The Q&A Archives: Trying For Dill In So. Cal.

Question: Our garden environment seems to be ideal for all manner of herbs. The only exception is dill. Seedling plants from the nursery do well for a short period, then the plant turns a coppery brown and dies. Three plants have met this fate.

This is one of my favorite kitchen herbs, and I would love to grow it.

Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Dill can sometimes be difficult to transplant, so that might be what the problem is.

Dill grows best in a well drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. Plant dill in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Also, choose a spot that is protected from high winds because the tall, hollow stalks can easily be blown over unless they are staked.

Because dill does not transplant easily, sow seeds directly into the ground where the plants are to grow. Begin sowing seeds after danger of spring frost. Several crops can be harvested during the summer and fall by planting seeds every 2-3 weeks through midsummer. Set the seeds 1/4" deep in rows approximately 2 feet apart. When seedlings are 2" high, thin them to stand 10"-12" apart. Keep the soil relatively moist and free of weeds.

As with most herbs, dill does not require frequent fertilizing. Generally, a light feeding of a 5-10-5 fertilizer applied once in late spring should be adequate. Use it at the rate of 3 oz. per ten feet of row. For dill grown outdoors in containers, use a liquid fertilizer at one half the label recommended strength every 4-6 weeks.

Dill can be harvested anytime during the growing season, but for best flavor snip the foliage just before the umbrella-like flower clusters open. Because dill loses its flavor quickly, it is best to use it fresh as soon after picking as possible. Larger quantities can be frozen by chopping it into small pieces and freezing in plastic bags or containers.

To harvest the seeds, cut the flower stalks just before seeds begin to ripen and turn a tan color. Hang the stalks upside down in a warm, well ventilated room away from direct light. Place a small paper bag up around the flower heads, fastened to the stalks. Poke a few holes in the sides of the bag for air circulation. As the seeds ripen, they will drop and collect on the bottom of the bag.

Seeds can be stored up to a year in air-tight containers as long as they're kept away from heat and bright light. Seeds must be very dry before they are stored.

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