Dill: Plant, Grow, and Harvest

Dill is a warm season, tender annual plant that is easy to grow and can become invasive because of its prolific seeding tendency. Fresh dill can be harvested all summer and both the leaves and seeds can be dried and stored for use in the winter.

Dill in the Garden

Dill prefers slightly acidic soil and needs six to eight hours of sun each day. The planting site should also be protected from wind because of dill's tall growth habit. Plant seed directly in the soil after all danger of frost. Dill does not transplant well, so should not be started indoors prior to spring. For use throughout the summer season, plant seeds every two to three weeks during spring and early summer. Plant the seeds inch deep and eight inches apart in rows two feet apart.

When planted in soil that is rich in organic matter, dill does not require further fertilization. If necessary, one application of 10-5-10 fertilizer in late spring should be enough. Dill grown in containers should be fertilized with half-strength fertilizer about once per month, or mulched with well-rotted compost.

Dill does not require a lot of water once established. When plants are young keep the soil evenly moist. Once the plants reach four to six inches wean the watering to once or twice per week.

Dill is susceptible to several pests and diseases. Powdery mildew can occur if the plants are over-watered, and dill attracts aphids. So-called parsley worms, bright green caterpillars with black stripes are actually the larva of Black Swallowtail Butterflies, which are in fact beneficial insects. While these caterpillars will demolish dill, gardeners usually plant more dill than they need and simply leave the caterpillars be.

Even when planted out of the wind, dill sometimes need to be staked as it grows. This is because the stem of the dill plant is hollow and much of the weight of the plant is in the seed head.

Dill leaves can be harvested at any time during the growing season, but is at its peak flavor just as the plant begins to flower. Simply cut the leaves off at the stem of the plant and use fresh or allow to dry in a paper bag for about two weeks and save for use during the winter. The leaves can also be frozen whole for up to six months. Another trick to preserve dill is to layer dill with pickling salt in a jar and store it in the refrigerator for up to six months. Simply remove the leaves and shake off the salt and use it like fresh.

To harvest the seeds, allow the flowers to remain on the plant and wait for about two to three weeks after blooming. The seeds will appear fully formed on the plant, but remain green for sometime. Cut off the seed heads and hang them upside down in a paper bag until they begin to fall away from the pod. Once the seeds are removed from the flower head, store them in a sealed jar for up to a year.

<< Health Benefits of Dill | Using Dill in Recipes >>

Resources:

University of Minnesota Extension: Dill
Yardener: Harvesting and Storing Dill

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