Dill is a fast-growing, versatile herb that has many uses. Most gardeners are familiar with adding dill leaves to potato salads, egg salads, breads, soups, and various dips. Let the flower heads form and you can harvest the dill seeds for use in making pickles as well. Dill is also a great herb for attracting beneficial insects to the garden. The flat flower heads are a lure to many types of beneficials. I always love watching the insects “work” the dill heads on a hot summer day because I know that some of these bugs will be protecting my plants from other insects. Dill is also the favored food of the black swallowtail butterfly, so plant some extra to let this beautiful butterfly thrive in your garden.
Dill likes growing in cool weather, so plant seeds in spring and harvest leaves while the weather is still cool. Hot weather makes dill bolt (go to flower) quickly. For dill varieties that produce lots of leaves and are slow to bolt, try ‘Fernleaf’. Time the planting so the dill seeds will be ripe when you have an abundance of cucumbers or beans to pickle or can. You can also sow dill in late August for a fall crop to coincide with the potato harvest or your preparation of more dill pickles. To harvest dill seeds, snip off the flower stalks 4 inches below the flowers once the blossoms have passed but before the seeds form. Place the heads upside down in a paper bag in a cool, dry location to let the seeds naturally drop off into the bag.
Dill likes to self-sow readily, so if you don’t snip off all the flower heads, you’ll be seeing dill babies sprouting in fall in your garden as well as next spring. You can thin these babies to 12 inches apart and grow them to maturity, but they may not be as vigorous growers as the mother plants.