Introduction to Growing Organic Dill in Containers
Dill is an annual herb in the celery Apiaceae family. Dill is the only species in the genus Anethum. Dill grows well in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. Dill is a very aromatic plant with a straight growth habit. It possesses branching stems and soft, fine, fibre-like leaves which are arranged into an open cone and are blue-green. The plant produces yellow flowers on umbels which can be up to 16 cm in diameter. Dill can grow up to 1.5 m in height and is an annual plant, surviving only one growing season. In this article we also discuss the below topics;
- Dill plants growing tips
- Why is my Dill Plant Turning Yellow
- How long does Dill take to grow
- Is it easy to grow Dill
- Does Dill come back every year
- Growing Organic Dill from seed in containers
- Why is my Dill plant dying
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Organic Dill in Containers
Basic Requirements for Growing Dill Organically
Dill grows best in full sun, regular water, and well-drained, rich soil. Till to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and work in a handful or two of organic all-purpose fertilizer. Plants are vigorous and will readily volunteer each year from dropped seeds. The herb is frost-tolerant but will not do well in prolonged cold temperatures.
Plant Dill in full sun for best growth. In partial shade, the plant may grow gradually, produce yellow leaves or droop. Keep the soil evenly moist after planting to hasten germination. Once the seeds start growing, Dill thrives in slightly dry soil. Wet soil boosts powdery mildew, which causes a white growth or drooping. Unnecessary water also dilutes the volatile oils in Dill, reducing its flavor and aroma.
Dill grows best in full sun in temperatures averaging 16 to 18°C. Dill can be grown in a range of soils but the plants will grow best in well-draining sandy loam which is rich in organic matter and has a pH value between 5.6 and 6.5. Dill must be planted in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day and that is sheltered from strong winds that can easily damage the hollow stalks of the plant.
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 to Plant Dill Seeds
- Sow seeds outdoors early in the spring when the ground has warmed. Start with a band of seeds 6 inches wide and 3 to 4 feet long. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. If you are planting Dill weed for seeds, thin to 12 to 18 inches apart in rows or beds
- Dill seeds can be sown indoors from early April individually in cell trays or small pots at a temperature of 20°C, or outside where you want them to grow from May to July.
- Dill does not grow well when transplanted, so don’t try to prick out young seedlings.
- Slowly acclimatize indoor sown plants to outdoor conditions for 7 to 10 days before planting outdoors when all risk of frost has passed.
- Thin seedlings to or plant out at 30 cm apart.
Direct Seeding of Dill
- Plant Dill in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Choose a spot protected from high winds because the tall, hollow stalks can easily blow over if you do not stake them.
- Dill does not transplant easily. Sow seeds directly into the ground where the plants are to grow.
- Begin sowing seeds after the danger of spring frost is passed.
- You can harvest several crops during the summer and fall by planting seeds every two to three weeks through midsummer.
- Set the seeds one-fourth of an inch deep in rows two feet apart.
- When seedlings are two inches high, thin them to stand 10-12 inches apart.
- Maintain the soil free of weeds and relatively moist.
Steps for Growing Organic Dill from Seeds
Step 1) Instead of growing Dill seeds in seed trays, sow them directly in desired pots as Dill plants form long taproots and don’t transplant well.
Step 2) Sprinkle Dill seeds in pots and cover them with a 1/4-inch layer of soil mix.
Step 3) Keep the soil evenly moist while the seeds germinate, which is usually 7 to 10 days. You’ll have to wait till 21 days if the growing conditions are not optimum or seed quality is poor.
Step 4) Wait until the seedlings are 4-6 inches tall and thin them to one or two plants per pot, saving only the strongest ones.
Step 5) You can start the Dill seeds indoors in spring, 4 weeks before the last expected frost date. Or, sow outside on your balcony or patio, after all the dangers of frost are passed and weather perks up to around 15°C.
Step 6) Keep sowing seeds every 3 weeks for successive planting. You can plant seeds in summer as well if it’s cool in your area.
Dill Plant Care
- You can also sow Dill seeds directly into your container. Fill it up with any soilless potting mix, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, first. Dill will grow in most types of soil; however, it prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Sprinkle a few seeds on the surface, and then cover them with a very light layer of potting mix.
- It may be necessary to maintain the soil moist by watering frequently, particularly during prolonged dry periods in summer, but don’t overwater and allow plants to sit in very wet soil or compost.
- Dill plant care is simple but vital to the health of the plant. If the Dill is in good health, generally getting rid of insects on Dill is not imperative unless there is a severe infestation. Dill thrives in a full sun location in a well-draining soil amended with an organic fertilizer like compost. Sow the seeds in early spring once the ground has warmed.
- Plant the seeds just below the surface of the soil. Keep the plant regularly watered. Self-seeding annual, healthy Dill will return year after year. The lovely lacy, yellow flowers will attract not only ladybugs but parasitic wasps, which attack all manner of caterpillars. Between these two predator insects, Dill stands a good chance of making it into those homemade Dill pickles.
- Yellowing Dill plants are also usually caused by incorrect cultural care. The herb requires 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight. Lack of light can cause some dulling in leaves. Excess fertilizer (more than the actual amount) causes a salt build up in soil so Dill weed turns yellow. Dill prefers well-draining soil that is not too fertile.
Process of Growing Organic Dill in Containers
Dill can also be easily grown in containers, both indoors and outdoors.
Step 1) Choose a deep container to accommodate the tall plant and its long roots. Use normal potting compost and keep the plants well-watered. Fill 12 inches deep, 8 to 12 inches diameter pot with moist potting soil.
Step 2) Dill grows tall and requires a deep pot so it doesn’t become top-heavy and fall over. If the container is inside, place the plants where they will receive at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. You may need to support the plants with a stake.
Step 3) Sprinkle four Dill seeds on the soil surface. Cover the seeds with a ¼-inch layer of soil.
Step 4) Set the pot where it receives 6 hours of daily sunlight. Select an area protected from high winds if you place the pot outdoors, such as on a patio.
Step 5) Water is essential to keep the soil moist during the germination period. Seeds sprout in approximately seven days.
Step 6) Water the soil in the pot when the top inch senses dry. Indoor pots need watering once to twice weekly, but outdoor pots may require daily irrigation.
Step 7) Fertilize Dill every four weeks with a balanced soluble fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer diluted to half the rate recommendation from the label, as heavy fertilization damages Dill and may compromise its flavour. The Dill will be ready for harvest within about 8 weeks after the seeds were sown.
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Companion Plants for Dill
Plant Dill with Cabbage family plants and fruit trees also Tomatoes, Chillies, 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.
Organic Pests and Diseases Control of Dill Plants Growing in Containers
Dill isn’t bothered by too many pests. That said, there are a few frequent insects that enjoy feasting on these plants. Dill suffers from some disease problems and most insects attracted to it are beneficial. Though, rust and other fungal diseases, as well as aphids, may occasionally attack Dill. Spray aphids with a stream of water or insecticidal soap. These leaf-sucking insects take the juices out of leaves and stems, causing them to wither or yellow. Remove yellowed foliage diseased or damaged by insects.
One of the more common pests on Dill plants is aphids. This comes as no surprise since aphids seem to enjoy munching on everything. A few aphids are no big deal, but aphids tend to multiply rapidly and can then severely weaken the plant. Interestingly, you may have heard that if you have plants that are being attacked, you should plant Dill near them. The Dill acts as a magnet to the aphids, drawing them to the herb, and removing the threat from other plants. Aphid pests on Dill plants usually meet their downfall in the form of the herb’s flowers. The small flowers are a powerful attractor to ladybugs, and ladybugs just happen to love dining on aphids. If your Dill is in bloom, the problem will probably take care of itself. If not, you can always buy some ladybugs and sprinkle them onto the aphid infested Dill.
Caterpillars and Worms
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Another Dill plant pest is the parsley worm. These caterpillars will eventually become gorgeous black swallowtail butterflies. They are usually not so plentiful that they will destroy the Dill, but if you want to avoid any damage, simply remove them by hand. Less benign is the armyworm whose young larvae feed heavily wreaking havoc on foliage. The armyworm reproduces rapidly as well, with from 3-5 generations in a single year. Biological control of Bacillus thuringiensis can be used to parasitize the larvae.
Cutworms, sort of like aphids, like almost everything to eat. They are difficult to treat. Remove all plant detritus from the area post-harvest or at least two weeks before replanting. Use plastic or foil collars around the plant stems, dug down into the soil several inches to prevent the larvae from severing stems. Also, spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants which will cut the worms if they crawl over it.
Other Dill Pests are;
Other less common pests affecting Dill plants include grasshoppers, tomato hornworms, slugs and snails.
Damping Off – Damping-off is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and seems healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no clear reason. Damping-off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 20°C. Naturally, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Maintain seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, carefully wash them in soapy water and rinse in a 10% bleach solution after use.
Downy Mildew – This fungus causes yellow spots on the upper surface of the leaves, and whitish-grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a dissimilar family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are in wet conditions.
Powdery Mildew – Powdery mildew is a fungus disease that causes a white powdery look on the foliage. This disease weakens Dill plants as it inhibits their ability to make carbohydrates for themselves using sunlight. You can take away infected plant areas, increase air circulation, and try to decrease the humidity in the room.
When and How to Harvest Dill
Harvesting Dill requires proper timing and the use of a pair of sharp scissors. Fresh Dill cannot be kept for too long before wilting, which is why you should harvest it when it is needed. You can harvest Dill leaves at any time once they are available, i.e., once the plant has at least 4 to 5 leaves. Leaves can be either pinched off or cut off with scissors.
Dill is ready to harvest around 90 days after planting. Foliage can be harvested anytime but is most delicious just before flowering. To harvest the leaves just cut the leaves at the stem or cut the stem a few inches from the soil line. Seed heads must be harvested 2 to 3 weeks after bloom before the seeds begin to change colour. The seed heads can be hung up to finish drying.
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