Dill is one of the favorite aromatic herbs around the world – and with a good reason.
This highly fragrant and tender plant will perfectly spice up many of your favorite home prep foods.
From meat dishes to cooked peas to homemade tofu – dill will make all of it better.
Also, homemade pickles, Tartar sauce, and tzatziki salad are unimaginable without dill!
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To make things even better, you don’t have to go through a hassle to get dill – dill is perfectly easy to grow in your garden or even in balcony containers.
But, you may have been unsure of how to harvest dill without destroying the plant itself.
After all, dill is all made up of dill leaves, and it is the leaves you need to season your food.
If you have been wondering how you harvest and keep dill, that is what we will cover in this article – in detail!
Keep reading to find out how to cut dill leaves properly, how do you harvest dill seeds, and what you can do to make your dill plants bushy and long-living.
But first, let me introduce you to this fantastic herb and how to grow it without stress!
- What Is Dill?
- How to Harvest Dill Without Killing the Plant!
- Why Harvest Your Dill Plant Regularly? 4 Good Reasons!
- No-Kill Dill Harvesting Methods
- Preparing the Final Dill Harvest
- Delicious Dill Throughout the Season
What Is Dill?
Dill is an annual herbaceous plant that can grow to be 40–60 cm (16–24 in) tall. (Dill can grow taller sometimes, too.) It is characterized by slender stems equipped with divided and very delicate, feathery leaves. It is precisely these leaves that earned dill its place in gardens.
Very fragrant and with a distinct taste, dill has been a well-known aromatic herb since ancient times.
The earliest hint of dill’s unique place in human culture comes from the more than 3,400 years old tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II, where there were dried remnants of the plant!
However, it’s not just about the taste. Dill is rich in some essential nutrients, including vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin A.
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Instructions for Growing Dill
Dill is a very adaptable plant. The only two things it can’t stand are frost and pervasive shade.
Dill will grow best in temperate climates, in garden areas that get full sun and have well-drained and slightly acidic soil.
Dill can also be grown in larger containers, although the size of the container might limit the plant’s growth.
Since dill doesn’t transplant well, it is typically grown from seed. (Here’s where to buy great quality dill seed!)
Plant the dill seeds in early spring, a couple of weeks before the last frost, at a depth of about ¼ in (6.5 mm).
If you plant the dill seeds too deeply, they won’t sprout as they require sunlight to get started.
Dill germinates in 10 to 14 days. You can plan the first harvest in about eight weeks.
Dill enjoys being watered well and consistently, with no shifting between soaking wet and dry periods (that is why it prefers well-drained soils).
Dill plants that get too little water will not grow well, or they may bolt.
Plants that are overwatered or get too much shade can become lanky and floppy, requiring support and becoming more susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.
How to Harvest Dill Without Killing the Plant!
The best wisdom when harvesting dill comes down to how to harvest dill without killing the plant itself!
And in reality, it is no wisdom at all – you need only follow a few basic principles.
I know that many rookie gardeners might get nervous about cutting into the plants they have worked diligently to raise. They’re like your babies now, after all.
I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there!
Why Harvest Your Dill Plant Regularly? 4 Good Reasons!
Harvesting dill seems like too much work at first.
However, here’s the catch (don’t worry, it’s good news). As it turns out, the best thing you can do for your dill is to prune it and harvest it in moderation!
Here are all the pros of occasionally harvesting a portion of your plant’s leaves.
1. You Prolong Your Dill’s Life and Harvesting Season
Dill is a monocarpic herb, meaning that it dies after flowering and seeding. No matter what you do, after flowering – that’s it.
By harvesting your dill occasionally, you are putting off flowering, effectively prolonging your plant’s life by preventing it from seeding.
Even if you are not planning to harvest your dill plant, make sure to pinch any flower buds that appear.
2. You Are Making Your Dill Bushier
Since dill is naturally a tall, branching plant, many people wonder how you grow bushy dill.
Although by pruning dill, you’ll be making your plant thinner in the short term, you are making the growth more vigorous and bushy in the long run.
Fairly regular harvesting is a way to go if you want to have thick dill growth.
3. You Are Prolonging the High-Quality Phase of the Herb.
Another vital fact about dill flowering is the following. As soon as the flowerheads fully develop, the leaves will become bitter and less aromatic.
The plant is now pouring all energy into reproducing through forming seeds rather than satisfying your taste buds.
4. You Get to Spice Things Up!
This one is a no-brainer.
What are you going to do with all the lush, fragrant dill leaves you’ve just pruned?
That’s right – you’ll eat them!
Well, maybe not straight away, but you’ll use them in dishes that will taste better than ever before. In any case, you get to enjoy the fruits (or rather, herbs) of your labor.
No-Kill Dill Harvesting Methods
Now that we’ve brainstormed the myriad benefits of harvesting dill – let’s now discuss the best methods for dill harvesting!
1. Snipping Dill (But Not More Than ⅓)
The most common and straightforward way to harvest dill is to cut the leaves with a pair of sharp scissors. Regular paper scissors will do, but it is more comfortable and neat to work with small garden shears.
You can plan your first dill harvest after about 6-8 weeks when the plant has at least five whole leaves.
The golden rule is not to harvest more than ⅓ of the plant, so it can recover and not lose its vitality. Some sources say that ½ is also ok, but one-third is the safe side.
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Where Do You Cut Dill When Harvesting?
When harvesting the whole leaves, cut the stem as close to the base as possible without damaging other plant parts.
2. Pinching Dill
Pinching dill is perhaps not by-the-book advice, but it’s what many people do in reality.
Because sometimes, it’s just convenient – for example, when you’re in a hurry and want to snip off a few leaves to add to your meal right away.
You can pinch the younger, more delicate stems between your fingernail and finger.
Using scissors is still better, more comfortable, and safer for the plant, but using your nail is still much better than trying to break off or yank out the leaf. Those actions can result in damage.
Oh, and don’t try to pinch off the thicker stems. It may unnecessarily hurt both your dill and your fingernails.
3. Cutting Dill Leaf Tips Only
If you need only a small amount of dill leaves to spice up your meal, it is perfectly acceptable to take off just a few feathery tips.
You can cut dill leaf tips even if you have previously harvested your plant – but make sure you cut the leaf tips in moderation!
It is critical to know that you are not making your plant more voluminous by harvesting the tips only. Only removing the entire leaf with the stem will promote bushy growth.
4. Large-Scale Dill Harvesting
You might want to harvest more significant amounts of dill for sale at the farmer’s market or as a gift.
You can do that by having several (or many) large plants. That way, you can still harvest sufficient amounts without killing any of the plants.
Just remember the ⅓ rule (or ½, if you are willing to risk a bit).
5. Harvesting Dill Seeds
Technically speaking, the dill plant that goes into seeding is not all the way dead, but it certainly is on death row.
Dill’s life cycle ends with seeding as the plant has achieved its life mission – to reproduce.
However, I still want to cover dill seed harvest since the seeds are also used in food prep, most famously for seasoning pickles.
Also, you may want to keep some dill seeds for the next growing season.
Dill forms its yellow flower clusters on the tips of pretty long stalks, so you will have to let the “mother dill plant” have some space.
I’d advise growing a separate, non-pruned plant for seed production to get the best yield.
When the seeds are ready, they turn golden brown and heavy. The plant will have no leaves left. Snip off the seed head with a pair of sharp garden scissors.
Then toss seed heads into a paper bag or, even better, hang them outside down in your favorite herb-drying spot with good air circulation, and put a sheet of paper underneath the seed heads.
The seeds will fall off and land on the sheet of paper, so you can easily transport them to your seed organizer.
Preparing the Final Dill Harvest
As dill is not a perennial, you will want to harvest it entirely (yes, kill it, sob!) at the end of the growing season.
Two weather events can call an end to the dill growing season.
The first one is certain, and that is the frost. Frost will undoubtedly kill the plant and render its leaves unusable.
So, it’s better to harvest it rather than to let the ice have it!
The second event can be the heat of the summer. It will make your plants stop producing new foliage and bolt.
When this happens is not so easy to predict.
The optimal growing temperature for dill is around 70° F (21° C). Everything above is a game of touch-and-go between your dill and the weather.
If you want to harvest all the dill at once, the best moment to get full fragrance and flavor is when the plant is preparing to flower, and the flower buds have just formed (make sure they are still tiny at the moment of harvest).
When harvesting the entire dill, you cut off all of the leaves to the base and sort them nicely, and then store them, dry them, or freeze them.
Make sure you’ve enabled some plants to go to seed and plant again next year.
Delicious Dill Throughout the Season
Dill is a valuable addition to every gourmet’s garden and kitchen.
Easy to grow at home and full of flavor and vitamins, dill has an almost magical ability to make your taste divine!
Another perk of growing dill is that by pruning it the right way, you keep your plants lush, plus you get to harvest delicious fresh leaves throughout the season.
I hope that this article has helped you learn how to properly grow and harvest dill to keep both you and the plants happy and satisfied for a long time.
Do you have additional tips for growing and harvesting dill without killing it?
Don’t be shy – we love hearing from you!