There are a million reasons to start growing dill. It has a delicate flavor of anise, celery, and lemon that enhances everything from fish and chicken to salads and veggies. You can use both the feathery fronds and the seeds in cooking, but dill isn't just good in the kitchen.
There is some evidence that dill helps to boost digestion, may ease insomnia and diarrhea, and can help keep your mouth fresh and clean. Dill also attracts beneficial insects, and who doesn't want more ladybugs in the garden?
The combination of flavors and medicinal properties, along with its usefulness in the garden make dill one of my favorite herbs to grow. I'm sure it will become one of your favorites, too.
Bouquet is the most popular dill to plant because it has pungent leaves and seeds. It's early to flower and has big blossoms that turn into substantial seed heads.
Fernleaf is a dwarf variety that grows no higher than 18 inches. Ideal if you don't use much dill or if you have limited space in the garden. I have had particularly good results with growing
Vierling takes longer to bolt than other types of dill so you can pick the leaves longer into the season. If you live in a hot climate, this is the one to plant.
Dukat is smaller than other dill plants, but not technically a dwarf. This is another good one to plant in a container.
Mammoth by name and nature, this variety will grow up to five feet in height, which makes it especially useful when you have plenty of space and want a lot of
Delikat has a lot of dense foliage. If you need ample amounts of dill leaf for cooking, this is the plant for you.
This variety takes longer to flower than other types so, you can pick the leaves longer. Hercules has tough leaves so pick them young.
How to Grow Dill
Dill grows in zones 3-7 as a summer annual. In zones 8-11, it works better as a winter crop. Dill won't survive even the shortest freeze, but it also doesn't like sweltering heat.
Sun and Soil Requirement
Plant in full sun with some partial shade in the peak heat of the day in hotter areas. In cooler areas, plant in full sun so the seeds germinate, and the plant gets enough warmth.
Plant in loamy soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Dill likes free draining, loose, moderately fertile soil.
When to Plant Dill
Plant dill in the garden in the spring or early summer when the soil is about 60-70°F.
Where to Plant Dill
Dill is a self -seeding annual, so I have a designated ‘dill area' where I allow the seeds to fall to the ground and germinate each year. This is especially useful when you're growing dill to use in pickling because you often need a lot of it all at once.
If you don't want dill coming back, either snip it before the seeds form or plant it in a container.
Plant by Seed
Dill works best when direct-sown into the garden, but because dill hates cold, you have to get the seeds in the ground in late spring or early summer. If that creates timing issues for you, get seedlings from your local nursery. Be aware dill is delicate when young and doesn't transplant well.
Sow dill seeds about 1/4 inch deep when the soil is 60-70°F. Within about 14 days you should see the plants push through the soil. Thin plants out after they mature for another 14 days.
Protect the young seedlings from any wind. Keep the soil moist while germinating. Watch out for slugs and snails at this early stage.
Plant rows about 18 inches apart because dill can become quite bushy, especially the bigger varieties.
Caring for Dill
Dig in a general fertilizer a week or so before planting your seeds. I mix in a good amount of organic matter or homemade compost before planting my seeds. Dill shouldn't need much more feeding, but if you find the plant looks like it's wimpy, feed with a liquid fertilizer.
Water regularly. Never let the soil dry out completely as dill will bolt to seed. Dill requires loamy soil that is free draining but can hold water for this reason.
If you want to extend the leaf harvest, snip the seed heads off before they form completely.
Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Dill
I've found dill to be pretty pest free as long as you feed well at planting and space plants appropriately. Most of the pests that will get to your dill are the same ones that attack other plants. Have a good regime for pest control for your whole garden and practice good crop rotation, and you will minimize pest issues.
Is there any plant aphids won't attack? Ladybugs love dill flowers, so if your plant is flowering, mother nature will hopefully take care of business by attracting ladybugs to eat the aphids. A sudden cold squirt from the hose can make aphids fall off and disperse. If you see a cluster of the tiny suckers, squish them. If your infestation is bad try an organic pyrethrum and neem mixture.
Similar to aphids, cutworms seem to eat everything. They'll eat the stalk at soil level, killing your dill plants. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the plants to dehydrate cutworms, and use cardboard collars.
Slugs and Snail
Like many plants, slugs and snails love dill. Use your favorite slug control method to keep them away.
Tomato hornworms eat the leaves and stems of dill. Look for the adults and kill them when you find them – they're big, fat and green. They can grow up to four inches and have a horn at the rear end, which is where they get their name.
Dill is susceptible to both powdery and downy mildew. Both can be controlled by keeping plants well spaced and by watering in the morning, so plants have time to dry out before the evening. Disinfect tools between use and spread a thick layer of mulch around plants.
Watch out for damping off in seedlings. Use sterile tools and be sure soil temps are warm enough for planting.
Companion Plants for Dill
Try growing dill with:
- Brussel Sprouts
Don't plant next to:
How to Harvest and Use Dill
Dill leaves should be harvested before the plant comes into flower. If you're not collecting the seeds, snip the flower heads off so you can continue to pluck the leaves.
Snip the leaves directly from the plant and then chop before adding to your recipe to release the flavor.
To dry the leaves, hang bunches in a warm, dry part of the house. Store the dried leaves in a glass jar. Dried leaves have less flavor than fresh so you'll need to add more. They still have that beautiful aroma though.
Dill may be most famous as a flavoring for pickles and fish, but trust me when I say that it's much more versatile than that. Cheddar dill scones are out of this world, and if you haven't tried it chopped fresh into a salad, remedy that immediately. You should also check out dill-infused vodka, dill vinegar, and dill-poached almonds.
If you want to save the seeds instead of allowing the dill plant to self-seed, wait until the plant flowers and then forms pods. Once the pods are brown, snip the bunches (called umbrels) and shake the seeds out. I've found I sometimes need to dry the umbrels before shaking the seeds out. You can also let the plant die and dry out naturally at the end of the season. Store the seeds in a paper envelope for next summer.
If this is your first time growing dill, let us know how it goes. If you're a dill veteran, be sure to share your favorite recipes with us.