You can learn how to grow dill in a few minutes. Dill is both an herb and a spice. The feathery leaves are harvested to use as an herb. The small hard, dried seeds are used as a spice. The feathery green leaves are often called dill weed. Dill weed is used to flavor many dishes including salads, vegetables, meats, and sauces. Dill seed is used to flavor bread, pickles, sauerkraut, and coleslaw.
Get to Know Dill
- Botanical name and family: Anethum graveolens (Apiaceae—parsley family)
- Southeast Asia
- Type of plant: Dill is a biennial herb often grown as an annual.
- Growing season: Spring through fall
- Growing zones: Zones 3 to 11
- Hardiness: Dill tolerates cold and heat.
- Plant form and size: Dill is a bushy plant with feathery foliage that grows 2 to 4 feet tall and half as wide; each plant grows a single hollow stem with umbrella-shaped flower heads.
- Flowers: Dill has small greenish-yellow flowers bloom on flat-topped clusters or umbels about 6 inches across; seeds ripen in early autumn.
- Bloom time: Mid-summer to autumn
- Leaves: Finely-cut, feathery blue-green leaves similar to fennel but shorter and smaller atop hollow stems with green and white stripes.
- Seeds: Dill seeds are flat, oval, and light-brown; seeds follow the blossoms.
How to Plant Dill
- Best location: Plant dill in full sun; dill will tolerate light shade but will not grow as bushy.
- Soil preparation: Dill grows best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed in advance of planting. Dill prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.7.
- Seed starting indoors: Dill seed can be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting to the garden. Seedlings form taproots that transplant poorly so dill is most easily started and grown in place.
- Transplanting to the garden: Set out seedlings after the last frost in spring. Dill forms a taproot and is not easily transplanted.
- Outdoor planting time: Sow dill in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Sow seed in rows or 5-inch bands. Dill will reseed itself readily so plant where you can allow it to grow for several years. Sow successive crops of dill every 3 to 4 weeks for a continuous fresh harvest.
- Planting depth: Direct sow seed in shallow trenches ¼ to ½ inch deep; thin successful seedlings from 8 to 12 inches apart.
- Spacing: Space dill plants 10 to 12 inches apart. Space rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Dill is often grown in clumps, not rows.
- How much to plant: Grow 10 dill plants over the course of the season for cooking and culinary use; sow several successions two weeks apart. Grow 20 plants for preserving.
- Companion planting: Plant dill with cabbage family plants and fruit trees also tomatoes, chilies, sweet peppers, strawberries, and thyme. Dill improves the growth of cabbage family crops. Do not plant dill near carrots or fennel it will hybridize. Dill attracts honeybees and beneficial insects to the garden. Dill can be used as a trap crop for tomato hornworms. The aroma of dill is said to repel aphids and spider mites. Dill attracts the caterpillars that turn into black swallowtail butterflies.
How to Grow Dill
- Watering: Water dill evenly and regularly until established. Once established dill will grow best if the soil is allowed to nearly dry between waterings.
- Feeding: Prepare planting beds with aged compost. Side dress dill two or three times during the growing season with compost tea.
- Care: Keep the planting bed well weeded; weeds compete for nutrients and water
- Dill can grow tall and wispy; it may benefit from staking in gardens with a prevailing wind. Keep planting beds weed-free; weeds compete for moisture and nutrients. Pinch out early flowers for prolonged leaf growth.
- Container growing: Dill will grow easily in a container. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep as dill forms a taproot.
- Winter growing: Dill can be grown indoors in winter. Outdoors dill will likely die back to the ground after the first hard freeze.
- Pests: Dill may be attacked by parsley caterpillars and tomato hornworms; handpick pests off the plant. Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki to be rid of these pests.
- Diseases: Dill has no serious disease problems.
How to Harvest Dill
- When to harvest: Snip fresh dill leaves as needed during the growing season after plants have reached 8 inches tall or more. Dill leaves have the best flavor just before flowers open, about 70 days after sowing. Dill seed is ready for harvest about 90 days after sowing when seeds are flat and brown; harvest seeds when they are ripe but before they fall to the ground. Collect flower heads and hang them in a paper bag so the seeds drop into the bag.
- How to harvest: Cut leaves or stems with a garden snip or scissors.
Dill in the Kitchen
- Flavor and aroma: Dill has a buttery green flavor with a hint of citrus; seeds are strong-flavored, slightly bitter-tasting similar to caraway.
- Leaves: Use fresh dill leaves in salads and as garnishes. When mincing dill, preserve the delicate flavor by snipping with scissors rather than slicing with a knife. Use fresh or dried leaves with lamb, pork, poultry, cheese, cream, eggs, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, parsnips, squash, eggplant, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, turnips, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, avocadoes, eggs, and apples. Add fresh dill leaves to salads, soups, and sauces. Use leaves to flavor vinegar and pickles. Fresh dill leaves lose their fragrance when heated so add them at the very end of cooking. Dried leaves are known as dillweed.
- Flowers: Yellow dill flowers can be used as you would use leaves.
- Seeds: Dill seeds are used whole or ground in longer-cooking recipes Add dill seed to home-made bread. Use fresh or dried seeds in salad dressing, sauces, stews, butter and cheese spreads, and egg dishes. Heating brings out the flavor of dill seed which is stronger than the leaves. Dill seeds are the main flavoring agent in dill pickles.
Preserving and Storing Dill
- Refrigeration: Leaves will keep in the crisper for a couple of days folded into a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag
- Drying: To harvest and dry seeds, collect flower heads before the seeds fully dry, shatter, and fall to the ground. Hang flower heads upside down in a paper bag to dry. Dry seed will fall into the bag. Seeds are ripe a few weeks after the flowers bloom.
- Freezing: Fresh leaves can be frozen. Freeze leaves chopped or whole. For best flavor freeze leaves right after harvest. Freeze stems whole; later snip off frozen leaves with scissors as you need them and return the rest to the freezer. You can also freeze fresh dill leaves in butter or vinegar.
- Storing: Dried leaves can be stored in an airtight container. Dried dill seed will keep in an airtight container.
- Seed: Dill self-sows. Plant dill where it can remain for several years. Seeds may not be produced until the plant’s second year; if plants are set out in early spring you may get seeds the first year.
Varieties to Grow
- ‘Bouquet’ is a popular dill variety. ‘Fernleaf’ is a dwarf variety suited for container growing. ‘Superdukat’ is intensely flavored.
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