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Dill - Tips for Growing and Using

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Tips on Growing Dill

Dill flowers, foliage and seeds are all edible - and beautiful.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Overview:

Dill is native to Eastern Europe and played a big role in seasoning pickled foods to be canned and stored for winter. Both its leaves and its seeds are used in cooking. Although delicate looking, dill is actually a fairly cold hardy plant. Don’t be alarmed if you see caterpillars eating your dill. It is probably the caterpillar of the black swallowtail and dill is a favorite food of theirs, along with other members of the carrot family. The caterpillars won’t stay long. Just plant some extras to share.

Latin Name:

Anethum graveolens

Common Name:

Dill, Dill Weed

Hardiness Zone:

Grown as an USDA Hardiness Zone Annual. Cooler zones can grow dill throughout the summer. Zone 9 and above generally grow dill during the winter season. In hot weather, dill may go to seed quickly. Dill can also self-sow readily.

Exposure

Full sun

Mature Size:

Varies with variety, from about 18" to 40". Spacing varies from about 6-8" to 12-18".

Bloom Period/Days to Harvest

You can harvest leaves at any time. Dill generally blooms about 8 weeks after sowing. Once the flowers develop, the plants stop producing foliage.

Description:

Dill is a multi-branched, upright plant with finely dissected leaves, some varieties more so than others. The wide, flat flowers can make the plant top heavy and cause it to bend over. The entire plant is extremely fragrant. The leaves and seeds are most commonly thought of as seasonings, but the flowers are also edible.
  • Leaves: Multi-branched with lacy, blue-green foliage. "Dill weed" refers to the foliage as an herb.

  • Flowers: Chartreuse rounded, compound umbels that can be upwards of 3" across.

Harvesting Dill:

Leaves can be harvested at any time. They can be used fresh or stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Dill can also be frozen or dried, for later use.

Seeds should be harvested as they begin to turn brown. Keep a close watch, or they’ll disperse on their own.

Using Dill:

Dill is probably best known for its use in pickles. The seeds are almost always included in pickling spice mixes. However the leaves, especially, can be used to flavor all sorts of foods, like potatoes, breads, salmon and other fish, lamb and many vegetables, like peas (pea soup), beets and asparagus.

Pests & Problems:

Dill is virtually problem free. In fact, it attracts beneficial insects. Lacewings and syrphid fly adults will feed on the pollen and lay their eggs nearby. Their larvae feed on aphids.

Suggested Varieties:

  • 'Dukat' - A standard that is popular for its abundant leaves.

  • 'Fernleaf' - A dwarf variety (18")that’s nice for containers. AAS Winner.

  • 'Long Island Mammoth' - The most commonly grown commercially. Good for both seeds and leaves.

  • 'Mammoth' - Tall plant (36") with very attractive, finely cut leaves.

Growing Tips:

Soil: Dill is not particular about soil type of soil pH. It does have a tap root, so compacted soil could be a problem. Since dill can self-sow, pick a spot where it’s allowed to roam. Otherwise, be sure to harvest before it goes to seed.

Planting: Direct sow seeds about the time of your last expected frost date. Plant about 1/4 inch deep. You will probably need to thin your plants, once they reach about 6-8" high. You can always eat the thinnings.

Dill can be started indoors, about 4 - 6 weeks prior to planting outdoors. Don’t wait too long to transplant, since dill has a tap root and will be unhappy in a small pot.

To keep dill producing all summer, you can succession plant every 2 weeks.

Containers and Inter-Planting

Dwarf varieties of dill grow well in containers and the feathery foliage can be quite ornamental. It is also a nice plant to include in your flower beds, since it attracts beneficial insects and butterflies. Just be sure to keep the self-sowing in check.

Maintenance

If your garden soil is rich in organic matter, your dill should require no additional fertilizer. Keeping the soil slightly lean will produce more aromatic plants.

Because dill has a tap root, it should only require extra water while it is first planted and during hot, dry weather.

Dill responds well to pinching out the growing tip. Pinching will make for a bushier plant, so pinch and use your dill often.

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