Dill is an easy-to-grow annual or biennial herb with attractive ferny foliage that has a sweet, fresh, fennel-like flavour. The leaves are at their best in spring and summer, before plants send up tall heads of tiny yellow flowers. Both the flowers and the aromatic seeds are edible too. The leaves are traditionally used in fish and egg dishes, and of course in dill pickles, or can be chopped into soups and salads.
Jobs to do now
- Harvest leaves and seeds
Month by month
Dill can be sown from mid-spring to mid-summer. It dislikes having its roots disturbed or being transplanted, so sow it where it is to grow, either in large pots or in the ground.
Choose a warm, sunny site with fertile soil. Sow the seeds thinly in 1cm (½in) deep drills and cover lightly with soil. Thin out the seedlings when large enough to handle, to 15cm (6in) apart.
You can also sow in large pots filled with multi-purpose compost, including peat-free. Dwarf varieties are ideal for containers. Thin out the seedlings when large enough to handle, to 10cm (4in) apart.
Water dill regularly, so the soil or compost doesn’t dry out, especially in hot, dry summers. But don’t let the soil become waterlogged.
Hoe around young plants to prevent weeds competing with or smothering them.
You may need to support tall plants with canes or twiggy sticks, so they don’t get blown over.
Avoid growing dill near fennel, as the two can cross-breed, resulting in seedlings with a poor flavour.
Cut the leaves as required during spring and summer. Picking young leaves regularly will help to keep plants productive and delay flowering.
The leaves can be used fresh, or can be either frozen or dried for later use.
To dry dill leaves, hang up sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated place for a few weeks. When fully dried, strip the leaves from the stems and store in an air-tight jar.
The tiny yellow flowers are edible and can be sprinkled in salads.
The seeds can be gathered in late summer when they start to ripen and turn brown – cut whole stems and put the seedhead in a paper bag, then hang the stems upside down until the seeds dry and drop. Remove any bits of stem, then store the seeds in an air-tight container. The seeds can be used ground or whole.
Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.
Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.
Slugs and snails
These feed on the young seedlings and you'll see the tell tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves.
There are many ways to control slugs and snails, including beer traps, sawdust or eggshell barriers, copper tape and biocontrols.
Plants flower and set seed prematurely.
Unless growing for seed sow bolt-resistant varieties. Sow or plant at the correct time and keep the soil or compost moist.
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