Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the carrot family, and is valued both for its flavorful foliage and for its pungent seeds. As annuals, dill plants die each year, but their seeds can winter over in the soil to pop up the following year. Dill grows well in gardens throughout zones 3-10.
Dill is fast-growing enough that some of its foliage is mature enough to harvest in only eight weeks. Plan to sow crops in succession, three weeks apart, for a good supply over the entire growing season. Dill does best in full sun (with a bit of afternoon shade in the South). While fairly tolerant of poor soil conditions, it prefers a sandy or loamy soil that drains well. It is a light feeder, so extra fertilizer is not necessary for reasonably fertile soil. It’s easiest to sow seeds directly into the garden in rows, ¼ to ½ inch deep. Firm soil over the seeds and water gently. For a more naturalistic planting, scatter the seeds over a patch of ground; cover with 1/2 inch of soil, and water. Space plants 8 to 10 inches apart if harvesting leaves, or 10 to 12 inches apart if harvesting seed. If transplanting starts, take great pains to avoid disturbing the taproot that has formed. Dill can also be grown in containers and the dwarf varieties are especially suited for this use.
When growing from seed, reduce crowding by pulling up weak, spindly sprouts to allow 2 to 6 inches of space between them. Dill prefers fairly moist soil throughout the growing season. Once plants have established good root systems, water only when rainfall is sparse if your soil is decent and mulched. In thin, poor and unmulched soil, dill needs watering a couple of times a week when it does not rain. If possible, avoid overhead watering in favor of a drip or porous hose system. Spread mulch on the soil around the plants when they are about 6 inches tall to discourage weeds.
Harvesting and Storing Dill
Dill leaves taste best picked just before flowers form. Start picking the leaves as soon as they are large enough to use. Pick early in the morning or in the late evening, clipping close to the stem. If you wish to harvest dill seed, allow flowers to form then go to seed. Cut the seedheads when the majority of seeds have formed–about 2 to 3 weeks after the blossoming starts. Hang the seed heads upside down in a paper bag. The seeds will fall into the bag when they mature and dry out. Freshly picked dill leaves will keep for several days in the refrigerator if placed in a jar of water and covered with plastic. They store for several months if layered with pickling salt in a covered jar in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the leaves, simply wash them and use them as fresh. For longer storage, dry by hanging bunches of stems upside down in a dark, dry, airy place until they are crumbly. Store them in a tightly sealed jar away from light and use within 4 to 6 months. Or use a food dehydrator according to instructions. Freeze dill by cutting the leaves–long stems and all–into sections short enough to fit into plastic bags. Do not chop the leaves. Keep in the freezer up to 6 months.