Featuring feathery, delicate leaves, dill, or Anethum graveolens, is an annual herb that grows as quickly as it fades. However, it’s a self-seeding plant that’s easy to plant and re-plant so that you’ll always have it to season your favorite dishes and to go about pickling. Not to mention, dill is also an excellent companion plant in the garden when placed next to other plants. If you’ve always wondered how to grow dill throughout the growing season for a prolific, ongoing harvest, keep reading ahead.
Uses for dill
Dill makes for an excellent garnish on savory meals, such as soups, stews, and salads. Its tangy flavor is reminiscent of licorice and anise, except coming with a brighter grassy note as well. Many recipes will call for both fresh dill and dill seeds, so you can use the plant at all stages in its life cycle. Dill is also great for pickling — there’s a reason why we have dill pickles! Nutritionally, it’s rich in antioxidants, Vitamin A, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
Dill makes for an excellent companion plant, attracting beneficial insects such as ladybugs and wasps, which take care of pesky pests such as aphids. Asparagus, cucumbers, and cabbage are especially great for growing right next to dill. Just make sure not to grow dill next to fennel or carrot plants, which can cross-pollinate with it.
How to plant dill
Although it can sometimes be viewed as a short-lived annual, dill is relatively easy to grow and maintain. You can plant dill indoors or outdoors, and it’s best to start in mid-spring in late April or May after the last frost passes. Indoors, you can simply keep it in a container by your windowsill. Outdoors, it prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade as well. The advantage of growing it indoors is that you can grab it for cooking immediately. Outdoors, it makes for, as we’ve mentioned above, an excellent companion plant in the garden.
Starting dill is easy — you won’t have to worry too much about which soil to use. A standard potting mix should be sufficient, although you can mix it with coco coir or a seed-starter mix to help with water retention. You can sow flat, small dill seeds by putting them directly onto your soil. You don’t even have to set them in, but you can sprinkle a layer of soil over them. In about two to three weeks, dill seedlings should start growing as long as you keep the soil moist. If you’re using a four- or six-inch pot, thin your selection out to two or three of the hardiest seedlings. Remember that dill doesn’t transplant well, so start seeds where you plan to keep your dill for a while. Throughout the growing season, home gardeners will sow dill seeds every few weeks for a consistent harvest.
Dill enjoys adequately moist soil, so never let it dry out too much. As with herbs, it doesn’t require much fertilizing, but applying a 5-10-5 fertilizer once in the spring may help it thrive.
How to harvest dill
Dill is ready for harvest about six to eight weeks after you sow its seeds. The best time to harvest it is before blooms settle in — that’s when the dill flavor will be the most robust. You can pick your dill once it has about four to five leaves. Just keep in mind that your plant will remain the strongest if you cut no more than a third of it at a time. To harvest the leaves, use a pair of clean scissors and snip off the old leaves first.
When your dill bolts to flower, it’ll eventually go to seed. Flowers can grow at any time, but they’re more likely to appear when temperatures warm up. If you want to extend your growing season, deadhead the flowers before they bloom. Eventually, dill, an annual, will go to seed, and you can collect seeds to grow more dill. To harvest the seeds, wait for the flowers to fade and set brown seeds. The easiest way to get to the seeds is by placing a bag over your bloom and snipping off the stem. Then, turn your bag upside down and collect the seeds.
Short-lived as it may be, dill is a versatile and nutrient-packed herb that’s relatively simple to grow and harvest. Whether you’re using it for seasoning or pickling, you’ll find this annual easy to maintain. When your dill plant starts flowering, collect the seeds — proceed to use them for cooking and for creating a whole new harvest!
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