Dill is easy to grow but difficult to keep. If you want to harvest it frequently, you should know that it is not simply snipping a few leaves and calling it a day. When done wrong, harvesting can easily kill your healthy and lush dill plant.
Here are some key points to keep in mind if you want to harvest your dill plant without killing it:
- Before harvesting, wait at least eight weeks after germination OR let the plant grow 5-6 leaves OR let it reach a height of about 6 inches (whichever comes first).
- Do not cut more than 1/3rd of the leaves each time you harvest.
- Give the harvested plant at least a week to grow back.
- Cut the older and outer leaves first.
- Prune/harvest the plant before it blooms flowers and goes to seed.
But to learn how to put these points into practice, you must dive deeper.
Therefore, in this post, you’ll learn how to harvest dill without killing the plant. In addition, you’ll learn harvesting best-practices (in detail) for other parts of the plant as well.
Before diving headfirst into the best harvesting practices, let me first discuss the harvestable parts of a dill plant (and some of their most common uses).
Harvestable Parts of Dill Plant
Even though people usually harvest dill leaves, its seeds and flowers are also harvested for various reasons.
Dill leaves are the star of the show and one of the main reasons people grow dill plants. These leaves are used (fresh or dried) for various recipes, such as dill pickles, salad dressings, and sandwiches.
Dill leaves possess a much stronger flavor than the leaves, and are often used for pickle brine, soups, breads, and vegetable recipes. Sometimes I add Dill seeds to my Tzatziki sauce for extra aroma and flavor.
Since dill is an annual herb and dies at the end of every growing season, you can also harvest and store its seeds for growing a new batch in the next season.
You can also harvest Dill flowers for toppings, green salads, side salads, and grain bowls. Personally, I add them to my pickle jar as I love their fresh yellow hue.
How to Harvest Dill Leaves Without Killing the Plant
The dill plant’s life becomes a concern when you’re growing it to harvest its leaves. But with a few tried-and-tested tips, you can avoid that fate and enjoy flavorful harvests throughout the growing season.
Harvest at the Right Time in the Right Manner
Give your dill seedling at least eight weeks of growth before harvesting. Another rule of thumb is to wait until the plant reaches at least six inches in height or has 5-6 leaves.
When harvesting, take the older leaves first. Harvest the outer leaves and give the plant ample time (4-7 days) for regrowth before harvesting again. Since I need fresh dill leaves regularly, I grow multiple dill plants instead of stressing out a few plants.
Harvest in Small Quantities
When you have a limited number of plants, it is better to harvest them in small quantities.
Ideally, you should never harvest more than 1/3rd of the plant. To make this rule easier to follow, do not cut more than 1/3rd from each stem. Doing this will keep the plant growing better and give you leaves to harvest all year.
Pruning and When to Do It
Pruning your dill plant will improve its health, vitality, and flavor. Since dill can grow quite unruly (it’s called dill weed for a reason), pruning is essential even when you’re not interested in harvesting its leaves.
Another key benefit of pruning is the prevention of flowering. Flowering greatly consumes the plant’s energy, reduces the flavor in the leaves, and the transportation of nutrients to the roots.
That’s not all. Once flowering occurs, the plant starts to “bolt.” Bolting, or “going to seed,” is the last step in the plant’s life cycle. As the plant reaches its natural goal of reproduction(formation of seeds), it eventually grows weaker and dies. Even if you miss a pruning and see a flower, cut it immediately to prevent bolting.
When I first started gardening, I was unaware of these things, and I let the plant flower for its beautiful yellow blooms. Little did I know that it was the beginning of the end for my beloved dill plant.
The rule of cutting 1/3rd of the stem/plant applies to pruning as well. Pruning is best done during the growing season.
Use Appropriate Pruning Tools
Many people recommend cutting the leaves with a sharp knife or a pair of pruning shears. In my experience, using shears is always better. Even a sharp knife may disturb the stem’s skin because of the sawing motion and increase the chances of diseases.
Understand Nodes and Internodes
A node is a juncture where a new leaf emerges and branches off the primary stem. Internode is the section of the stem between two nodes.
Always cut just above the nodes when harvesting or pruning a dill plant. Cutting below a node will leave a section of the stem (internode) susceptible to rotting and catching diseases that can quickly spread through your plant.
Harvest Stalks for Large-Scale Harvesting
If you have a lot of dill plants, you can pull the entire stalk for large-scale harvesting. It only works if you have multiple plants because it is taxing on the plant, making it difficult for it to recover.
Water Before Harvesting
It is one of those hard lessons I learned by making mistakes when I first started experimenting with dill.
Cutting off leaves makes the plant weak. Watering it the day before harvest will make it easier for it to jump back quickly to growth again.
Keep Planting Seeds Every Couple of Weeks
Harvesting dill throughout the season without killing your plants is all about consistency. Make it a habit to sow new dill seeds every few weeks until mid-summer for a consistent supply of dill leaves.
Not only will this distribute the stress on all your plants, but you’ll have a plant batch ready for harvest when others are resting and regrowing.
How to Harvest Dill Seeds
Dill is an annual plant, which means it dies off at the end of the growing season. To keep growing dill in the next season, it is always a good idea to grow a plant mainly for harvesting its seeds. But as already discussed, a dill plant that goes into seeding is on the dark road of death.
To harvest seeds, don’t prune and let the plant reach maturity (two months). I recommend keeping this “mother plant” separately for the best seed yield. Soon, you’ll notice yellow flower clusters forming on the tips of long stalks.
The seeds will gradually start to appear brown and flat. At this point, they’re ready. You can pluck them before they drop off or cut off the flower heads and place them in a paper bag. Suspend these flower heads upside down with a string so that the paper bag catches the seeds that fall off.
How to Harvest Dill Flowers
Letting your dill plants flower significantly reduces the flavor in the leaves. Once your plant flowers, its leaves are most likely unusable for your culinary needs.
With that being said, dill flowers are ready to be harvested when the seed heads have turned brown, and there are tons of yellow flowers. If the seeds are still green, it is still too soon.
Flowers with a bright yellow color will have a smoother flavor. As they get a bit dried up, the flavor becomes more intense.
Use garden shears to cut off the flowering stems off the plant, and leave some stems to let the flowering continue.
Dill is a fairly simple plant, but harvesting it can become tricky for new gardeners.
This guide will help you harvest dill leaves throughout the growing season without killing it. The key is to cut the right amount (1/3rd of the leaves), at the right time (early morning), and in the right manner (at the nodes). You should also take care of the plant’s nutritional needs to help it jump back from a harvest quickly. Lastly, If you want to harvest its seeds or flowers, this guide will help you too.
- Should I let my dill flower?
If you wish to harvest dill flowers or seeds, you can let your dill blossom. However, you should also know that letting dill plants flower makes them lose flavor and fragrance in the leaves.
Secondly, flowering and going to seed is the last stage in the plant’s reproduction cycle. If the plant reaches seeding, it dies off gradually. It is better to keep a couple of plants to harvest seeds for the next growing season while keeping the rest for harvesting leaves.
- Does dill continue to grow after harvest?
If your dill plant has all its needs met, it can grow fairly quickly after a harvest(4-7 days), and will keep growing throughout the season.
The best practice is never cutting more than 1/3rd of your plant when harvesting its leaves. Letting your plant flower and going to seed before harvesting will also lead to its death.
- Does dill come back each year?
Since dill is an annual plant, it doesn’t come back each year from the same plant. To have a consistent supply of dill plants, you can let some of them go to seed and store their seeds for the next growing season.