Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – Plants in my Apartment


This will be the last post in the Plants in my Apartment series for a while as I have now profiled all the plants that have grown or are growing in my apartment. Any new posts in the series will occur when I acquire new plants.


Thyme is another popular herb from the Mediterranean region where it has been cultivated for a long time. Thyme was associated with bravery, strength, and protection from the time of the Romans, who believed that it could protect from poison, to the Middle Ages, where it was a common treatment for the plague. Though its antiseptic properties were not known at the time, it continued to be used to treat infections through the Victorian area. Today Thyme is a common ingredient in European cooking, and is added to breads, soups, stews, and roasts. It is often paired with lemon in cakes, salads, and on fish.

Thyme plant in a green pot

Growing Information

Size: Thyme typically grows to be 6 – 15 in (15 – 38 cm) tall and 18 – 24 in (45 – 60 cm) wide, although this can vary among varieties.

Water Requirements: Water thyme regularly allowing soil to dry between waterings.

Soil Requirements: Soil used to grow thyme should be well drained with a neutral (7.0) pH.

Light Requirements: Thyme does best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: The temperature requirements vary among the different species of thymes. It typically does best in USDA zone 4 or warmer.

Nutrient Requirements: Thyme requires low levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Pruning: Regular light pruning will keep thyme the happiest.

Pests: Spider mites and root rot can both plague thyme.

Companion Planting: Thyme makes a good companion for cabbage, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, and strawberries.

Growing Indoors: Thyme is an excellent plant to grow in containers. It needs a pot that is at least 6 in (15 cm) deep and can be root pruned if it becomes pot bound.

Harvesting and Use: Harvest leaves as needed throughout the year. Thyme can be dried, refrigerated, or frozen and is used to season meats, stews, vegetables, and sauces.

 

Sources

Bonnie Plants: Growing Thyme – General growing and some more detailed pruning information.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Thyme – General growing information in an easy to read format.

The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide by Stephen Albert – If you haven’t gotten this book by now you really should. It has intelligently laid out growing information for the common vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

History Channel’s A Brief History of Thyme – Discusses the history and myths surrounding thyme.


More from the Plants in My Apartment series

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Plants in my Apartment

Rosemary is an herb that will always have a place in my garden no matter where I live. I absolutely love it in potato soup, socca, and lemonade.

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, especially the coastal areas where it has been used since the times of the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. A symbol of remembrance, happiness, loyalty, and love, rosemary has found its way into several Shakespeare plays, literature, and music (Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel anyone?). In addition to its culinary uses, rosemary can be used as a landscaping plant to make hedges and topiaries and in crafts. People make wreaths out of it and use it to create a yellow-green dye.

Rosemary Plant

Growing Information 

Size: 12 – 72 in (30 – 183 cm) tall and 12 – 24 in (30 – 60 cm) wide.

Water Requirements: Rosemary will do the best when the soil is kept slightly wet.

Soil Requirements: Prefers well-drained soil that is sandy or gravely and has a pH between 6 and 7.

Light Requirements: Rosemary likes full sun.

Temperature Requirements: Rosemary’s ideal growth areas are those that correspond with USDA zones 8-10 but it can be grown in colder climates if overwintered indoors.

Nutrient Requirements: All-purpose water-soluble fertilizer applied every two weeks is recommended for potted plants.

Pruning: Rosemary is well suited to hedges and topiaries. Yellowing or dead branches can be removed at any time, otherwise it is best to cut above the woody growth. Rosemary can be propagated from cuttings.

Pests: Rosemary is bothered by thrips, spider mites, and white flies. It can also suffer from root rot. Insects can be sprayed off with a hard stream of water or with a solution of 1 TBSP dish soap to 1 gallon of water if they’re stubborn.

Companion Planting: Rosemary is an excellent companion plant to cabbage, beans, carrots, and sage as it deters cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies.

Growing Indoors: Rosemary does well in pots and containers. Containers should be be 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) deep. It can be grown indoors but will need a sunny window in a cool room, well-drained soil, and will benefit from misting regularly. If you live in a USDA zone 8 or colder it is a good idea to overwinter your rosemary indoors.

Harvesting and Use: It is best to harvest from well-established plants before they bloom (summer/early-fall). Rosemary can be used for cooking all types of meat and vegetables. Rosemary can be dried or frozen to preserve it.

 

Sources:

Bonnie Plants Growing Rosemary – Basic growing instructions

SF Gate: How to Grow Rosemary in a Container – General rosemary growing instructions.

The Herb Society of America Rosemary Fact Sheet – Growing instructions and interesting information about the Rosemary plant.

Fine Gardening Magazine: Rosemary Outdoors and In – Has instructions for propagating cuttings, information about growing in pots, overwintering and rosemary cultivars.

Golden Harvest Organics Companion Planting – Companion planting guide.

The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide by Stephen Albert  – My favorite gardening book. As it says on the front cover it’s “a practical vegetable and herb garden encyclopedia”


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Structure of a Flower

Time for another hand-drawn plant diagram. This week it’s a flower that’s missing some petals and sepals so we can see the inner parts. Not really sure why the flower turned out day-glo pink in the photo. It was supposed to be salmon. Oh well.

labeled diagram of flower structure

Pedicel – Flower stalk

Receptacle – Where other flower parts are attached.

Sepal – Modified leaves that protect flower buds. Sepals can be colorful.

Petals – Leaf-like structures that have pigments. Petals are important for attracting the correct pollinators.

Stamen – “Male” portion of a flower.

Filament – Stalk of the stamen.

Anther – Part of the stamen where anther is produced.

Carpel – “Female” portion of a flower (not labeled).

Stigma – Part of carpel that catches pollen grains.

Style – Part of the carpel that elevates stigma.

Ovary – Part of carpel that produces megaspores.

Pistil – Can refer to a single, or several fused carpels.

External Organization of a Plant Root

Last time it was shoots, this time it’s roots!

Diagram of a root tip with labels.

Root Tip – Region where root growth occurs.

Root Apical Meristem – Analogous to the shoot apical meristem (where growth occurs) except more orderly. Located at the tip of the root under the root cap.

Root Cap – A protective layer of cells around the root apical meristem.

Region of Elongation – Area behind root cap and meristem where cells undergo division and expansion.

Region of Maturation – Area where cells continue to differentiate.

Root Hairs – Narrow cells that increase root surface area allowing for greater soil penetration, release of carbon dioxide, and absorption of ions. These live for 4-5 days.

Lateral (Branching) Roots – Smaller roots (often numerous).

Red root tip of an orchid plant on a grey palm trunk

A root tip of an orchid (red part).

 

June Garden Update

Yes, yes, I know it has been June for a while now and this update is long overdue, but I’ve been working on other things and kind of forgot. Other than the 10 minutes in the morning that I spend watering, pruning, and talking to my plants, my garden hasn’t exactly been on my mind. It’s kind of nice to have reached the point where things require only a little maintenance and brainpower.

Picture of tomatoes, carrots and lemon balm in pots on a balconyThe herbs are happy and low maintenance as usual. I did end up pulling my basil because it was almost dead, but the cuttings I took are rooting. The lemon balm is also the happiest I’ve ever seen it. The carrots are mature enough that I’m able to harvest them whenever I get a craving for crunchy; they’ll probably be gone soon. The tomato I started this winter is blooming and fruiting and seems very happy with all the rain we’ve been getting. The tomato that I started last summer is still blooming but barely producing fruit. I may pull it soon.

White soul alpine Strawberry plants on a balcony

The strawberries are big and happy. The aphids are under control for the most part (just a little dish soap and water seemed to do the trick). I’ll probably have to treat them once more this summer. I also need to replant them in larger pots as they’re getting root-bound. That hasn’t stopped them from blooming and producing their tiny white fruit though. I absolutely love the way the berries smell.

The apples are still surprisingly alive. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with them when I move at the end of the summer. The ivy that’s outside in quarantine is alive and shows no sign of spider mites, but does not seem to like the sun exposure or the heat. I’m considering moving it back inside, but I’m hesitant because I really don’t want mites on my other plants.

Key lime tree and cuttings looking out a window

As for the indoor plants, the lime tree finally got too tall to fit under the grow light so I moved it to a sunny window. It seemed to take a little time to adjust but is back to growing. I trimmed its thorns last week with nail clippers (I used rubbing alcohol to sterilize them first). They seemed to do a good job and the tree was no worse for wear. There was also the delicious smell of lime while I was doing the trimming. I can’t believe the tree will be one year old next month!

The cacti and small ivy plant are happy and growing slowly. The African violet is losing some of its lower leaves. It seems to happen gradually and one-by-one, so I’m hoping it’s just the plant getting rid of unneeded leaves instead of something more serious. It is getting rather big and seems to be healthy otherwise, but I’m keeping a close eye on it.

As for the rest of June, the plan is to keep things alive and healthy.

Yellow currant tomato flowers

External Organization of a Plant Shoot


Don’t worry, the Plants in my Apartment series will continue, I just didn’t get the post written in time for this week so I though I’d try something different.


Lately I’ve been reading through a botany textbook to see if plants are something I’d like to study a bit more seriously. After the first few chapters that reviewed the basics of life, the cell, and organic chemistry I’ve finally gotten to the more interesting, plant specific chapters. The last chapter I read covered the tissues and primary growth of stems. I found that a large portion of the chapter was spent on plant parts that I already knew existed and had observed in my garden, but didn’t have terms for.

It is very weird (and very nice) to suddenly find out what something I’ve known for so long is actually called. I decided to share some of that nice weirdness, or weird niceness with you. The following are some of the new and useful terms I learned this chapter. You may be familiar with some of them (like I was), know all of them (Wow, look at you!), or know none of them (Yay learning!). Either way I hope you find this at least a little interesting.

 

Labeled drawing of a plant shoot.

Shoot – stem and leaves/flowers/buds

Stem – the main axis

Nodes – where leaves are attached

Internodes – space between the nodes

Leaf axil – the stem above where the leaf attaches

Axillary bud – bud in the leaf axil (contains dormant apical meristem and several leaves)

Apical meristem – tips of shoots where new growth occurs (can’t be seen in drawing)

Bud scales – corky, waxy modified leaves that cover and protect axillary buds

Terminal bud - the bud at the extreme tip of each stem

Leaf scar – the mark left when a leaf falls off


I haven’t decided whether I’ll be doing more posts about what I learn in the botany book so I’d love input. If you’d like to see more, or definitely DO NOT, please let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Little Finger Carrot (Daucus carota var. sativus) – Plants in my Apartment

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with carrots. Sometimes I can’t get enough of them and will go through a few bags a week, and other times I can barely stand to eat them. Right now I’m at somewhat of an in between point in the cycle; I don’t crave them but they’re not repulsive. Despite my ambivalence, the supposed ease at which carrots grow in containers meant I had to give them a try this summer.

Two small orange carrots

The carrots we are familiar with today were first domesticated from wild carrots (which are still found in temperate regions today and are known in the US as Queen Anne’s Lace) about 1,100 years ago in the Middle East. Wild carrots were likely first used as an herb and medicinally before it became domesticated. The first carrots cultivated for food were purple or yellow. The orange color is a relatively new trait that became common around the 1600’s. The Carrot Museum does a wonderful job of providing an extensive history of the carrot from Neolithic times to modern day, and if you are interested in the history of carrots, please see their History pages.

The variety of carrots I’m growing is called Little Finger (or Orange Finger). They’re a small orange heirloom variety that is supposed to be perfect for growing in pots. I’ve found that they have a sweet taste and a pleasant crunch, which makes them great for eating raw. Their small size is nice too since I don’t feel like I’m going to break teeth biting through them. Having grown several varieties of carrots before, I can easily say that these are my favorite.

Green carrot leaves coming out of a white pot with dark brown soil

 

Care Instructions

Size: Little finger carrot foliage can grow to be 4 – 8 in (10 – 20 cm) tall. For proper growth, the carrots need to be planted 3 in (8 cm) apart. Little finger carrots themselves can grow to be 4 in long and ½ in wide (10 cm long and 1.3 cm wide).

Water Requirements: Keep the carrots well watered, but be careful not to drown them.

Soil Requirements: Heavily drained soil with few roots or rocks (to avoid weirdly shaped carrots) is preferred.

Light Requirements: Little finger carrots grow best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: Best growing temperatures are between 60 – 70F (15- 21°C).

Nutrient Requirements: Usually mature manure is enough, although the carrots may sometimes need a little extra potassium.

Pests: Pests that may attack your carrots include various caterpillars, vegetable leafminers and weevils, leafhoppers, and southern potato wireworms.

Companion Planting: Carrots do well when planted near beans, lettuce, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. Chives improve flavor and rosemary and sage deter pests.

Growing in Containers: Little Finger carrots are well suited for container growing.

Harvesting and Use: Carrots should be ready to harvest about 60 days after you planted them. They taste the best after they become bright orange and can be eaten raw or cooked in any recipe that calls for carrots.

Orange carrot top and green leaves with soil

Sources

Botanical Interests Little Finger Carrots – The source of my seeds as well as general growing information.

Burpee Companion Planting Guide – A list of companion plants for various vegetables.

Burpee Little Finger Carrot Seeds –  A source for seeds and very basic growing requirements.

Eden Brothers Carrot Seeds “Little Finger – A source for seeds and very basic growing requirements.

North Carolina State University Center for Integrated pest Management: Pests of Carrot  – guide to identifying carrot pests.

Sustainable Seed Company Little Finger Carrot Seeds – A source for seeds as well as planting instructions.

World Carrot Museum: History of Carrots – A very detailed history of carrots.


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