How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Dill


Dill is an annual herb that is easy to grow and is a great addition to your garden. Dill is a great herb to grow because it is a member of the carrot family and is, therefore, a companion plant to carrots. Dill is a cool weather herb and will bolt (go to seed) in hot weather.

To plant dill, you will need to purchase a dill seed packet or grow dill from a starter plant. Dill grows well in full sun or partial shade. To plant dill, you will need to loosen the soil and then plant the dill seeds 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart. You can also plant dill seeds in a pot.

Dill will germinate in 5-10 days. Once the dill plants are a few inches tall, you can thin them to 12 inches apart. Dill does not like to be transplanted, so it is best to plant the dill seeds directly in the garden.

Dill needs consistent watering, but should not be overwatered. You can fertilize dill with a balanced fertilizer, but it is not necessary.

Dill can be harvested when the plants are about 6 inches tall. The leaves can be harvested by snipping them off with scissors. The dill flowers can be harvested by cutting the entire flower head off the plant. Dill can be harvested all summer long.

Where to plant dill

  • Best location: Plant dill in full sun; dill will tolerate light shade but will not grow as bushy.
  • Soil preparation: Dill grows best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed in advance of planting. Dill prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.7.
Dill seedlings (Anethum graveolens)

When to plant dill

  • Seed starting indoors: Dill seed can be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting to the garden. Seedlings form taproots that transplant poorly so dill is most easily started and grown in place.
  • Transplanting to the garden: Set out seedlings after the last frost in spring. Dill forms a taproot and is not easily transplanted.
  • Outdoor planting time: Sow dill in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Sow seed in rows or 5-inch bands. Dill will reseed itself readily so plant where you can allow it to grow for several years. Sow successive crops of dill every 3 to 4 weeks for a continuous fresh harvest.

How to plant dill

  • Planting depth: Direct sow seed in shallow trenches ¼ to ½ inch deep; thin successful seedlings from 8 to 12 inches apart.
  • Spacing: Space dill plants 10 to 12 inches apart. Space rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Dill is often grown in clumps, not rows.
  • How much to plant: Grow 10 dill plants over the course of the season for cooking and culinary use; sow several successions two weeks apart. Grow 20 plants for preservation.
Dill flowers
Dill flowers

Dill companion plants

  • Companion planting: Plant dill with cabbage family plants and fruit trees also tomatoes, chilies, sweet peppers, strawberries, and thyme. Dill improves the growth of cabbage family crops. Do not plant dill near carrots or fennel it will hybridize. Dill attracts honeybees and beneficial insects to the garden. Dill can be used as a trap crop for tomato hornworms. The aroma of dill is said to repel aphids and spider mites. Dill attracts the caterpillars that turn into black swallowtail butterflies.

Watering and feeding dill

  • Watering: Water dill evenly and regularly until established. Once established dill will grow best if the soil is allowed to nearly dry between waterings.
  • Feeding: Prepare planting beds with aged compost. Side dress dill two or three times during the growing season with compost tea.

Dill care and maintenance

  • Care: Keep the planting bed well weeded; weeds compete for nutrients and water
  • Dill can grow tall and wispy; it may benefit from staking in gardens with a prevailing wind. Keep planting beds weed-free; weeds compete for moisture and nutrients. Pinch out early flowers for prolonged leaf growth.

Container growing dill

  • To plant dill, fill a container with potting soil.
  • Sow the seeds in the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
  • Water the seeds and keep the soil moist until they germinate. Dill plants should be spaced about 12 inches apart.
  • Dill plants grow best in full sun. They will need regular watering, especially during hot weather. Harvest the dill leaves as needed.
  • Container growing: Dill will grow easily in a container. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep as dill forms a taproot.
  • Winter growing: Dill can be grown indoors in winter. Outdoors dill will likely die back to the ground after the first hard freeze.

Dill pests and diseases

  • Pests: Dill may be attacked by parsley caterpillars and tomato hornworms; handpick pests off the plant. Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki to be rid of these pests.
  • Diseases: Dill has no serious disease problems.

 How to harvest dill

  • When to harvest: Snip fresh dill leaves as needed during the growing season after plants have reached 8 inches tall or more. Dill leaves have the best flavor just before flowers open, about 70 days after sowing. Dill seed is ready for harvest about 90 days after sowing when seeds are flat and brown; harvest seeds when they are ripe but before they fall to the ground. Collect flower heads and hang them in a paper bag so the seeds drop into the bag.
  • How to harvest: Cut leaves or stems with a garden snip or scissors.

Dill in the kitchen

Dill is both an herb and a spice. The feathery leaves are harvested to use as an herb. The small hard, dried seeds are used as a spice. The feathery green leaves are often called dill weed. Dill weed is used to flavor many dishes including salads, vegetables, meats, and sauces. Dill seed is used to flavor bread, pickles, sauerkraut, and coleslaw

  • Flavor and aroma: Dill has a buttery green flavor with a hint of citrus; seeds are strong-flavored, slightly bitter-tasting similar to caraway.
  • Leaves: Use fresh dill leaves in salads and as garnishes. When mincing dill, preserve the delicate flavor by snipping with scissors rather than slicing with a knife. Use fresh or dried leaves with lamb, pork, poultry, cheese, cream, eggs, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, parsnips, squash, eggplant, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, turnips, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, avocadoes, eggs, and apples. Add fresh dill leaves to salads, soups, and sauces. Use leaves to flavor vinegar and pickles. Fresh dill leaves lose their fragrance when heated so add them at the very end of cooking. Dried leaves are known as dillweed.
  • Flowers: Yellow dill flowers can be used as you would use leaves.
  • Seeds: Dill seeds are used whole or ground in longer-cooking recipes Add dill seeds to homemade bread. Use fresh or dried seeds in salad dressing, sauces, stews, butter and cheese spreads, and egg dishes. Heating brings out the flavor of dill seed which is stronger than the leaves. Dill seeds are the main flavoring agent in dill pickles.
Fresh dill in the kitchen
Fresh dill in the kitchen

 Preserving and storing dill

  • Refrigeration: Leaves will keep in the crisper for a couple of days folded into a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag
  • Drying: To harvest and dry seeds, collect flower heads before the seeds fully dry, shatter, and fall to the ground. Hang flower heads upside down in a paper bag to dry. Dry seed will fall into the bag. Seeds are ripe a few weeks after the flowers bloom.
  • Freezing: Fresh leaves can be frozen. Freeze leaves chopped or whole. For best flavor freeze leaves right after harvest. Freeze stems whole; later snip off frozen leaves with scissors as you need them and return the rest to the freezer. You can also freeze fresh dill leaves in butter or vinegar.
  • Storing: Dried leaves can be stored in an airtight container. Dried dill seed will keep in an airtight container.

 Dill propagation

  • Seed: Dill self-sows. Plant dill where it can remain for several years. Seeds may not be produced until the plant’s second year; if plants are set out in early spring you may get seeds the first year.

Dill frequently asked questions

Q. How quickly does dill grow?

A. Dill is a fast-growing annual. It will mature in about 70 days.

Q. When is the best time to plant dill in the garden?

A. Sow dill seeds in early spring in well-prepared soil. Sow dill where the plants are to stand.

Q. How far apart should I plant dill plants?

A. Space dill plants 1 to 2 feet apart. Dill is a good-sized bush that grows to about 3 feet tall.

 Dill varieties to grow

  • ‘Bouquet’ is a popular dill variety. ‘Fernleaf’ is a dwarf variety suited for container growing. ‘Superdukat’ is intensely flavored.

Get to know dill

  • Botanical name and family: Anethum graveolens (Umbellifer/Apiaceae—parsley family); other members of this family include fennel, caraway, parsley, anise, and cilantro.
  • Origin: Southeast Asia; the word dill comes from the Greek word for “strong smelling”
  • Type of plant: Dill is a biennial herb often grown as an annual.
  • Growing season: Spring through fall
  • Growing zones: Zones 3 to 11
  • Hardiness: Dill tolerates cold and heat.
  • Plant form and size: Dill is a bushy plant with feathery foliage that grows 2 to 4 feet tall and half as wide; each plant grows a single hollow stem with umbrella-shaped flower heads.
  • Flowers: Dill has small greenish-yellow flowers that bloom on flat-topped clusters or umbels about 6 inches across; seeds ripen in early autumn.
  • Bloom time: Mid-summer to autumn
  • Leaves: Finely-cut, feathery blue-green leaves similar to fennel but shorter and smaller atop hollow stems with green and white stripes.
  • Seeds: Dill seeds are flat, oval, and light-brown; seeds follow the blossoms.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Basil

How to Grow Rosemary

How to Grow Sage

How to Grow Oregano

How to Grow Mint

More tips at How to Start an Herb Garden and Growing Herbs for Cooking.


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