Grow dill (Anethum graveolens) in your garden to enjoy this culinary herb that has a delicate flavor of celery, anise and lemon. It is often included in pickles, but it can also be used in fish, chicken, potatoes, eggs, humus, salads, veggies, and more. Dill can also be added to vinegar, infused vodka and dill-poached almonds.
Both the seeds and leaves of dill are edible. Fresh leaves are known as dill weed and should be added to the end of cooking because heating will cause them to lose their fragrance. On the contrary, heating will bring out the flavor of dill seeds which are stronger than the leaves.
Dill has many medicinal benefits which have been used for more than 5000 years. This herb is particularly effective for stomach issues including improving digestion, preventing gas, curing diarrhea and protecting the stomach lining. It is also very good for women as it can induce labor and reduce pains, help regulate the menstrual cycle and pains, and produce breast milk.
Many people grow dill because this plant can attract beneficial insects, including lady bugs, wasps, hover flies, and bees. It is a host plant for the caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly, just like fennel.
Grow dill as good companion plant for beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, caraway, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, onion, radish and sunflowers. Dill improves the growth of cabbage family crops. Do not grow dill next to carrots, fennel, or coriander since it will hybridize.
How to Reproduce Dill
It is best to sow dill seeds directly into the garden because it does not transplant well since it has a long taproot. Dill hates the cold, so it is best to get your seeds in the ground late spring or early summer. Wait for the soil temperature to be between 60-70 F (15-21 C) before sowing your seeds.
Place dill seeds about 1/4 inch deep and wait two weeks for them to germinate. After another two weeks you will be able to thin out plants. Protect your seedlings from wind, slugs and snails. Keep the soil moist while germinating by spraying it with water. Space plants about 18 inches apart because this herb can get quite bushy, especially the bigger varieties of dill.
Watch out for damping off in seedlings. It is best to use sterile tools when growing dill. Make sure that the soil temperature is warm enough. Succession planting of dill every three weeks is ideal to have a continuous harvest of leaves.
How to Grow Dill
Dill is an annual plant. It is possible to grow dill in USDA zones 3-7 as a summer annual. If you live in zones 8-11 you can grow dill as a winter crop. This plant likes mild weather, so it won’t survive a winter freeze and it doesn’t like sweltering heat. Plant dill in full sun with shade during mid day if you live in hotter areas. If you live in cooler areas it is best to grow dill in full sun so the plant gets more warmth.
Grow dill in free draining, loamy and loose soil with a moderate fertility. The best soil pH for growing dill ranges between 5.5 to 6.5. Growing dill requires regular watering. Do not let the soil dry out as this would cause dill to bolt to seed.
Mix a general fertilizer, such as organic matter or homemade compost, into the soil before planting the seeds. Dill does not require much fertilizer. If the plant looks wimpy, then you can feed it with a liquid fertilizer. Dill may need stalking or to be protected from winds since it grows tall and wispy.
It is possible to grow dill in a container but it must be quite deep at least 12 inches (30 centimeters) because of its long taproot. Its roots won’t be able to grow too big since dill is an annual plant. Sow your seeds directly in the container. Keep them indoors by a sunny window during early spring. Plants need between six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Move your dill plant outdoors when the temperature is above 60 F (15 C).
Dill Pests and Diseases
- Slug and Snails: both these animals love dill. Use your favorite control method to keep them away, including ducks.
- Tomato Hornworms: are easy to recognize since they are big, fat and green. They can grow up to four inches, with a horn at the rear end. Kill adults when you find them since they love eating the stems and leaves of dill.
- Cutworm: eat everything. The problem is that they will cut the stalk at soil level, thus killing your dill plant. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth to dehydrate cutworms, or you can use cardboard collars.
- Aphids: are one of the main problems for all plants, including dill. Thankfully, ladybugs eat aphids and they love dill flowers. So they can handle this problem for you. Hose aphids with a squirt of water to make them fall off. Use neem oil or organic pyrethrum if you have a serious problem.
- Mildew: make sure to check your plant for powdery and downy mildew. Water your plants in the morning, so they have time to dry out. Grow dill with enough distance between plants so there is air flow and put a layer of mulch around the plants.
How to Harvest Dill
Harvest as soon as the plant has four or five leaves which will be between 40 to 60 days after you grow dill. Make sure to harvest older leaves first by cutting them with scissors or pinching off the leaves.
Those who want to extend the leaf harvest period can cut off the seed heads before they form completely. Dill leaves should be harvested before the flowers bloom, since the plant will focus its energy on the flowers. Cut leaves directly from the plant whenever you want to use them for your recipes or medicinally.
Dill weed can be left in the refrigerator for about a week. Best to fold leaves in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Fresh leaves can also be frozen both chopped and whole.
It is also possible to dry dill leaves by hanging them in bunches in a dark, warm and dry part of your house. Dry leaves have a great aroma, however they have less flavor than fresh leaves. It is best to store dried leaves in an airtight glass jar.
If you grow dill to get seeds then you will have to wait until the plant flowers and forms pods which takes about 85 to 115 days after sowing. Do not cut the leaves once the plant goes to bloom since dill will stop producing leaves. Snip the bunches (called umbels) once the pods turn brown (best flavor is when they have just turned from green to brown) and shake the seeds out. Sometimes you need to dry them in a paper bag before shaking them off. Store the seeds to grow next summer.