Pretty autumn foliage is always a joy to see, but for gardeners, the sight means that another growing season has come and gone. So what does that mean for your dill? Is that the end, or will it make another appearance next year?
Dill is most often grown as an annual, completing its entire life cycle in one year. However, dill will drop seeds at the end of the season that, if left undisturbed, will readily germinate the next growing season. So although the original plant will not return next year, its offspring will.
How do you become a better gardener? You never stop learning.
In the following, you’ll learn all about dill’s natural growth cycle and how to prolong the season and ensure a good crop next year. We’ll also explore reasons for premature plant death, so settle in, and let’s get learning.
Is Dill a Perennial?
Although dill is considered to be a biennial plant in its native habitat, it is typically grown as an annual, especially in areas that experience freezing temperatures during the winter.
Dill Life Cycle
The life cycle of dill begins with seed germination. Dill seeds need light to germinate, so they should be planted directly into the soil or on moist paper towels.
Once the sprouts have emerged, they can be carefully transplanted to their final spot in your garden or container.
Once established, dill will grow quickly and reach its full height within about two months. Toward the end of the growing season, you may notice small yellow flowers appearing at the tips of the stems. These flowers will mature into viable seeds over time.
As summer winds down and temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C), dill plants will begin to die back naturally due to cold weather conditions.
If you want to save some seeds for next year’s planting, collect any remaining seed heads before frost sets in. Store them until springtime (I use plain white envelopes) when they can be planted again outdoors once temperatures rise.
If left alone after dying back, dill plants will self-seed themselves throughout your garden beds.
This makes growing this versatile herb incredibly easy; you only need patience while waiting for those tiny little green shoots to emerge from beneath the soil surface come springtime.
Dill Growing Season
Dill is easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance. But when should you plant dill? Knowing the right time to sow your seeds will ensure a successful harvest.
When To Plant Dill
The best time to plant dill is in early spring after the last frost has passed. If you want to get a jump start on your growing season, try starting your dill indoors about six weeks before the last frost date.
Once planted, it takes about three months for dill plants to reach maturity and produce their signature feathery leaves and yellow flowers.
You don’t need to wait for full maturity to begin harvesting dill. Begin light, routine harvesting about six weeks after planting to encourage abundant growth.
Seed Production & Death
When summer arrives, most varieties of dill will begin producing seed heads at the top of their stems (this process is called bolting).
As soon as these seeds are ready for harvesting (usually by mid-summer), cut off the entire stem, and hang it upside down in a cool place until completely dry. Store seeds in an airtight container until next season.
After setting seeds, dill will have completed its life cycle and will naturally die.
Can You Stop Dill From Bolting?
Bolting occurs when the plant is triggered to produce flowers and seeds This can happen if the dill is exposed to extreme temperatures or suffers from irregular watering. To avoid premature blooming and seeding, there are several precautions you can take:
- Remove Flower Stalks – Pinching off all flowering stalks as soon you spot them can delay bolting. Check your plants every few days for signs of more flower production.
- Mulch – Mulch will help keep dill cool during hot weather and protect the roots from drying out quickly. It also helps retain moisture in the soil so plants don’t need as much watering.
- Shade Cloth – Providing shade will reduce heat stress and keep plants cooler throughout the day to reduce the risk of premature bolting.
- Watering – Too much or too little water causes plant stress that may lead to bolting. Be consistent with your watering routine.
- Temperature – Plant dill at cooler times of the year (such as early spring) instead of during hot summer months to avoid high temperatures during peak growth periods.
How To Keep Dill Growing Year After Year
While an individual dill plant will not return the following year, nature will ensure that your dill patch springs back to life next season all by itself.
Dill plants will self-seed naturally when given the chance. Dill has a tendency to drop its seeds as it matures, so simply leave some of the flower heads on the plant when they start turning brown and let nature do its thing.
The following spring or summer, new plants will sprout up in the same area, making sure that your garden stays full of fresh dill season after season.
When To Prune Dill
The best time to prune dill is when the plant is still young and before it begins to flower or bolt. If you delay pruning, your dill could become tough and hard to harvest.
Once your dill plants are established, they should be pruned (or harvested) every two weeks or so during their active growth period from spring through early summer.
How To Prune Dill
To prune your dill plants, use clean, sharp scissors or shears to cut no more than one-third of the growth. Space your cuts evenly around all sides (including the top), and sterilize your scissors before moving on to the next dill in the row.
To encourage fuller plants, focus most of your cuts on the top of the plant.
You can also harvest individual leaves while you’re pruning by snipping them off right above the points where they attach to stems. If you harvest small batches of leaves regularly, there may never be a need to actively prune.
Regularly harvesting or pruning your dill plants helps promote air circulation between branches, reducing humidity levels around them and preventing fungal diseases like powdery mildew from taking hold and damaging foliage.
Additionally, regular harvesting keeps flowers from forming, which prolongs your harvest season.
Why Is My Dill Dying?
Dill can succumb to various issues that could lead to its demise. Here are some of the most common reasons why your dill may be dying:
- End of Life Cycle – After flowering and setting seed, death in dill plants is normal and not be a cause for concern unless you’re seeing signs of disease or pests on the plant.
- Watering Issues – Too much or too little water can cause a dill plant to die prematurely. It’s important to make sure your soil stays moist but not soggy. Water deeply when needed, but don’t overwater as this can lead to root rot and other issues.
- Lack Of Sunlight – Without adequate light, dill can not grow properly due to the inability to properly convert light to energy with photosynthesis.
- Transplant Shock – To avoid transplant shock, make sure that you harden off young seedlings before planting them outdoors by gradually introducing them to outdoor conditions over several days. Once past the seedling stage, dill does not transplant well.
Can Dill Survive Winter?
Dill can survive winter in certain climates. It is a hardy annual herb that can tolerate cool temperatures and short periods of frost. In areas with very mild winters, dill will often remain green throughout the season.
In colder areas where temperatures plunge beneath freezing for long periods, dill will not survive.
Does Dill Reseed Itself?
Yes, dill does reseed itself. It produces a large number of seeds that can be used for propagation and will often self-sow in the garden from year to year.
To prevent the spread of unwanted seeds, it is essential to monitor dill plants and promptly remove any undesired seedlings that may arise.
Dill is a wonderful herb to have in your garden and can be used in many dishes. It’s great to know that it can grow back every year as long as you take the proper steps to allow for germination.
Pruning dill regularly, ensuring adequate sunlight and water, and preventing bolting are all important factors in keeping your dill growing strong year after year.