Dill’s delicate fronds and distinct aroma make it a useful addition to your landscape.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb that is related to celery and is known for elevating pickled cucumbers, asparagus, garlic, and green beans to new heights. Did you know that dill oil, extracted from seeds, stems, and leaves, is used to make soap?
How dill grows
Dill can reach a height of 2 to 4 feet, making it only slightly smaller than fennel, which has a similar feathery growth. Dill’s leaves are wider and more firm than fennel’s. Flowers are white or yellow umbels (think umbrella) that attract many beneficial insects. Dill seeds look like tiny brownish-grey orange slices. Once dill begins producing seeds, leaf production is over and the plant will soon die. Worry not, dear gardeners! Dill reseeds itself so easily that you are nearly assured of a new crop from seeds that fall to the ground. To collect seeds for kitchen use or future crops, remove seed heads and hang upside down over a bowl or in a pillow case. Seeds will fall when they are mature and the flower head can be added to the compost pile to feed next year’s generation!
How to grow dill
Dill is a biennial that is normally grown as an annual. Dill does not transplant well, so site selection is your first step. Dill prefers lots of sun, though partial shade can be tolerated. Shadier sites will result in less bushy plants. You can easily grow dill in a container that is at least 12 inches deep. This will make room for dill’s taproot. (‘Fernleaf’ is a dwarf variety best suited for containers.) Seeds should be planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and the soil keep moist until seedlings emerge. Seedlings should be thinned to 12 inches apart. Once plants are established, the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Side dressing plants with aged compost during the growing season will provide important nutrients. (Side dressing simply means dumping an amendment around a plant and watering it.)
Dill pests and diseases
Dill has very few pests, thanks to the volatile oils that give it its flavor. Tomato hornworms and parsley caterpillars may be seen and can be handpicked. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or insecticidal soap can be used to treat severe infestations. Dill is relatively disease-free.
So many dishes will be enhanced by dill leaves, simply snip off what you need. You can also dry dill leaves for later use by placing cut leaves between cloth napkins or paper towels, laid on top of nonmetallic screens, and storing in an airtight container. Dill leaves can also be frozen. You can keep harvested leaves fresh by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and refrigerating them for up to a week in a sealable container.
Growing dill for yourself is easy and rewarding! Give it a try!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!