Days to germination: 7 days
Days to harvest: 60 days until seeds are ready, leaves in 30 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: During dry spells
Soil: Loose soil, even less-fertile soils
Container: Dwarf types work best for containers
Dill is a zesty seasoning that is a popular addition to many foods but is most commonly used in pickling to make dill pickles. Both the seeds and the leaves can be used, and the leaves are sometimes referred to as dill weed. Even the umbrella-like yellow flower clusters can be use for their dilly flavor.
It’s technically an annual, but because it seeds itself so easily, you will find that dill will just come back each spring as new plants are sprouted. Dill extremely easy to grow which makes it a favorite among herb gardeners.
Starting from Seed
Don’t plant your dill near closely related plants like fennel or coriander. They will easily cross-pollinate with each other, which will leave you with hybrid dill seeds that don’t have the right flavor. It will ruin your fennel or coriander too.
Regular varieties of dill will grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet, and may shade other plants. But it’s a very fine-leafed plant so it doesn’t cast a lot of shade. And because it is a delicate plant, don’t start your dill where it will be subject to high winds. They’ll need a full day of sun as well.
You can just sow your seeds right out into the garden, around the time of your last frost date. Cover with a 1/4 inch of soil. Spacing isn’t a big issue with dill because it is a very feathery plant and can be grown quite close together.
Even though it can get tall, you should try to plant dill near the rest of your main vegetable or herb garden. The plants attract lacewings, and lacewing larvae will help control your aphid pests.
Dill is one of the most maintenance-free plants you are going to find. It had very long roots, so once it’s established, you won’t need to worry about regular watering chores. Do give your plants a drink if you have a stretch of dry weather though.
It’s a light feeder and won’t require any additional fertilizing. In fact, soil that is too rich in nutrients will lead to less-flavorful dill.
To keep your plant from getting too tall or leggy, continually pinch out the top buds. This will make for a bushier plant, giving you more leaves to harvest.
If you are growing your dill in a grouping, the tall plants usually provide each other with enough support to stay upright. Plants growing farther apart, or just growing individually may need a bit of support to keep them from bending over. They shouldn’t need a cage or anything like that, but a tall stake or trellis can help your flimsy dill stand tall.
Dill does not compete well, particularly within the first month or so. Keep the area well weeded. Even with established plants, you want to keep the weeds to a minimum. Your dill can survive but the aromatic oil production in the leaves will be reduced if the plant has to complete with weeds for water.
Dill does have a fairly long taproot, but you can grow it in a container if it’s deep enough. The best option is to grow a dwarf variety such as Fernleaf. Keep the containers around 12-inches wide as well as deep, and definitely keep the center stem pinched to keep the plant bushy.
You don’t have to water garden dill very much, but potted dill will need more attention than that. Water it at least once a week and give it a light feeding of fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season.
Growing single plants in pots will mean you will likely need a bit of support for your dill though the dwarf type usually grows to less than 2 feet tall.
Pests and Diseases
Caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly are partial to dill, and they can eat many of the leaves off your plants. Pick them off when you find them, and spray your plants with an insecticide spray to keep them away. These caterpillars are also sometimes called parsley worms. Having these lovely butterflies around the garden can be nice so don’t be too rigid about killing off the caterpillars. Some people actually plant extra dill to accommodate them.
Not very many diseases are a problem for dill. Alternaria blight is a fungus that can attack your plants right around the time when the seeds are starting to form. The leaves will start to yellow and may drop off. A fungicide may help, but you should pull affected plants as soon as you discover the problem to keep it from spreading to the whole patch of dill.
Harvest and Storage
You can start to snip off dill leaves after the first few weeks of growth, but your harvest of seed will have to wait until the plants have flowered. Collect the seeds once the blooms have completely dried and gone to seed. Don’t wait too long because they disperse quickly. You can easily find that all the seeds on a plant are gone overnight. Not only will you lose your harvest, you will then find a lot more dill around the yard next season.
Once your dill plants bloom and go to seed, they won’t produce any more leaves. For an extended period of dill weed harvesting, you can snip off the new flowers of some of your plants to keep them sprouting new leaves.
Since it won’t grow more leaves after blooming, your harvest opportunities will be reduced until winter. But your dill plants are somewhat frost tolerant and can usually survived the first few light frosts.
Fresh dill weed can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and still maintain its flavor. Both the seeds and the leaves can be dried and stored for many months in an air-tight container. Leaves can be frozen as well, but they will lose a lot of their flavor if stored this way.