Don't Dally When it Comes to Dill by Angelina Jordan Item Number: article18How to Plant, Pick and Preserve This Tasty Bitter Herb.
Although some gardeners have turned to growing more exotic types of herbs, dill remains a time-honored favorite among the best of gardeners. Dill is easy to grow and produces across two seasons. In the spring, dill produces tasty fronds or leaves, which are fantastic for accenting casseroles, vegetables, sauces and stews.
Later in the fall, dill produces strong-flavored seeds from which are borne the various cucumber pickles and other tangy pickled foods that add pucker-ability to our palate. Dill makes a premium choice for the new gardener or for the gardener with a well-worn green thumb.
History of Dill
The dill plant originated in southern Europe and western Asia. As far back as the ancient Greeks, dill represented a sign of wealth and the richest citizens of Greece often burned oil from its seeds to create a savory, aromatic scent. Dill became a staple ingredient in apothecaries of the Middle Ages for mixing in any variety of made-to-order solutions ranging from love potions to stomach remedies. It has been a multi-purpose ingredient from early on.
Dill grows well in all growing zones in the U.S. In fact, in warmer climates, dill can be planted every two weeks throughout the season to produce an abundant annual crop. In colder areas of the country, dill produces best if planted a week or two before the last hard frost of the season.
Quite adaptable to various growing conditions, dill can be grown in a variety of ways. Dill seeds can be sewn directly into garden soil, in raised herb beds or in pots and containers for patio or windowsill gardening. For growing dill in containers, choose those that are at least 10 inches deep to accommodate its taproot.
The best soil for producing abundant dill has a Ph content ranging from 6.0 7.5. Soil with a Ph content of 6.0 is slightly acidic while soil with a Ph content of 7.0 is slightly alkaline. Adjusting the Ph content of your soil so that it falls within the accurate range for growing dill is easy.
For soil that is too acidic, simply add lime
according to package directions, which will raise the Ph content one month prior
to planting dill. If the soil has too much alkaline for planting dill, add
sulfur one month before planting, which will lower the Ph content.
Although dill is a hardy plant, it can be
difficult to transplant young seedlings. Since dill does not transplant as well
as other plants, plant dill seeds wherever you plan to grow them for the season.
Plant Spacing: space 8 12 inches apart.
Row Spacing: allow 2 2.5 feet between rows.
Stakes and Cages
A hearty grower, dill plants average a height of 3 feet, which means you may need to use stakes and/or cages to support individual plants. Dill grown directly in garden soil or raised herb beds can be planted close enough together to actually help support each other. However, dill that is grown in containers should always have the added support of stakes and/or cages to ensure that plants are not pulled over by their own weight as they increase in height.
Like most other herbs, dill thrives best in direct sunlight, so plant in areas that receive at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight each day. If growing in windowsill containers, make certain that containers are placed in windows that get an adequate amount of sunlight each day.
One of the advantages of planting dill is that it is heat and drought resistant, but it does produce best when watered at regular intervals at least twice weekly. Make certain that the soil in which you plant dill has adequate drainage. Dill that is grown outdoors should be watered in early morning or early evening for best results. Water is best applied from drip hoses instead of overhead watering. For growing dill in containers either indoors or outside, use containers with holes in the bottom to provide drainage.
A unique quality of dill that makes it desirable for some gardeners, particularly those who grow lots of tomatoes and other types of vegetables is that it attracts some garden pests. Since dill grows quickly though, it seldom incurs much if any damage from such pests.
Horn Worms brightly colored bluish-green caterpillar that grows very large, up to 4 inches long and feeds on dill leaves. This is the same variety of pest that is often found on tomatoes. Remove hornworms from dill by hand allowing pest control that is natural and does not harm the environment.
Parsley Worms bright green caterpillar or butterfly larvae that feed on dill leaves. Since dill grows quickly though, these can be picked off by hand and placed on other plants, which allows control without use of pesticides.
Dill, like many herbs is considerably resistant to many common plant diseases. However, dill can be affected by some of these diseases:
Alternaria Blight Dill can be affected by this seed-borne disease, which transmits the Alternaria fungus affecting the entire plant. The fungus becomes active during the germination process of the dill seed and spreads throughout the entire plant causing leaves to become discolored and drop from the plant.
Aster Yellows Entire dill crops can be
destroyed by this disease, which is caused by phytoplasma and transmitted by
pests such as aphids that hop from plant to plant. It destroys the chloroform in
the leaves and causes deterioration stopping development of dill seeds.
Much to the surprise and delight of many gardeners, dill comes in a varied assortment.
Bouquet This dill plant blooms early and has a deep bluish-green color. It produces large seed heads.
Dukat (also called Tetra) - This variety of dill produces abundant foliage, which makes it a perfect choice use in salads. It is a bit more delicate than other varities of dill, but it is a very ornamental addition to any garden landscape.
Fern Leaf - Shorter than other varieties of dill, this plant reaches approximately 18 inches tall and is slow to seed. It works well in container gardening and has fronds that compliment natural flower arrangements.
Mammoth Probably the most prolific grower, this variety of dill is practically foolproof for any gardener, which makes it the preferred variety by most commercial growers.
Superdukat Entering the gardening scene in recent years, this variety of dill is a hybrid. Its stems grow taller than most other varieties and are also straighter.
Dill grows quickly and its leaves can be harvested approximately 8 weeks after planting. The dill plant averages 30 36 tall at maturity. By planting dill every two weeks, gardeners can enjoy a fresh supply of mature dill leaves throughout the growing season.
Once the flower of the dill plant heads, its leaves will stop producing and the seeds are ready for harvesting.
The leaves of the dill plant are most flavorful just before flowers form on the plants. Harvesting can begin as soon as the leaves are big enough to use. Clip the leaves of dill plants close to the stem in early mornings or late afternoons for best results.
For harvesting dill seeds, allow the plants flowers to form, bloom and go to seed. When the majority of the seed heads have formed, which is about 2-3 weeks after blooming starts, remove the entire seed head
Dill is filled with some of the essentials
required for good health. It is rich in both Vitamin C and calcium. Just one
tablespoon of dill seeds contains 100 milligrams of calcium, which is more than
found in 1/3 cup of milk.
Although dill seems so delicate growing in the garden, it does preserve very well. It is also incredibly easy to preserve so that you can flavor your favorite dishes all year long. These simple-to-use at home preserving methods give you a ready supply of dill anytime you need it to spice up your favorite recipes.
Dill is not typically canned alone, but it is a favorite staple used in combination with other ingredients for making delicious homemade pickles and made-from-scratch salad dressings. If growing dill for making such delicacies, make sure to have the processing equipment you will need to handle the process such as pressure canners. Quality homemade dill specialties begin with a quality yield and quality equipment to help you do the job.
Like most other herbs, dill freezes best if frozen while still attached to the stalk. Simply rinse the dill, stalk and all in cool water, drain and allow them to dry before placing into plastic storage bags. Remember though that dill leaves are somewhat delicate and always make certain to prevent freezer burn by using a vacuum sealer to prevent air from entering and becoming entrapped and deteriorating freshness and quality.
Dill is perfect for drying as a method of preserving. Leaves, flowers and seeds of the dill plant can all be dried for use in your favorite dishes. Rinse leaves, flowers and seeds from dill in cool water and drain completely. Spread either of these parts of the dill plant in a food dehydrator according to directions for drying herbs. After the drying process is complete, remove from the dehydrator and store in airtight bags sealed with a vacuum sealer to protect the quality and flavor.