Herb gardeners are growing dill (Anethum graveolens) at home for its flat, light-brown seeds and feathery foliage commonly used to flavor fish. Its large fragrant heads add a sweet, citrusy flavor to pickles (of course!) and are perfect for spicing up many summer salads. Fern-like leaves are abundant and long lasting — great for use in soups, dips and egg dishes. The attractive plant makes a unique filler in cut flower arrangements too!
Native to the Mediterranean, culinary dill is a member of the apiaceae family which makes it closely related to carrots, parsley, caraway, anise and coriander. Self-seeding annual grows 3-4 feet tall.
Fun fact: Dill weed is chock-full of nutrition and has many health benefits. It is super-sized with vitamins A and C, as well as trace amounts of iron, calcium and manganese. Dill also contains cancer-fighting antioxidants and has been associated with antimicrobial activity — boosts immunity!
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Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Dill Weed
- Feathery, enticing herb used fresh and for pickling
- Choose a site with full sun and amended soil; water regularly
- Direct seed into warm soil; will self-seed
- Tolerates frost but not freezing
- Is rarely bothered by pests or diseases
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 40-65 days from seed
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart
Dill grows best in full sun, regular water and rich, well-drained soil. Till to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and work in a handful or two of organic all-purpose fertilizer. Plants are vigorous and will readily volunteer each year from dropped seeds. The herb is frost-tolerant but will NOT do well in prolonged freezing temperatures.
Delicate, yellow-green flowers provide food in the form of pollen and nectar for many beneficial insects. Create a backyard habitat that supports these “good bugs” by planting a variety of culinary herbs throughout your landscape.
How to Plant
Sow seeds outdoors early in the spring when the ground has warmed. Start with a band of seeds 6 inches wide and 3 to 4 feet long. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. If you are planting dill weed for seeds, thin to 12-18 inches apart in rows or beds (watch How to Grow an Herb Garden — video).
Harvesting and Storage
When harvesting dill you can either pick the leaves or wait for the seeds. Begin cutting the fern-like leaves approximately 8 to 10 weeks after planting. Cut the leaves close to the stem.
Foliage is best before the flower heads develop and when used the same day it is harvested. Dill is one of those culinary herbs that loses its flavor quickly — fresh is best! Collect seeds as the flower heads mature. Read our article about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs to learn more.
Tip: The flavor of dill declines rapidly when exposed to cooking heat. Add it to dishes at the last minute for the best flavor and aroma.
Insect & Disease Problems
Herbs do not have many serious pest problems. However, keep a close watch for tomato hornworms, and if found on dill weed, take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:
- Handpick and destroy caterpillars by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Beneficial insects including lacewings, braconoid and trichogramma wasps and ladybugs attack the eggs. For best results, make releases when pest levels are low to medium.
- If populations are high, use a least-toxic, short-lived natural pesticide to establish control, then release predatory insects to maintain control.
- Apply Safer® Garden Dust (Bacillus thuringiensis, var. kurstaki) or Monterey® Garden Insect Spray (Spinosad) to combat caterpillars.
- Roto-tilling after harvest destroys overwintering pupae in the soil. This is especially effective since pupae are large and not buried very deeply in the soil. Results have shown that greater than 90% mortality is caused by normal garden tilling.
Seed Saving Instructions
Dill will cross-pollinate, so only one type should be grown if you intend to save for seed or can be isolated by 1/4 of a mile. Plants go to seed early and seed heads can be harvested when dry. Seeds can then be separated very easily by hand.
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