The flavor dried dill just can’t compete with that of the fresh herb. Let’s check out some tips for growing dill.
Fresh dill is a very popular kitchen herb. It is highly aromatic and really easy to grow.
Fresh herbs are something that I grow year round, both indoors and outside, either in pots or in my garden bed. I use them daily for cooking and love the flavor that fresh dill brings to recipes.
Dill (Anethum graveolens) is native to the Southwestern part of Asia. The herb is harvested for its leaves, which are commonly used in recipes that feature fish, and also in soups and salads. The seeds of dill are also used for adding flavor and for pickling.
There are dozens of herbs and many of them have a similar look. (Dill and fennel look quite alike.) If you need help with the identification of herbs, check out this article for some help.
This article will take you through the process of dill plant care, as well as giving tips for using the fresh herb in recipes, and for drying and freezing it for use later.
All about the herb Dill
If you enjoy rich flavors from herbs that have good health benefits, dill is one for you to try.
Heath benefits of dill
The herb dill on Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1550 BC. Turns out they used it for anti-flatulence and constipation! Roman gladiators are known to have rubbed dill oil on their skin to speed up healing of burns.
The first European settlers brought the plant with them to North America. The plant is said to have benefits in the relief of many ailmnents from heartburn to depression.
Dill is high in calcium which promotes strong bones. It is thought to increase milk production in lactating mothers and is also used to treat menstrual disorders.
For more information on the healing side of dill, check out this article.
Is dill a perennial or an annual?
Fresh herbs can be either annuals or perennials. In the case of dill, it is neither! Dill is a tender biennial. It is a warm season herb and is quite sensitive to frost or even light freezes, so most of us will grow it an an annual.
Dill plants do self seed, however, so it is likely that you will see it growing the following year like a perennial does.
What does dill taste like?
The fine leaves of fresh dill have a very delicate, slightly tangy flavor. The herb is most often used fresh to preserve its flavor, since dried dill does lose some of its flavor.
The taste of dill pairs well with hearty foods, pickles (of course), grains and seafood. It adds an aromatic touch to salad dressings and marinades, and pairs well with lemon and eggs.
Tips for Growing Dill in the Garden
Every part of dill from the stems, to the leaves, flowers and seeds are edible.
With so many uses in cooking, from pickles to fish, it is a good idea to have some growing in your garden.
Dill is a forgiving plant. It needs full sunlight but other than this, it will grow in poor to good soil and under dry and wet conditions. Here are a few tips for growing dill to help you get the most out of your plants.
It is possible to find dill seedlings, but dill is not fond of being transplanted, so planting from seeds is preferable.
The seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. The seeds germinate and grow best in the spring rather than the hotter months of the summer.
After the last frost, when the soil is between 60 and 70 º F, plant seeds 1/4″ deep and space about 18 inches apart (smaller varieties can be planted a bit closer, but dill is quite a large plant so it needs room to grow.)
Shelter young plants from heavy winds. As the plants grow larger, they may need to be staked.
Note: if you plan to use dill for pickling, try planting seeds every few weeks until the middle of the summer so that you will have a continuous supply.
Water and sunlight requirements for dill
Being native to Southwest Asia, dill is a sun loving plant that enjoys a warm growing season. This does not mean hot though. Dill, like cilantro will easily go to flower in the hottest months.
When planting try to place it in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.
If you live in a hotter climate, try planting dill in a shadier spot. You might find that you get better results. Succession planting every few weeks will also give you the fresh herb before it sets seed.
Water the plants consistently during the warmest part of the summer but generally dill does not need a lot of watering.
If the soil near the plants remains undisturbed during the growing season, the self seeding nature of the plant will ensure new plants next year.
Growth Habit and Leaves and Flowers
Dill has a thin tap root with stems that will grow to over 3 feet in height. It bears very fine and feathery looking leaves all around the stalks of the plant.
The seeds of the flower are also used as a spice, because (like the rest of the plant) they contain essential oils. The herb has umbrella like clusters of small yellow flowers that can be up to 6″ wide.
Diseases and pests
The plant is not bothered by too many things. Carrot redleaf motley can be a problem which is why dill should not be planted near carrot plants.
Leaf blight, downy mildew and damping off can sometimes also affect the plant. Rotating crops, not overcrowding and avoiding excess fertilization can help with these problems.
Dill has a tendency to attract both ladybugs and lacewings. Both of these like to eat aphids, so planting dill near some herbs and vegetables can act as a natural pesticide.
Companion planting with dill
Companion plants are those that are beneficial to another plant when grown nearby. In the case of dill, the herb likes to grow near these plants:
Lettuce is considered by some to be the best companion plant for dill.
On the other hand, plants like chili peppers, bell peppers, carrots, eggplants and potatoes are better grown in another area of the garden.
Growing dill indoors
Many herbs can be grown indoors, and growing dill in the comfort of your home is no exception as long as you have the light conditions that it needs.
The plant will grow fairly quickly and the leaves can be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks.
Indoor plants are cared for in the same way as dill that is grown outdoors, but will benefit from a more fertile soil and consistent watering conditions.
This will help ensure that your indoor dill plant grows well.
It’s best to sow seeds for indoor dill plants in late winter or early spring. Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep in a rich soil that will drain well. Peat pellets are a good way to get the seeds started. The plant likes a soil with a pH between 6 and 7.5.
Dill loves sunlight. You will need to place the pot near a window that gets 6 hours of sunlight, or else you’ll need to use grow lights to give the plant the light that it needs.
Can you grow dill from cuttings?
We don’t tend to think of taking cuttings of herbs to grow new plants but it is very easy to do. Dill cuttings will root in water fairly quickly and then can be transplanted into pots in about 2-3 weeks.
Choose healthy new growth for best results. Each stem of the dill plant that you root will grow into a new single plant.
How to harvest dill
Knowing when to harvest dill is important but there are differences of opinions on when this is.
Harvesting dill is a matter of timing and using a pair of sharp scissors. Fresh dill cannot be kept for long before it wilts, so harvesting when it is needed is best.
The leaves of dill can be harvested as soon as the plant has grown enough to have 4 or 5 leaves on it.
There is some thought that dill has the best flavor it if is harvested just as the flowers start to bloom. This is because the leaves have the highest concentration of oils.
However, some think that the young leaves have the best flavor which means harvesting early and often.
Be sure to water the dill plant the day before, or day of, harvest. This will hydrate the plant and clean the leaves so that you won’t have to take care of this after you harvest the leaves.
To harvest dill, use a pair of clean, sharp scissors and harvest the plant in the morning hours. Don’t strip the plant clean unless you want this to be the final harvest in the fall.
Leaving some leaves growing will allow the plant to produce more healthy growth.
You can continue to harvest until the flowers go to seed. In fact, the more you harvest the plant in the earlier days of growing, the longer the plant will delay flowering.
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Varieties of dill
There are many varieties of dill seeds, both GMO and hybrid. Some are early flowering and some bolt later. Here are a few popular types.
- Bouquet- most commonly grown type of dill
- Long Island Mammoth – tall plant with a higher yield than other varieties
- Mammoth- up to 3 feet tall and a 60 day harvest.
- Burpee Hera – late bolting plants
Recipes using fresh dill
We often think of dill weed as an herb that will provide an aromatic flavor to dill pickles but there are many other ways to use dill.
From using dill in vinegar or salads to garnishes for fish, this tasty herb is a useful recipe flavoring.
Use the seeds of dill plants in pickling and vinegar recipes and the leaves to flavor lamb, fish and sauces and salads.
Recipes that use fresh dill are common in the Scandinavian and Baltic states, likely because of the high amounts of fish consumed there. Try one of these recipes that use fresh dill to enjoy the aromatic flavor of the fresh herb.
- This pan seared halibut uses a butter dill sauce for super flavoring.
- Looking for a really tasty side dish? Try these fresh carrots with dill to jazz up any simple meal.
- When the weather gets cooler, give this Polish dill pickle soup and ham a try.
- Love the crunch and taste of dill pickles? Give these dill pickle bites are try as a party appetizer.
- These garlic and dill mashed potatoes are made in the slow cooker to make cooking a breeze.
- I bet your party guest will really dig into this dill pickle dip.
- For a healthy and quick weeknight meal, try this lemon and dill salmon. It’s ready in 20 minutes!
- Add a fresh lemon dill dressing to this butter leaf salad for a healthy touch.
- Got a barbecue coming up? Take along this dill potato salad.
- Now this is a sandwich! – Time to make a dill pickle sloppy Joe grilled cheese.
How to freeze and dry fresh dill
One of the questions I am often asked is “Can you freeze dill?” The answer is yes, indeed! Frozen dill is not only possible but the leaves will retain their flavor well even after freezing.
Freezing fresh dill is easy to do and takes about 5 minutes! To freeze fresh dill, wash the sprigs in cold water and pat dry. Lay the dill sprigs on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer to freeze quickly.
When they are frozen, transfer them to freezer bags and return to the freezer for storage.
When you are ready to use them, just take out as many sprigs as you want. It thaws quickly and then you can use it in whatever recipe you are making.
How to freeze dill in ice cube trays
Another way to freeze fresh dill is to use water, butter or oil and ice cube trays. (Many herbs can be frozen this way.) The water cubes will add liquid to the recipe when used, but the oil or butter cubes will not water down the recipe.
They will just add some oil and flavor to it.
Rinse the dill and pat dry. Chop the dill, discarding the tough stems and place about a tablespoon of the fresh dill in each compartment of the ice cube tray.
Top with some water, melted butter or extra virgin olive oil and freeze.
Remove the frozen herb cubes and place in zip lock bags and store in the freezer. The cubes can be used in sauces and soups or in salad dressings.
Tips for drying dill
Freezing dill is the best way to preserve the herb, since dried dill loses some of its flavor. But it is still possible to dry dill and it is easy to do.
To dry dill leaves and flowers, hang them upside down in a warm dry place with a tray underneath to catch the seeds. Dry in the sun if possible. (On a hot covered patio would work well.)
You can also place the dill in a paper bag tied at the top, which will also catch the seeds. It takes about 2 weeks for the leaves and seeds to dry.
You can also dry dill in an oven at the lowest temperature. Just spread it out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. It will take about 2 hours to dry doing it this way.
Would you like a reminder of the tips for growing dill as well as other helpful ideas for the herb? Pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest for easy access later.
Do you use fresh dill in cooking? What is your favorite way to make use of the herb? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Admin note: This post for growing and using dill first appeared on the blog in June of 2018. I have updated the post to add a printable growing tips card and a video for you to enjoy.
- Dill seeds
- Hose or watering can
- Start in spring. Dill can often bolt during summer months so it does best in the spring in many regions.
- Choose a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight a day (in very hot climates, you can choose a shadier spot.)
- When the temperature of the soil has warmed to 60-70 degrees F, you can plant the seeds.
- Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep.
- Space the plants 18 inches apart. (Dill is a large plant and needs good air circulation.)
- Water well to get the plant established and during the hottest part of the season, but generally dill does not need a lot of watering.
- Dill does not require frequent fertilizing. A light application of a 5-10-5 fertilizer can be applied in late spring and this should be enough.
- Be sure to harvest before the plant sets flower for best taste. The leaves have the highest concentration of the herb oils.
Use this project card to print out the growing instructions and keep them in your gardening journal.