stem is very tender, thyme leaves are typically removed from it prior to cooking.
- Use the pinching method to remove leaves from the stem.
The easiest way to accomplish this is carefully cutting the individual stem from the plant with a pair of scissors or a small pruner. Then, pinch the stem at the top with your thumb and forefinger while holding the opposite end with the other hand. Run your fingers down the length of the stem from top to bottom and the leaves will easily break off. When done correctly, this should leave you with a naked stem.
Can You Harvest Thyme After It Flowers?
Thyme can be harvested after it flowers, but its taste and aroma are weaker after the blooming period. Most of the oils in this herb are held in the leaves. Oil levels are highest when the first flower buds form. This is when the plant is most flavorful. Buds typically form on the stems at the end of summer.
- The oil in thyme gives it its flavor.
- Oil levels are highest immediately after flower bud formation.
- You can harvest thyme after flowering, but it won’t be as flavorful.
The best time to harvest thyme is during this budding phase. Harvesting it after the flowering period does not eliminate its flavor or aroma, but it decreases the potency of these characteristics.
Does Thyme Grow Back After Cutting?
Thyme grows back after cutting, and often grows back fuller and stronger. To make sure your plant bounces back, remove only the softest, greenest stems from the plant when harvesting. Never cut past the woody part of the stem. This is the place where new growth occurs.
- Thyme usually grows back fuller and stronger after cutting.
- Avoid cutting large batches when trimming.
- Only remove green, soft stems.
Don’t cut large clumps of the entire plant if you are just trimming it back, as this will lead to uneven growth. At the end of the growing season, cut the herb down to 2 inches above the woody section. This encourages new growth in the next season and helps it withstand winter weather.
How Do You Harvest Thyme So It Grows Back?
Harvesting thyme so that it grows back and remains healthy involves preserving the root. Make sure you harvest only healthy plants and leave several inches of stem at the base. For best results, harvest thyme at the end of summer, just after its buds appear.
- Use a pruner or proper garden shears when harvesting thyme.
- Cut the stems in clumps, going close to the base.
- Don’t cut into the stem’s woody part; this is needed for regrowth.
- Cutting individual stems is unnecessary.
By harvesting your thyme late in the summer, you ensure a strong flavor. Additionally, cutting the plant back before winter sets in actually helps it survive colder weather more easily. So, you’ll get delicious herb leaves and protect your plant year-round with this process.