Thyme - The Eagle of the Herbs

Thymus vulgaris Each week, I walk through our garden and notice which herb calls my attention.  You may have noticed that our garden is a "messy" garden - food spills into flowers surounded by fruit trees and at their feet herbs.  It is a cacaphony of fragrance, colour, shape, structure, vibration which feeds the body and the soul.  This is the classic permaculture design, based on the premise of confusion to predators and drawing on the attributes of companion planting, soil building and fodder for the beneficial insects and animals.  As I witnessed the first of the thyme blossoms to open, and saw the bees flock to them, this week, thyme kept calling me.

In our vegetable mandalas, thyme is planted throughout the outer circle. It is drought resistant and does not require pampering.  We grow various varieties and they all spread to form a mat, which keeps other weeds at bay and covers the ground, providing a natural ground cover that cools the soil in summer - another wonderful reason to plant it on the edges of the garden and let it grow.

I have not found any plant or tree that is adversely affected by thyme, and so it is throughout our garden, especially under fruit trees.  Bees love thyme.  Greek thyme honey is prized all over the world for its wonderful flavour (McIntyre, 214).  In this regard, thyme is highly valuable as a garden companion.  It blooms in spring, about the time of the fruit trees that require the bees for cross-pollination.

In the vegetable garden too, without bees, we would be hand pollinating zucchini, pumpkins, potatoes, eggplant and melons, to name just a few of the vegetables that require pollination.  All through the year, bees are an important member of the garden and should be encouraged to come and linger.

Thyme is also said to help repel cabbage moth when planted near cabbages.  I wish I could offer personal results of this claim but alas, it has not dramatically reduced the moths from landing on the cabbage in our garden.

Thyme (thymus vulgaris) comes from the Greek thumus, meaning ‘courage’ and  'to fumigate'.  Because of the plant's strengthening and energizing properties, thyme was a symbol of action, bravery and courage.  In the age of chivalry, women embroidered a bee hovering over a sprig of thyme on articles to give to their knights. The Greeks burned it on their altars when making sacrifices to the gods, and it was made into incense to drive away infections and insects.  The Egyptians used thyme for embalming.

The Romans slept on thyme to cure melancholy while in other traditions thyme has been used to quell nightmares and ensure a pleasant night sleep (Cunningham, 210), as well as convulsions, vertigo and ringing in the ears.  Made into soup it cures shyness. Thyme's aroma was inhaled to strengthen the brain and increase longevity (McIntyre, 214).

Thyme is an herb of Venus - soothing, calming, cleansing and gently expulsive.  The energy of the herb is heating, the taste pungent and the actions antispasmodic and carminative (Frawley and Lad, 216).  A strong infusion of thyme poured into the bath water helps to ensure that all the sorrows and ills of the past are removed from the person (Cunningham, 210).

Thyme makes an excellent remedy, especially for children, for coughs whether they are caused by nerves, anxiety or an infection such as bronchitis, pneumonia or pleurisy.  Its relaxant effect on the bronchial tubes relieves asthma and whooping cough, while its expectorant action is useful for shifting phlegm - particularly useful for dry, hacking coughs (McIntyre, 214).

Thyme also relaxes the digestive system, enhances appetite, digestion and stimulates the liver (McIntyre, 57).  In South America they say that a good broth resurrects the dead.   A wonderful warming stock can be made by gently simmering carrots, onion and celery (with or without chicken necks and bones) with cloves and thyme.  The traditional chicken stock has been called "penicillin" for its healing attributes.  Adding thyme to that brew, helps to throw off fever and chills, strengthens and invigorates the body, re-ignites the digestive system and relaxes and soothes the body.  With medicine that amazing, why look for anything else?

Thymus × citriodorus - Lemon Thyme

As a culinary herb, thyme is widely used and extremely versatile. Thyme is a main component of Herbes de Provence, a blend that also includes marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, lavender flowers and other dried herbs. Thyme is also typically included in the traditional bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs and aromatics used in making stocks and sauces. In its dried form, thyme is also a component of the basic sachet d'epices, which is also used to add flavour and aroma to stocks. Thyme and lemon thyme are both frequent additions to sauces and salad dressing.

Thyme has the quality of the eagle, soaring highest amongst mountain peaks in the half-light before dawn.  It is for those who have suffered much, who feel they have come to the end of their strength and have reached their lowest point.  Thyme gives strength and courage to hold on until things improve (Cunningham, 81).

Thyme Healing Bath - from Deb Soule This is a wonderful bath when you are grieving or feeling deep sadness stirring inside, or when you just need to throw off chills and lethargy. Take 1-2 cups of dried thyme or 2-3 cups of fresh and pour 3-4 quarts of boiling water over the leaves and flowers and steep, covered for fifteen minutes.  Strain and add to your warm bathwater and soak for twenty minutes.  Do this every night for twenty nights when you are in active stages of grieving.

Syrup of Thyme for cough 225 grams fresh thyme 900 ml spring water Pour the boiling water over thyme and its flowers (if available) placed in a saucepan, and close the vessel.  Let stand in a warm place for twelve hours.  Strain and measure liquid.  To every pint, add 1kg white sugar, melted and scummed.  Stir over low heat until it is well mixed. Dose: 1 x 5ml spoon every three hours

-Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, The Yoga of Herbs by Dr David Frawley and Vincent Lad, The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre, Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte, The Roots of Healing by Deb Soule

Our gardening notes are posted before each Wednesday for the week. View this weeks at  Biodynamic Gardening Notes for 5 - 11 October.


Biodynamic Gardening Notes 5 - 11 October

Apple Tree in bloomWith the apple trees blooming, now is a good time to ensure that the trees you have to pollinate each other are in bloom at the same time.  This allows the bees to gather the pollen from the blossoms on one tree and bring it to the other tree's blossom, cross pollinating the flower and allowing it to create it's fruit, which in turn creates it's seed. The moon continues to descend this week - the earth breathes in and draws growth forces back down below the soil surface.  Activities for the week could include making and spreading compost, transplanting seedlings and trees, taking and planting cuttings, cultivating soil and spraying horn manure preparation 500 with manure concentrate and horn clay.

"The biodynamic preparations, based on mineral, plant and animal substances, are used to support the life in the soil, enhancing all bacterial, fungal and mineral processes valued in the farming system.

The application of these preparations is the basis of biodynamic practice.  Each preparation works as an organ of the farm or home garden. Each also has a specific role in stimulating bacterial and fungal activity, making trace elements and minerals available to the plants.  Combined, they also work in making the soil and atmosphere more sensitive to cosmic rhythms, connecting the Earth to the life-forces of the cosmos. " (Biodynamic Resource Manual, 10)

Regular applications of Preparation 500 will encourage strong humus formation, all soil bacteria and soil fungi, rhizobial activity on all legumes, phosphate solubilising bacteria, increase earthworm activity, absorption and retention of water and development of deep rooting systems.  This works in any soil type.

Horn Manure preparation 500 is applied at 85 grams/hectare, stirring 1 hour in 34 litres of high quality water using the vortex stirring method.  This is then applied to the whole garden or farm area in droplet form during the late afternoon. (Biodymanic Resource Manual, 10-11).  The optimal day to apply preparation 500 is when there is a synthesis of a descending, waning moon in an earth sign. If this complete synthesis is not possible, try to work with as many variables as possible.

Dr Rudolf Steiner stated that the biodynamic method of agriculture should be made available "as quickly as possible to the largest areas of the entire earth, for the earth's healing." (Pearce, 3) Many people fear that they might not be doing something "properly" and so they do not start.  Having a go at applying 500 is a great start.  I truly believe that with time and practice, a better understanding of the "correct" process grows.  But this experience is only gained through trying.  There is no harm that can be done, it can only help.

On Wednesday 5, the moon is in a fire sign until 15:44 when it moves into an earth sign.  Warmth or fire signs are favourable for fruit plants.  These include all plants whose seed fruit we harvest: beans, peas, grains, cucumbers, squashes, lentils, corn, capsicums, rice, soya, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries and fruit trees.

It stays in an earth sign until Friday 7. Earth signs are favourable for root plants.  These included all plants whose roots we harvest: carrots, parsnips, radishes, beetroot, celeriac, swedes, potatoes, onions and garlic.

On Saturday, there is a planetary trine favorable in an air sign.  On Sunday and Monday until 12:44, the moon is in an air sign.  Air signs are favourable for flower plants.  These include all the plants which are grown for their flowers, and where we want a long flowering time: garden flowers, medicinal and preparation flowers, bulbs and broccoli.

For the rest of Monday and Tuesday the moon is in a water sign. Water signs are favourable for leaf plants.  These include all the plants whose leaves we harvest: cabbages, cauliflower, parsley, coriander, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, silver beet, asparagus and fennel.

Wednesday, 12th is the full moon, the apogee of the moon (when the moon is the furthest from the earth) and when the moon and Saturn are in opposition to each other.  The cycle occurs every 27.5 days.  "The Moon forces bring in the calcium processes which are connected to propagation and growth.  The Saturn forces bring in the silica processes which connect form and structure.  The balancing effect of these two influences streaming into the earth produces very strong plants from seed sown at this time.  Tests have shown the 48 hours leading up to this event is optimal time that overrides even the ascending, descending and moon in constellations for best planting time." (Biodynamic Resource Manual, 54)

Essentially then, if you have not planted any seed yet, gather what you want for summer harvest, make a site plan for your garden, amend the garden and get it ready for planting on Monday or Tuesday of this week.  Apply combined soil preparation or preparation 500 on Tuesday late afternoon and follow it with an application of 501 on Wednesday morning.  If you spend your weekend preparing your garden and the first days of the week planting it, you could be eating all summer from your own home plot.

Crops that can be sown during this month are globe artichokes, asparagus, beet root, carrots, coriander, cucumbers, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, rocket, spinach, spring onions, sweades, turnips, winter squashes and pumpkins. Crops that can be transplanted are basil (with protection), broccoli, cabbage, capsicum (with protection), cauliflower, celery, Chinese greens, corn, eggplant (with protection),  flowers, leeks, lettuce and salad greens, onions, parsley, silver beet, tomatoes (with protection) and zucchini and summer squashes.

This is a great week to amend soil and transplant seedlings to reap the rewards of the summer harvest.

For more information about our Biodynamic Notes, visit About our Biodynamic Notes

-Gardening Notes are compiled using Brian Keats Antipodean Astro Calendar; Maria Thun's Gardening for Life;  Biodynamic Agriculture Australia's Biodynamic Resource Manual; Peter Cundall's The Practical Australian Gardener; Norrie Pearce's A Bio-dynamic Farmer's Handbook; and the experiences and farm practices on Transition Farm

For more information about the Antipodean Astro Calendar, Biodynamic Planting and research and more visit Brian Keats' website at

For more information about Biodynamics and to purchase biodynamic preparations visit Biodynamic Australia at

Ode to Borage - The flower of courage

In my attempts to write about companion planting, my musings which began so simply started to twist and turn, passing through plants that are friends, feeding the soil, beneficial insects, deterring insects, attracting wildlife, brightening the soul, curing ailments, making ecosystems... As I sought to stay on one tangent, I realized that maybe the best way to approach such a huge topic is by paying homage each week to one special plant and its relationship in our garden- And so I bring you, my plant of the week... Ode to Borage The Flower of Courage


With its bright blue, star shaped flowers that uplift their heads, blooming in our climate from late winter through to late autumn, borage brightens any garden and gardener. Borage was used to promote bravery on the jousting field and continues to be used to bestow courage. Borage has a relaxing effect generally and is said to dispel grief and sadness (75, McIntyre). The herbalist Gerard writing in 1597 said that a syrup of borage flowers 'comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy and quieteth the phrenticke and lunatick person.'  For as the lion finds out, where does courage lie but in the heart.

Being an edible flower, borage brightens a salad, livens up a simple glass of water and makes beautiful cake decorations.  In ayurveda, borage has a sweet, astringent taste and a cooling action (Lad, 195).  The crushed leaves smell like cucumber.  Young leaves contain vitamin C and can be added to a salad.  Borage flowers are a wonderful addition to a birthing woman's bouquet and a soothing bath.

The blue colour attracts bees, and as they are blooming from late winter, they are excellent to put near your fruit trees.  Most apple, pear, sweet cherry and plum trees cannot produce fruit from their own pollen.  They require the lovely aid of the bee to take pollen from one tree to another, providing the cross pollination necessary.  In addition to fruit trees, strawberries flourish near a borage plant as do tomatoes and squash. Borage deters tomato hornworm and cabbage worms.

Borage roots go down 2 metres, mining the subsoil for nutrients and adding organic matter (Woodrow, 147).  It accumulates silica, potassium and calcium, makes good mulch and is a great compost ingredient.  As we started this garden on a sand dune very deficient in trace minerals and humus, borage has helped us build a well balanced top soil.

Externally, the fresh juice from the leaves can be applied to burns and to draw out poisons from insect bites, stings or boils.

Boarge self-seeds easily.  It is extremely hardy, growing in shade, sun, wet or dry, but the plants are easy to remove from places where they are not welcome, so it doesn’t become a troublesome weed (Woodrow, 147).

The multifunctional quality of adding borage to our garden has been incredible.  Our soil is being enriched, the plants are healthier and happier, the garden is prettier, the fruit more prolific, our stings have been soothed and our spirit is continually uplifted. As I sit amidst a sea of borage, calendula and fruit tree blossoms,  watching funny little wasps and bees that flit through the flowers, I give my gratitude to this lovely plant and marvel at the beauty of the natural world working harmoniously.

Spring flower tea

Flower Teas - from Deb Soule

Drinking a tea of any of the following herbs serves to uplift your spirit, gladden your heart, and nourish your nervous system.

Heartsease pansy flowers- 1 part Sacred basil leaves and flowers - 2 parts Borage flowers- 1 part Lemon balm flowers and leaves - 2 parts Lavender flowers- 2 parts

Dose and Use: To make a summer tea, place whatever proportions of these fresh herbs or others you have into cool water and let them infuse in the sunlight or moonlight or slowly heat to near boiling and steep, covered, ten minutes.  Drink 2-4 cups a day.

You can also add any of these herbs to an herbal bath. As Rosemary Gladstar says, "Herbal bathing can be soothing to a weary soul.  It is a bit hard to remain depressed for long while soaking in a flower-strewn tub surrounded by plants from your garden."

-Family Herbal by Rosemary Gladstar, Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway,  The Yoga of Herbs by Vincent Lad, The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre, The Roots of Healing by Deb Soule, How to make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield, The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow

Bud Swell...Bud Burst

Bud Swell - Apricot Bud Burst - Apricot

Apricot Blossoms

We  have had lots of bud burst here this week-  The plums, nectarines, apricots and peaches have all started blooming-  This is the time to walk through your fruit trees and check who is pollinating who-

Plum trees usually need cross pollination, as do cherries, apples and pears-  If the trees that you planted to do that, are not flowering around the same time, cross pollination will not happen-  Even recommended cross pollinators may bloom at different times in certain locations-  So before years pass and you wonder why your healthy tree has loads of flowers and no fruit, notice the blooms this spring-  Look for bees, too!

Companion planting is great for attracting spring bees- More on that next week-

Nectarine Blooming