Dill, Anethum graveolens, or dill weed, is a delicious, easy-to-grow herb used mostly with fish dishes, although it was once a popular remedy for coughs and headaches.
As well as its medicinal and culinary uses, it is also a beautiful ornamental plant with feathery leaves, with umbels of yellow flowers. Dill is also a magnet for different kinds of wildlife.
Dill flowers will attract bees, hoverflies and butterflies and caterpillars of the beautiful European swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon, will eat the leaves.
How to grow dill from seed
Sow dill seeds outdoors directly into well prepared soil in a sheltered, sunny position. Sow seeds thinly in rows 1cm deep. Dill can also be sown directly in large pots. Make regular sowings for a continuous supply of fresh leaves through the summer. Dill tends to bolt if its roots have been disturbed on planting. But if you want to get a head start, you can sow seeds under cover a little earlier in the season, using plug trays.
When seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 20cm apart. Keep plants well-watered, particularly during hot, dry weather. Keep weed-free to stop any competition for water and nutrients. Plants may need additional support from canes, as strong winds can flatten them. Dill does not normally need feeding, but an occasional liquid feed of a balanced fertiliser can give the plant a boost.
The leaves are best used fresh, but can be frozen for later use. Dill seeds should be stored in an airtight container.
As well as the usual temptation for slugs and snails, young dill plants can be plagued by greenfly. These sap sucking aphids will coat the plant with their sticky honeydew. The best method of treatment is to squash the colonies of greenfly with your fingers.
Dill is also prone to bolting and flowering prematurely. Keep plants well watered and avoid root disturbance to help prevent this.
Dill varieties to try
Anethum graveolens – the main species of dill
‘Bouquet’ – a dwarf form with compact ferny foliage. It is very low maintenance and a good choice for growing in containers, especially window boxes as it is about 30cm tall by 20cm spread. Good for seeds
‘Dukat’ – a vigorous variety, favoured for its abundant foliage. It is slow to bolt and easy to grow
‘Fernleaf’ – a dwarf variety growing to 45cm, so very good for pots
‘Herkules’ – this tall variety grows up to 1.2m and produces plenty of tasty leaves
‘Mammoth’ – is recommended for seed production and grows to 90cm