Tired of Your High-Maintenance Turf? 7 Reasons to Consider a Creeping Thyme Lawn

istockphoto.com You love your lush lawn, but maintaining it takes way too much time and effort. Three out of four seasons you’re out there mowing, edging, fertilizing, weeding … the list goes on. Enough is enough already! Making the switch to a creeping thyme lawn reaps many benefits, chief among […]

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You love your lush lawn, but maintaining it takes way too much time and effort. Three out of four seasons you’re out there mowing, edging, fertilizing, weeding … the list goes on. Enough is enough already!

Making the switch to a creeping thyme lawn reaps many benefits, chief among them being this ground cover’s minimal maintenance requirements. Many creeping thyme species thrive on neglect, and over time the plant grows lush and thick without becoming too long. Soft enough for bare feet but tough enough to handle a heavy tread, a creeping thyme lawn is an aesthetically pleasing and practical alternative to grass.

1. A creeping thyme lawn is drought-resistant and requires less water than traditional turf grasses. 

Would you believe it’s possible to have a good-looking, thick, soft ground cover that also saves on water? If you’re looking for a practical reason to switch to a creeping thyme lawn, this is it. Creeping thyme lawns are drought-tolerant, requiring much less water than a traditional grass lawn. When the hot weather comes, traditional grass lawns start to turn brown, but creeping thyme doesn’t.

In fact, creeping thyme actually dislikes wet conditions. It prefers dry or moist soil, thrives in full sun, and loves the heat—which saves you from having to water constantly. Creeping thyme is susceptible to root drowning and edema, which is why the soil should be moist or dry. All you have to do to take care of a creeping thyme lawn is fight the instinct to water it like grass.

purple creeping thyme lawn with rocks

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2. In most cases, a creeping thyme lawn won’t grow more than 3 inches high. 

Creeping thyme grows at a medium rate, and its height caps out at about 3 inches—both excellent qualities for a ground cover. As well, instead of growing upward, creeping thyme spreads out, sprawling across and filling in thinly covered or bare areas. This natural tendency to fill in helps your creeping thyme lawn always look full.

Thanks to the herb’s growth rate and low height, you’ll spend less time pushing a lawn mower if you swap your traditional turf for a creeping thyme lawn. The plant is considered a woody perennial, but the woody portion is comfortable to stand on and doesn’t affect your lawn mower if you do choose to mow it. Some gardeners opt for giving their creeping thyme lawn an occasional once-over with the mower to encourage the herb to spread.

3. Creeping thyme has a mint flavor and aroma.

Thyme is an herb, so it’s not surprising that certain species of creeping thyme make an excellent cup of tea or enhance the taste of a dish. This aromatic creeper emits a pleasant aroma when crushed underfoot or collected for use in the kitchen.

Creeping thyme species come in both fragrant ornamental and culinary varieties. Related to the mint family, the more than 300 thyme species share a similar flavor profile and aroma when crushed or steeped. Some species of thyme incorporate other flavors, such as earthy or lemony tones. Thyme is a great addition to many savory dishes and can be used with or without the stem, depending on the requirements of the recipe.

4. Deer will steer clear of a creeping thyme lawn. 

You can always tell which neighborhoods have a deer problem from the condition of the landscaping. Unfortunately, these creatures are just foraging for food that they can’t find in their natural habitat, which means your lawn and garden are what’s on the menu.

While no plants are deer-proof, some plants are less appealing to deer. Thyme is one of those plants that deer tend to leave alone unless they can’t find something more appealing. Deer are like stubborn toddlers facing a plate of broccoli: If there’s something more delicious around, they’ll ignore your creeping thyme lawn. While creeping thyme falls in the “deer-resistant” category, this doesn’t mean that deer will never eat it. But if given a choice between creeping thyme or something else, they’ll usually opt for the latter.

5. A flowering creeping thyme lawn will attract bees.

In recent years, many species of bees have experienced worrying population declines. Planting a creeping thyme lawn will give those little pollinators something to shake their stingers about, because when the weather warms up, creeping thyme lawns bloom for a month or two, turning into a carpet of lavender or pink flowers.

The charming flowers are quite small, only about one-quarter inch across, but they’re rich in nectar and will draw bees to your yard. While the blossoms generally appear mid-spring, their characteristics and flowering times differ depending on the species of creeping thyme lawn you plant. As a bonus for any beekeeper hobbyists, the pollen from a creeping thyme lawn adds flavor to the resulting honey.

creeping thyme lawn flowers

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6. A creeping thyme lawn can stand up to foot traffic.

It’s important that a ground cover be walkable, and a creeping thyme lawn is no exception. Don’t let the soft nature or gentle flowers of this herb fool you. Creeping thyme lawns bounce back quickly, even after being trampled by rambunctious kids.

With grass turf, a heavy tread can compact the soil, which can reduce the amount of air and water available to the lawn. Robbed of the nutrients it needs, the grass thins and dies off. This is why you start to see wear in frequently trafficked areas. Once established, creeping thyme lawns stand up to foot traffic because they don’t have the water needs of grass, and they help control erosion by filling in sparse areas.

7. The best time to harvest a creeping thyme lawn is in the morning, when the herb’s production of essential oils peaks.

A creeping thyme lawn isn’t just a lawn—it’s also an herb garden that provides thyme leaves for a variety of uses. It’s best to harvest a creeping thyme lawn in the morning, just after the dew has dried. This ensures the highest concentration of essential oils and the most potent flavor. Avoid washing the clean leaves after clipping them as this will remove some of the essential oils.

Essential oil from thyme can be used in perfumes, soaps, and aromatherapy. For the best quality and quantity of essential oil, harvest your creeping thyme lawn in the summer. To harvest, simply clip sprigs. Use fresh, crushed thyme for essential oils, or dry your cut thyme and store it in an airtight container for later use.

creeping thyme lawn harvest

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