Probably one of the easiest herbs to grow making it a excellent choice for beginners or children garden. An tall annual plant with delicate feathery foliage and tall flower stalks with tiny yellow flowers followed by flat seeds that are used in dill pickles. Dill likes full sun and a coolish climate so grow early in the season in hotter areas. A tall attractive herb makes a good addition to the garden border where the feathery foliage contrast well with many other plants. Both the leaves and the seeds are used in the kitchen and the flowers are attractive to both butterflies and native bees.
A hardy annual that looks very similar to fennel. It produces feathery or fern-like green leaves in a mound that can reach 18 inches or more in height. From this each plant produces a hollow flower stalk that can grow up to 3 feet in height and are smooth an shinny. Each stem is topped in midsummer by flat umbels with clusters of tiny yellow flowers with petals that roll inwards. The flowers are followed by hundreds of fruits (we call seeds) that are very pungent. The seeds or fruits of dill are flat ovals and very light in weight. They are golden brown when ripe. Most Dill plants only produce one flower stalk, unlike fennel which may produce may. The whole plant is aromatic.
Location and Care.
Dill requires full sun, it can take some afternoon shade but often the plants become less robust and the flower stalks flop over. However Dill does not like it too hot. Ideally the plant should be grown in areas where there is a lot of summer sunshine but cooler temperatures. (This is why at lot of the commercial Dill is grown in Canada). IF you have a hot summer climate giving the plant some shade in the afternoons will be necessary.
Dill prefers slightly acidic sandy loam soils for its best production of seeds. A pH range of 5.5 - 6.5 is best. It will grown under an neutral or slightly alkaline conditions but does not do well on very alkaline soils. It likes some organic content in the soils to grow most strongly, these may need to be replenished frequently if growing on the same spot as Dill will drain the soil of nutrients. Adding fertilizer during the year is recommended. Use either a side dressing or a liquid feed.
Because of Dills long tap root it will need soil that has been loosened for a considerable depth - at least two spades deep. It will not grow well on thin soils or ones where there is a hard layer close to the surface that its root cannot penetrate. Break up the soil and add a little organic material before planting so the roots can grow easily. The soil needs to be well drained but it will also need regular watering for best production. A soaker hose in the garden is ideal.
Locate plants in a fairly sheltered location as the stems are susceptible to wind damage. Being hollow they cannot withstand strong wind gusts and fall to the ground, making the seeds more difficult to harvest and clean.
Hot weather will trigger Dill to bloom so seeds can come on quickly in hot areas. This will also suppress the growth of new leaves so dill weed is reduced.
Dill is best sown directly into the ground as soon as spring arrives. This is because Dill has a fragile taproot that does not take well to transplanting. Plant around 1/4 inch deep (6mm), and keep area moist, seeds usually germinate within two weeks but can take longer if temperatures dip. Space plants about 8-10 inches apart. Seedlings can tolerate some late frosts with no difficulty and since the seeds are large and the plants grow strong and quickly weeding around seeds is not difficult.
Keep the soil moist once the seeds are planted. Dill will need a regular watering schedule, using a soaker hose is ideal and cuts down on workload.
Ensure that the soil has been loosened for at least two spade depths so that the taproot can grow down easily. Dill will not grow well on thin soils or ones where there is a hard layer close to the surface that its root cannot penetrate. Break up the soil and add a little organic material before planting so the roots can grow easily.
For a regular supply of leaves sow more seeds every 2-3 weeks to ensure leaves are fresh and ensure not all plants have bolted to seed.
In warmer climates more success is often achieved by planting Dill in the late fall and allowing it to germinate as early as it likes the next spring, or even in the fall if temperatures are warm enough. This may be the only way to achieve a good crop in hotter climates.
Starting indoors. If starting indoors is necessary or desired plant seeds individual biodegradable pots (such as peat) so that the whole pot can be planted in the ground to avoid disturbing the roots.
Dill plants can be grown indoors for year round use of the leaves. However they require a lot of sunshine and will need a south facing window with at least five hours of direct sunlight per day. Alternatively strong artificial lighting will be needed for at least twelve hours per day. Trim plants gently cutting back to a minimum of four inches or the plant will die. Most indoor grown plants have a useful life of about three months maximum.
Dill can be grown in containers if desired. It makes an attractive patio plant. Use tall deep pots to accommodate the long taproot and a good mixture of soil and compost. Plant seeds directly into the pots and water regularly. Do not overcrowd pots or plants will not do well. A twelve inch diameter pot can accommodate at most three plants. Use a terra cotta or clay pot, something that is heavy or tall dill stems can cause the pot to blow over if the wind blows. Place pots in a very sunny location with some shelter from the winds, plants may still need to be staked to ensure they don't flop over.
Pests and diseases
Dill is not affected my many pests or diseases however it can be vulnerable to mildew (mostly powdery mildew) on the seed heads if there is a lot of moisture. It is best not to use sprinklers or hose sprinklers to water dill, rather use ground irrigation to prevent this from happening.
The leaves can also be attractive to aphids, however if beneficial insects are encouraged in the garden these can usually be kept under control.
The main problem is swallowtail caterpillars. They love to feast on dill leaves. For butterfly lovers this produces a dilemma as the caterpillars can reduce a plant to a few stalks just above the ground in a few days. If you like the butterflies the best solution is to grow extra dill, some for you and some for them. If not caterpillars can easily be plucked off the plants by hand without using any chemicals. Butterfly lovers may want to move caterpillar from 'your' plants to 'their' plants to protect the leaves you want to eat.
Leaves should not be taken until the plant is at least 8 inches tall. Snip individual leaves but always leave many behind to ensure the plant can regenerate. As the plant grows take leaves down to the stalk . If leaf production only is required cut off the flower stalks as they arise to ensure more leaves are produced. Fresh leaves are far superior in cooking but they can be frozen for later use if desired. Leaves can also be dried for later use but are not as strong. Harvest leaves late morning when the dew has dried but before the harsh sun has hit the plants. This produces the best flavor in the leaves.
Seeds. When the seeds are ripe they turn a golden brown color. Seed heads can be snipped off individually on a warm dry day. Harvest later in the day to ensure all moisture is gone. If seed heads are ripening at different times then single head harvesting is necessary to prevent seed loss. IF they all ripen together the whole plant can be cut down and removed. Take care not to shake the seed head too much or the seeds will drop off. Turning upside down in a large bin is an ideal way to ensure little seed loss. Dill will reseed itself but usually not where you want it to grown to containment is the best preventer. Seed heads can then be threshed to remove the seeds which are stored in air tight containers in a cool dark place. IF the seeds are not entirely ripe they can be spread out on a table or cloth in the sunshine to ripen either before or after threshing. Do not use artificial heat to dry the seeds or some of the flavor will be lost.
The most common and well know use of dill is for making 'dill pickles'. The seeds are also used in making dill vinegars and Sauerkraut. However the seeds can also be used to flavor many other things including sauces, fish, casseroles and soups and flavoring in sour cream and yogurt sauces. The seeds are also used as decorative flavor on breads most commonly rye bread.
The fresh leaves are commonly used in salads and to flavor many other foods and dishes. This is especially true of sauces where they impart a more subtle flavor than the seeds. The leaves are considered especially good with almond, shrimp, deviled eggs, green beans, cauliflower, beets, soups, cottage and cream cheese. Leaves lose their flavor if cooked for too long so should be added just before the dish is complete.
Dill has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years. It is considered to be a calmative and the seeds were once the most common remedy for a wide range of digestive problems as well as treating gripe in babies and young children. Chewing the seeds is also a good remedy for bad breath. Seeds soaked in water or a few drops the essential oil are used to help relieve hiccups. The essential oil is often added to many remedies for colds and flu it is also reported to help increase milk flow in nursing mothers.
Oil from the seeds is used in both perfumes and insecticides!
Grow dill near cabbage and lettuce and it will improve the health of these plants. It is also good near onions, sweet corn, and cucumbers. Bad companions.
Dill should not be grown near fennel if the seeds of either plant are intended for seed planting the next season as the two plants can hybridize.
Don't grow it near tomatoes as it can attract tomato horn worm. Grow it on the other end of the garden away from tomatoes.
Also don't grow near Carrots, caraway and lavender.
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