Dill is a popular culinary herb, mainly grown for its feathery leaves, which have a mild aniseed-like flavour, similar to fennel but more subtle.
Dill is a short-lived plant, usually producing leafy harvests for several months until, sooner or later, it starts to flower. It’s easiest to sow it outdoors from mid-spring in a sunny spot, and you can start harvesting leaves in as little as eight weeks. If you sow several small batches from spring to mid-summer, you should have fresh dill leaves to enjoy through into autumn. If dill is allowed to flower and set seed, you should also get plenty of new
The leaves are traditionally used to flavour chicken, fish and egg dishes, and of course dill pickles, and it can be chopped into soups and salads. Dill seeds have a stronger flavour and can be used in baking and many other dishes.
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Anethum graveolens is the widely grown form of dill, but there are also several cultivated varieties, bred to produce more leaves or more compact plants that are ideal for growing in containers. Some are slower to bolt too.
When choosing varieties, look for those with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in trials, so should grow and crop reliably – see our list of AGM fruit and veg for RHS recommended varieties of veg, fruit and herbs, including dill.
You can also see many herbs, such as dill, growing in all the RHS gardens, so do visit to see how they’re grown, compare different varieties and pick up tips and inspiration.
What and where to buy
Dill seeds are widely available in garden centres and online from seed suppliers and herb nurseries. You can also buy young plants in spring and summer from similar stockists.
Dill is mainly sown from late spring to mid-summer outdoors. It can also be sown in plug trays indoors, but dislikes its roots being disturbed by transplanting, so needs careful handling.
Give dill a warm, sunny growing position in fertile, free-draining soil or a large container. It dislikes cold, soggy conditions.
Seeds should germinate in about a week. Keep the seedlings in bright light and water regularly until ready to transplant outdoors (see below).
You can sow dill seeds outdoors from late spring (after the last frost) to mid-summer, once the soil has warmed up. Sow seeds thinly in 1cm (½in) deep drills and cover lightly with soil. Allow 30cm (12in) between neighbouring rows.
Cover with cloches or fleece to protect the seedlings if temperatures drop, as exposure to cold could cause them to bolt (flower prematurely).
Thin out dill seedlings when large enough to handle, to 15cm (6in) apart, and take steps to deter slugs and snails.
You can also sow dill in a large container filled with peat-free multi-purpose compost or in a growing bag. Dwarf varieties are ideal for this. Thin out the seedlings when large enough to handle, to 10cm (4in) apart.
Sowing small batches of dill seeds every few weeks will give you a constant supply of young leaves through to autumn – see our guide to successional sowing. Each plant will produce leafy harvests for weeks, although flowering will curtail leaf production sooner or later.
After the last frost in your area, from late spring to early summer, you can move dill seedlings outdoors, into the ground or into large containers. Do this when the seedlings are about four weeks old, before their tap root forms. Newly bought dill plants should be planted outside in the same way.
Harden off the plants first, slowly introducing them to outdoor conditions.
Water young dill plants before transplanting, then gently lift them from their module or pot and plant straight in the ground, without disturbing the roots. Space plants 15cm (6in) apart, water in well and protect from slugs and snails.
You can also plant several young plants into a large container, at least 30cm (1ft) wide and deep, filled with multi purpose compost. Space plants 10cm (4in) apart and water in well. They will be happy in a growing bag too.
Water dill regularly to deter premature flowering, and keep the soil free of weeds. Tall plants may need support. Apart from that, dill needs little maintenance, although do sow new batches regularly as plants may only produce leaves for a few weeks in the height of summer before they start to flower. Take care to protect dill plants from slugs and snails.
Aim to keep the soil consistently moist. In hot, dry weather dill is prone to bolting, but regular watering can delay this. Plants in containers need particular attention, as the compost can dry out very quickly in warm weather. But, equally, don’t let conditions become waterlogged, as that could lead to rotting.
Regularly weed or hoe around your dill plants to prevent weeds competing with or smothering them. See our tips on controlling weeds.
Dill often grows to at least 90cm (3ft), with taller varieties potentially reaching 150cm (5ft). So they may need to be supported with a bamboo cane or twiggy sticks to stop them flopping or getting blown over. Alternatively, to keep plants more compact, pinch out the growing tips regularly, or grow a compact variety.
If you only want to harvest dill leaves, and don’t want the flowers or seeds, cut back any flower stalks that start to form, so plants put all their energy into producing fresh new leaves. If you can delay flowering, you’ll extend the leaf cropping season.
If left to its own devices, dill can grow tall and spindly. So harvest shoot tips regularly, or just pinch them out, to encourage bushier growth.
Gather the seeds once they ripen and dry in late summer or autumn.
If you leave the seeds in place, they will scatter and germinate to provide new plants. Then you can simply dig up young dill seedlings carefully and move to a suitable growing site – just do your best not to disturb the roots (see Transplanting, above).
You can start harvesting leaves from dill plants in as little as eight weeks. Snip off just a few leaves from young plants, on a cut and come again basis – always keep at least one-third of the plant in place to continue growing. Picking leaves regularly encourages plants to produce more and delay flowering. With repeated sowings, you should be able to harvest from early summer through to early autumn.
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.
Dill leaves have an aromatic flavour reminiscent of fennel. They go particularly well with fish, potatoes and eggs, and with cucumber to make dill pickles. You can add chopped leaves to salads, dressings, dips and much more.
The tiny yellow flowers are edible and can be sprinkled in salads or used to flavour dill pickles. Whole flower stems are also great in floral arrangements.
Dill seeds can be harvested 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.
Dill seeds have a stronger flavour than the leaves and can be used whole or ground, cooked in soups and vegetable dishes, or baked in breads and biscuits.
Dill is prone to bolting (premature flowering) in hot dry weather, so take care to keep it well watered, never letting the soil dry out completely. Dill is a short-lived plant and will naturally flower once well established, which curtails leaf production. So sow new batches of seeds every few weeks to take over from plants that start to flower – see our guide to successional sowing. You can also remove the flower stalk as soon as it starts to form, to extend the leaf harvest for as long as possible.
Relatively few pests or diseases affect dill, but do look out for:
Slugs and snails, which like dill’s soft juicy leaves, so put deterrents or controls in place
Aphids, which may colonise the shoots – wash them off or pinch off affected shoots
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