The useful dill plant makes a great addition to any kitchen garden or herb spiral. A popular culinary herb it can be used either fresh or preserved. Additionally its fragrant foliage and bright yellow flowers add interest to any floral display or herb garden. Despite its delicate appearance the dill plant is also surprisingly hardy.
This guide will help you to select the best dill plant for your situation. We will also take you through everything you need to know about planting and growing your new plant.
Selecting a Dill Plant
Dill plant is normally grown as an annual. In USDA zones 9 and warmer this herb will go to seed in the hottest months. However in cooler climates it will grow throughout the season. Gardeners in warmer climates can either grow bolt resistant varieties, sow successively or grow slow growing types. Any of these options will extend your growing season.
There are a number of dill plant varieties available to purchase. Try to select the best variety for your climate and situation.
The herbs delicate foliage is both attractive and useful. This is a common culinary ingredient, used in a range of styles and dishes. It is also a useful addition to the garden, attracting many beneficial insects.
The varieties Dukat and Superdukat are slow to flower and decline. This negates the need for sequential sowing as well as allowing you to enjoy an extended harvest. Another reliable variety is Vierling. This is slow to bolt and mature.
Delikat is a heavy yielding variety that will produce masses of dense foliage.
The aromatic Bouquet is a common variety that produces pleasantly flavored foliage and large seed heads. As well as being used fresh it is also a reliable pickling variety. Bouquet is best grown in the spring or fall in warm climates.
There is a wide variety of cultivars available if you are growing from seed. This range of choice means that you will be able to find some that suit your own requirements and growing conditions.
If you only enjoy a short growing season, try to grow varieties that are quick to mature. Alternatively try growing dwarf or potted varieties. Fernleaf is a popular choice that can be grown indoors throughout the year.
For container gardens, compact varieties such as Dukat are a reliable choice. Its rich green foliage has a distinctive flavor when used in salads or as a garnish. The seeds of this variety can also be used as seasoning. The flavorsome Long Island Mammoth may reach 5ft in height but is also a popular choice for a container garden. Just make sure that the container is at least 12 inches deep so that the plants long tap root has room to grow.
How to Sow Dill Plant Seeds
This herb does not transplant well. For this reason the seeds should be sown directly into the garden or container.
Sow seeds outside when the last local frost date has passed and the soil temperature is between 60-70ºF. For a successional harvest sow seeds every couple of weeks until midsummer. This will allow you to enjoy a constant supply of fresh leaves.
Aim to sow seeds as thinly as possible. Should they germinate in clumps, or too close together, you will need to weed out weaker plants.
If sowing indoors, sow from early April onwards. If you have sown the herbs in containers indoors and wish to move them outside, they will need to be hardened off before permanently being sited outside.
If planting outside select a full sun location. The soil should be well draining and fairly pH neutral. Slightly acidic soil is also fine. There should also be some shelter from the wind. Work in organic matter, such as homemade compost, to further enrich the soil.
Dampen the soil slightly before sowing. This will help the seeds to stick to the soil and stay in place.
Sow seeds as thinly as possible to a depth of about a quarter of an inch. Following germination you can thin out seedlings to 12 inches. This may vary depending on the variety, larger varieties will require more space. Check the seed packet for spacing information.
The dill plant will germinate within a couple of weeks if the growing conditions are correct. Best sown in their final growin position, this herb is a largely trouble free addition to the garden.
Seeds will germinate within 14 days.
Sowing in a Container
The dill plant has a long tap root. This means that the container should be at least 12 inches deep. The container should also be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom.
Fill the container with fresh, general purpose compost. Dampen the soil before sprinkling the seeds on the surface and covering with a light layer of compost.
Place the containers in a warm (over 60°F) light location. The plants need to receive 6-8 hours of light every day. Herbs growing undercover can, once any danger of frost has passed, be placed outside in a warm and light position.
How to Care for a Dill Plant
Following germination dill plants will require some care and attention to ensure that they thrive.
Water the plants regularly during the growing season. Don’t allow the soil to dry out completely. Dry soil and arid conditions can trigger bolting. Plants that require regular hydration can be watered with rainwater harvested from your garden. This is a great way of cutting your water usage without making your plants suffer.
Apply a general purpose granular feed to the soil when sowing will enrich the soil and give the seeds a boost. However this is not necessary.
You can also apply a general purpose liquid plant feed in the summer. This will help the plant to produce more foliage. Store purchased feeds are fine, or you can try making your own.
If you wish to extend the harvest period remove flower buds as soon as they emerge. This will also help the plants to maintain their flavor.
Should the plants flower remove the flower heads before they go to seed. If you do not do this, the seeds make take to the soil and regrow next year in the same position. The seeds may also spread throughout the garden.
The flower heads not only look attractive but are also necessary if you want to harvest the plants seeds. However flowering and seed production comes at the expense of foliage production.
If growing as a biennial, allow the plants to die back to ground level during the fall and winter. Cut away old flower stems and remove dead foliage. As long as your winter isn’t too harsh the dill plant should return in the spring.
Taller varieties will also require some support. Tying loosely to a bamboo cane will provide support whilst not damaging the leaves.
Dill Plant Problems
Once established the Dill plant is unlikely to succumb to any problems. Young plants can fall victim to aphids and other infestations. However if caught and treated early enough these are easily remedied.
If aphid infestations are left untreated the plants may develop Carrot Motley Dwarf disease.
Fungal diseases such as damping off may also strike. This can be caused by rotting seeds that have failed to germinate. Infections can be treated with a fungicide. However planting in well draining, warm soil should prevent the disease from emerging.
Regularly check the plants foliage for signs of disease. If caught early enough most issues are easily remedied.
Downy mildew fungus can cause leaves to develop yellow spots. It can also cause fluffy growth to emerge on the underside of leaves. The main cause of this disease is overcrowding of plants, resulting in poor air circulation. Space your plants correctly and, if you are growing year after year, practice crop rotation.
Similarly powdery mildew is often developed by plants in humid areas. Protective fungicides can be applied. Alternatively try not to over fertilize your plants. If powdery growth does appear treat the infection with an application of sulfur.
Companions for Dill Plant
As well as being a useful member of the herb garden, dill plant is also a great companion plant. Not only does it attract pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs and butterflies to the garden, dill plant also repels unwanted visitors such as aphids. Aromatic varieties such as bouquet are particularly useful. Planting dill near to a bug hotel will help to attract visitors to your structure.
This is one of the most reliable companion plants. Pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies will be drawn to the sweet aroma and colorful flowers of the plants.
The dill plant thrives when planted alongside members of the cabbage family as well as lettuce, basil, onions, asparagus and cucumbers.
Plants to Avoid
Dill plant will struggle if grown alongside bell peppers, lavender, eggplants, potatoes and cilantro. However these combinations are still regularly planted, and with the right care and attention will succeed.
You should avoid planting near carrots. Both are members of the Umbelliferae family. Planting them near each other can lead to cross-pollination. Carrots may also become stunted.
Many people avoid planting this herb near tomatoes. This combination can produce mixed results. While it may initially thrive, as the dill plant matures and flowers the tomatoes will slow or cease growing. If you do decide to grow this combination, regularly pruning the dill plant to prevent flowering.
Harvesting a Dill Plant
Cut the plants leaves as and when you need them. Remove either with a scissors or simply pinch them away from the main plant. Take up to 5 leaves at a time. Regular harvesting will encourage more, fresh growth. It also helps to delay flowering.
The leaves are best used fresh. However they can also be frozen or dried for use during the winter months.
If you want dill seeds you will need to allow the plants to flower and fade. The spent blooms will give way to seed heads. Once the seed heads have turned brown and ripened they can be harvested. Again these can be used fresh or dried for use during the winter months.
The plant’s seeds can also be used in culinary dishes and pickling. Allow the herb to flower. As the flower fades it develops seed heads.
Dill is both a useful and attractive addition to any floral or herb garden. As well as being a reliable companion plant it is also a useful culinary ingredient and can be incorporated into floral displays. The many varieties on offer means that you will easily find something to suit your style.