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How to Harvest Dill Without Killing the Plant

Gardener uses a sharp pruners to harvest fresh dill from the garden

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Dill is an extremely easy herb plant to grow.

And that’s a good thing: Dill has many practical uses including seasoning soups, stews, and of course for making pickles! 

What’s more, according to WebMD, dill has been shown to benefit your health, primarily in:

  • Assisting in the management of type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing risk for heart disease
  • Lowering risk for stroke

Today, you’ll learn how to harvest dill without killing the plant, as well as helpful growing and preserving tips. 

Let’s get started! 

RELATED: Want more ideas for herbs to grow at home? Stop by our growing guide for Thai basil, or learn how to grow mint indoors all year round!

Proper harvesting technique is critical for keeping your dill plant healthy and productive. Harvest too early or incorrectly, and your dill may struggle to grow or die outright. 

Fortunately, proper harvesting is an easy process with no special tools or tricky rules to follow!

Here’s how:

Know When Your Dill is Ready for Harvest

Your plant’s growth is the best indicator of when to harvest dill.

It may be tempting to snip a few dill fronds when your plant is young.

But hold off on harvesting until your dill plant is at least 8 inches tall with at least 4 leaves on each branch

This is typically about two months after you sow the dill seeds. 

Consider staggering your dill seed sowing every two weeks or so. This can help you maintain a full, healthy dill patch that keeps you with plenty of dill on hand. 

Use the Right Tools

Use scissors or gardening shears to cut dill without killing the plant. Whichever tool you use, make sure it’s sharp to prevent bruising the tender branches. 

Typically, a tool that comes to a narrow point is best for making clean cuts in tight spaces. This garden scissors from Vivosun is a great option:

How to Cut Dill Correctly

Like we mentioned earlier, take your harvest from plants that have at least four leaves and are at least eight inches tall. 

Make your cut below a leaf juncture, which is where a new leaf branches off from the main stem. This photo provides some guidance: 

Dill sprig with three leaf junctures marked for cutting

If you’re harvesting dill for drying or you need a large amount for cooking, cut off an entire frond below the lowest juncture.

If you need less, cut below one of the higher junctures. 

Always start with the older leaves to promote your plant’s growth. Harvesting from the older branches will also help with growing a strong dill plant for plenty of production.

If your dill plants are getting tall (over 18 inches or so) make sure to harvest from the top of the plant first. This encourages your plant to grow more leaves horizontally rather than vertically, making for a fuller, bushier plant. 

Avoid These Mistakes!

When harvesting dill from young plants, don’t take more than a single frond from each plant.

Even when your dill plants are more mature, never cut away more than 1/3 of the plant at one time. 

Harvesting too much at once causes stress and can discourage dill plants from growing.

But- Don’t wait too long to harvest dill! The flavor at the flowering stage is the best.

How to Grow Dill that Produces an Abundant Harvest

Dill is an annual to bi-annual plant that self-seeds, so it’s easy to have a self-sustaining crop of dill every year. 

Like many plants and herbs, you’ll need to create the right environment to have a successful crop of dill.

Soil Needs

Dill isn’t overly picky about soil conditions, and it usually grows well even in less-than-optimal ground. 

Still, try to plant your dill patch in a well-draining location and work some organic matter into your soil for extra nutrition. 

Planting Dill Seeds

Like we mentioned above, staggering your dill seed sowing, also called succession planting, provides an ongoing crop of fresh herbs. To do this, plant new seeds every 2 weeks. 

Plant your dill seeds at a depth of 1/2 inch and at least 8 inches apart.

Keep in mind that dill planted outside does not tolerate frost, so wait until all danger of frost has passed for your growing area. 

Watering

Once you’ve planted your seeds, water the site at least once a day until seedlings appear. This should be in about 10 days to 2 weeks

Don’t water so much that you leave standing water behind, as this will slow down the growth of your dill plants.

However, don’t let your dill dry out either!

Sunlight

Full sun is best for dill plants to thrive. 

Pick a site in your yard where the sun is unobstructed by trees or shrubs.

If growing dill in containers, place them in a sunny windowsill or use a grow light during the day to encourage growth. This grow light might be a good option: 

Ankace 60W Plant Grow Lights

Humidity

Humidity may not be an issue depending on where you live, and dill is pretty low maintenance already.

High humidity can cause moisture to stick around, so it usually means less watering on your part.

Aim to keep the soil in pots pretty moist. And in the ground, use a good mulch around the plant’s base and avoid standing water.

Pruning

Pruning is not always necessary with dill plants.

However, if your dill plants start getting too tall (they can grow up to 3 feet tall unrestricted!), you’ll want to start trimming off leaves at the top of your plants. 

Pruning from the top of the dill plant will encourage fuller, bushier growth down the plant’s stalk.

Fertilizing

Depending on your soil type, fertilizer may not be needed for planting and growing dill plants. 

You may consider having your soil tested for pH and nutrients if your dill plants aren’t growing well. Base your soil treatment on any report recommendations for the best outcome. 

You can use compost in small amounts, about 1 inch per 100 square feet. However, dill doesn’t require very much in terms of soil richness. 

Helpful Companion Plants

Dill gets along well with many plants, including:

  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Strawberries

Dill’s fragrance can also ward off many garden pests while attracting beneficial bugs!

NOTE: Tomatoes are sometimes listed as a companion to dill, but this causes a bit of a conundrum. In its younger stages, dill repels tomato hornworms, but mature dill may slow tomato growth.

So proceed with caution, and don’t plant dill heavily around your tomatoes.

No matter what you choose to grow together, always be sure to allow plenty of space between plants. Overfilling your garden patch can deplete nutrients in the soil from some of these neighboring plants. 

For more information on companion planting in veggie and herb gardens, visit this resource page from the University of Massachusetts.

Poor Companion Plants

Carrots and fennel do not work well with dill plants as they can cross-pollinate and cause hybrid crops. Nobody likes unintentional hybrid crops- they’re not tasty and tend to smell less-than-desirable!

What’s more, dill will slow down the growth of carrots. 

So make sure to put these crops on opposite ends of your garden!

Preserving Your Dill Harvest

After you’ve lovingly taken care of your dill plant, it will almost always reward you with an abundant harvest of fragrant, tasty dill fronds. 

So much, in fact, that you may find you can’t eat it all right away! In this case, you’ve got a few easy options for preserving your dill harvest. 

In the Refrigerator

Wrap your fresh dill in a slightly damp paper towel, place in a sealable plastic bag and keep it in your refrigerator for up to a week. 

The crisper drawer (you know the one-where fresh veggies are often forgotten?) is the best place to keep dill in a baggie. But don’t forget about it or it won’t taste so good!

Drying

You’ve seen dried dill in jars at your local grocery store (and in your spice cabinet too!) and now’s the perfect time to learn how to dry dill yourself! 

Follow the steps:

Step 1. Gather several springs together and tie them in a bundle.

Step 2. Hang the bundle upside-down. Like this: 

Five bundles of fresh herbs hang to dry against a wood fence

Step 3. Allow to dry for up to 2 weeks.

Step 4. Hang the dried bundles over a bowl.

Step 5. Crumble the bundles with your hands.

Step 6. Collect the dill crumbles in an air-tight jar and enjoy!

If you have a food dehydrator, the drying process is even easier and faster. After washing and drying your dill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dehydrating herbs. 

Herbs dry pretty quickly, and according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, your dill should be dry in 4 hours or less. 

When it’s sufficiently dried, your dill should look like this: 

Dried, crumbled dill on a rustic wooden table

Freezing

Freezing is a really great way to keep dill on hand for cooking. You don’t even have to thaw it to use; just pop it into your favorite dish while cooking!

You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to freezing your fresh dill: 

Freeze whole sprigs. Wash off your fresh harvested dill with water and place on a sheet tray in a single layer in the freezer.

After frozen, place the dill in a sealable freezer-safe plastic bag for storage up to six months.

Make frozen herb/oil cubes. Wash and dry fresh dill, chop and place in an ice cube tray.  Then pour your choice of olive oil over the dill to cover completely and place in the freezer. 

Once completely frozen, pop out the dill and oil cubes and place in a freezer bag to keep for up to six months.

In Oil

Wash and dry fresh dill and submerge in a jar of your favorite choice of olive oil. 

Make sure all parts of the dill are covered in oil or the plant will mold. 

You can choose to keep the dill in oil to flavor the oil, or take it out for the dish you like best.  As long as you maintain the oil level, your dill will stay tasty using this method for 2-3 weeks. 

Healthline states olive oil has many health benefits. And when combined with dill, olive oil is healthy and tasty!

How to Harvest Dill Seeds for Planting

Once the plant reaches maturity (usually after about two months of growing) you can expect to see flowers forming. 

Dill plants with yellow flowers and a few dry, brown dill seeds

About three months into growing, the dill seeds should be ready- they’ll appear brown and flat. You can see a couple of these seeds hanging down in the photo above. 

It’s easiest to pluck the seeds before they hit the ground, but obviously we get busy and can misjudge dill’s timeline!

A simple method to collect the seeds is to cut off the flower heads and place them in a paper bag suspended at the top with a rubber band or string.

This way the seeds will fall to the bottom of the paper bag and you’ll have them all in one place!

Frequently Asked Questions about Harvesting Dill

When a dill plant flowers, it creates seeds that fall from the plant to the ground to produce a new plant. So if you want to maintain a dill plot each year, let some of your dill plants flower and seed to have a self-sustaining crop. 

The flowers can also help repel garden pests like tomato hornworms and aphids!  You can encourage further growth by pinching back some of the flowers for a continued harvest.

Harvest potted dill using the same method as in-ground dill. 

Stagger your dill plantings so you always have dill on hand. Always use a container that is at least 12 inches deep to allow taproot growth and ensure good soil drainage. And make sure to give your dill plenty of sunlight!

Dill is an annual herb plant, meaning it dies off at the end of the growing season.  It needs to be re-planted each year once the danger of frost has passed. You can find more information about frost dates in your area from the National Weather Service.

There’s no more iconic use for fresh dill than classic dill pickles!

But there are also many other uses for fresh dill, including:

  • Garnish
  • Cucumber salad topping
  • Yogurt dips for vegetables
  • Salad dressings

Final Thoughts

As you’ve read here, dill is easy to maintain and harvest as well as a tasty herb plant. 

Harvesting dill is hassle-free, and all plant parts (minus the roots) can be used in everyday recipes. From creating your own salad dressings and vegetable dips to pickling cucumbers, the uses of dill are numerous. 

So make sure to include dill  in your herb garden this year!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy fresh dill? Do you have any dill harvesting or growing tips to share? 

Let us know in the comments!

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About Erinn Witz

Hi! I’m Erinn, a Midwestern gal who’s just as interested in honing my gardening skills as you are. I’m here to show you that if I can do this growing thing, seriously, YOU can too! 

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