Planting A Thyme Lawn
IF REPLACING AN EXISTING LAWN, FIRST REMOVE THE OLD LAWN
You can kill or remove the old lawn in several ways:
A) Strip off the old turf grass with a sod cutter and kill off any remnants of lawn around the edges; OR
B) Kill the existing lawn, by spraying it with a one-time application of systemic glyphosate 14 days or longer prior to planting. (While repeated, widespread use of glyphosate can be damaging to the environment, healthy soils are capable of breaking down any residual chemical from a one-time use. Keep kids and pets off the lawn until the herbicide has dried.) or
C) Smother the lawn: If you can wait 6 months or longer, the old lawn can be killed by covering it with alternating layers of corrugated cardboard and compost laid down about 6” deep; or
D) Solarize the lawn by killing it with heat from the sun. This can be done by covering the lawn turf with clear plastic for one to two months during the heat of summer. Be sure and bury the edges of the plastic sheeting and place heavy rocks across the middle to anchor it and hold it down when the wind blows.
Note: Letting the lawn go brown by withholding water will not kill Kentucky Bluegrass.
IMPROVE THE SOIL - Before planting thyme plants into bare soil, it is essential that the soil be enriched with compost and other organic or natural fertilizers to insure that the plants grow vigorously and cover the area quickly. Proper soil preparation can be done anytime before planting. However, preparing the soil well in advance of planting insures that the ingredients have begun to breakdown and the soil will have a finer texture. It also allows weeds to sprout and be pulled or roto-tilled prior to planting. This will greatly reduce the amount of weeding after planting the thyme.
To improve the soil for best results use organic or natural soil amendments listed below. Rototill the soil enriching ingredients into the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
Planters II trace mineral supplement: Use 2 lbs/100 sq.ft. This natural trace mineral supplement provides essential micro-nutrients and boosts microbial activity in the soil needed to break down compost and natural fertilizers and improve nutrient availability.
Yum Yum Mix: 4 lbs/100 sq. ft. When it comes time to fertilize your soil in preparation for planting we suggest using a gentle, non-chemical based fertilizer. Yum Yum Mix feeds the soil that feeds your lawn. This organic formula adds essential nutrients to the soil and “feeds” the soil’s earthworms and beneficial microbial population to maintain a healthy living soil needed for a vigorous, low-care lawn. Healthy soil means a happy lawn!
Compost: Use at the rate of ½ to 1 cu. yard per 100 sq. ft. (depending on the condition of the soil). Heavy clay soils should be amended with some compost and 3/8" gravel (about 1/2 gravel and 1/2 native soil plus a few shovelfuls of compost) to improve drainage. Along with Yum Yum Mix, a high quality compost will build and maintain a healthy living soil.
DO NOT use manure unless you know it has been actively composted to break it down. Old piles of manure (even if stored for many years) have not been composted adequately. Instead, it will begin to compost (break down) after you’ve tilled it into the soil. This causes burning of plant roots and induces a serious nitrogen deficiency that will stunt or kill the new plants.
Plants should be spaced 12"-15" apart in a grid pattern. Plugs may be planted closer for faster fill-in. Expect coverage in 4 to 5 months, depending on soil preparation, weather and care. After the new plants are in the ground, water in thoroughly.
Thyme lawns are best suited to smaller areas of up to a few hundred square feet because of higher maintenance considerations. Just as importantly, we have found thyme lawns to be most attractive in smaller, more intimate areas like courtyards and patios where the edges can be interplanted with taller growing perennials and ornamental shrubs. Buffalo or Blue Grama grasses are best suited for covering large expanses in your yard. For difficult, poor-soil areas on exposed slopes, more vigorous more vigorous and aggressive ground covers like Groundcover Hybrid Broom (Genista kewensis) and Creeping Gold Buttons (Cotula) are recommended instead of creeping thymes.
Thyme lawns tolerate some foot traffic but are not suitable for a kids' play area. For walkways across the lawn use stepping stones to avoid wearing a path through the plants.
The best varieties for use in a thyme lawn are 'Pink Chintz', 'Reiter', 'Woolly', 'Coccineum', T. praecox ss. arcticus 'Coccineus' and Nailwort (Paronychia). To vary the bloom times and leaf textures, different varieties can be intermingled. Eventually 1 or 2 varieties may predominate.
In milder climates (Zones 7 to 9) a thyme lawn will generally be evergreen.
Depending on how hot the weather is, the plants will need a good soaking approximately once or twice a week, for the first two to three weeks. Once the plants begin to root out and grow, watering frequency can be cut back to a good soaking once every 7 to 10 days. (Yellowing foliage can be a sign of over watering.)
The water needs of a thyme lawn are substantially less than that of a bluegrass lawn, particularly with proper soil preparation to promote deep root growth. In areas with dry, sunny winters, winter watering (Dec.-March) every 2-4 weeks is recommended.
The recommended thyme varieties for a thyme lawn are low growers that do not need mowing. However, to keep your lawn looking tidy after blooming, it can be mowed using a bagger mower to remove the faded flowers and to help the stems fill in any bare spots. Set the mower blade at the height that cuts off the flower tops but doesn't cut into the stems and foliage below. Don't scalp the plants!
Fall is the optimum time to apply fertilizer. A single application of Yum Yum Mix applied at the rate of 2 lbs per 100 sq. ft. in mid to late fall (late Sept.-early Nov.) will keep the thyme lawn looking good.
A light raking in the Spring can be helpful in removing dead stems and foliage after a harsh winter.
Then top dress with a thin 1/2 inch of finely textured compost or well rotted manure to help the plants spread to fill in bare spots and reinvigorate the whole lawn for the coming of summer.