The 1-2-3 Guide to Help You Grow Dill, Fennel and Garlic

Dill

growing dill in a pot

Cooking applications:

A symbol of vitality since ancient times, dill has often been viewed as having magical powers. During the Middle Ages some people thought dill protected against the wiles of witches.

As a result, dill was a major ingredient in numerous magic potions. In the kitchen, dill’s dark feather leaves add a fresh, sharp flavor to foods ranging from cottage cheese to potato dishes, cucumber salads, and pickles.

Medicinal qualities:

Dill weed is cultivated for the leaves and seeds. It is most popular as a seasoning. Like cilantro, dill is native to Mediterranean countries and Eastern Europe. As a spice, brown dill seeds resemble caraway seeds.

Their flavor is savory and sweet, but slightly bitter. Dill weed compounds are known for their antioxidant and disease-fighting properties.

The herb has therapeutic uses as an antiseptic and anesthetic. Dill also promotes metabolism and has sedative properties.

Best Conditions for Growing

Preferred Soil:

Dill prefers rich, full-drained soil.

Sunlight Requirements:

Pick a growing spot for the dill seeds that is exposed to sunshine at least 5 hours every day. Dill plants can grow indoors—but they will need to be placed where sunlight can reach them and staked so they don’t topple over.

Temperature Requirements:

Dill doesn’t grow well in extremely warm temperatures—in northern climates, most gardeners would plant dill as soon as the last frost comes.

Tips for Growing

Planting:

Dig a small hole and plant the seeds half an inch into the soil sometime in the early spring after the last frost. Place a very thin layer of dirt over the seeds. Make sure to plant the seeds about 4 inches apart.

Two weeks after planting the seeds, chop some of the dill plants down so that the ones left have 9 inches of separation.

Watering:

Dill should be watered evenly and well.

Harvesting:

Pick the leaves when the plant is four to six weeks old. Let the plant continue to grow after harvesting it. Make sure to eat the leaves soon after picking them, since the flavor doesn’t last long.

Once flower heads have appeared on the dill plant, no more new leaves will grow. Wait for the flower heads to turn brown, and then harvest the seeds.

Fennel

fennel about to be harvested

Cooking applications:

Fennel seeds and fronds are used as seasoning, and the stalk/bulb as a vegetable. The taste is similar to anise, but milder.

Seeds are used in sweets, baked goods, and beverages; bulbs appear in salads and soups. Fennel pairs well with fish, beets, pickles, potatoes, and eggs.

When using the leaves, be aware that heat destroys their flavor.

Medicinal qualities:

Fennel seed is revered in Europe for its many health benefits. The sought-after spice is popular in Mediterranean cuisine.

Fennel belongs to the parsley family, which also includes dill and anise. The plant is known for its golden flowers and light green seeds.

Fennel seeds are packed with plenty of antioxidants which have the ability to get rid of free radicals that can harm the human body. This makes the herb useful for fighting infections, diseases and cancers.

As a rich source of dietary fiber, fennel also aids digestion. Copper, zinc and other minerals make it beneficial for heart health and cell growth.

Best Conditions for Growing

Preferred Soil:

Fennel grows best in rich, well-drained soil. The richer the soil is where the fennel is planted, the more tender its leaves will be. Apply mulch or fertilizer if the soil needs to be enriched.

Sunlight Requirements:

Fennel requires full sun.

Temperature Requirements:

Plant the fennel after the last frost for your climate zone. Fennel can survive a frost or two in the fall, so you won’t need to rush to harvest if you live in a climate where things begin to get chilly.

Tips for Growing

Planting:

Buy fennel seeds at a home and garden store or a nursery. If you’re lacking time—purchase fennel that is already planted. Put the seeds a foot apart from each other and cover them with ¼ of an inch of soil.

If you are planting rows of fennel— separate the rows by 3 feet. If the fennel plants are planted in a windy area, make sure to stake them when they reach a foot and a half high.

The fennel plants can grow as high as three to four feet. To protect the fennel plants during the winter, place four inches of mulch onto the dirt surrounding the plant. The mulch can be supplemented with hay, leaves, or evergreen boughs.

Watering:

Spray the soil using a spray nozzle on a light setting. After one to two weeks shoots will begin to appear.

Once the plants begin to grow, they will only need to be watered a couple times a week—depending on how wet the climate is where you live.

Harvesting:

Fennel leaves can be harvested as soon as the plants are growing well. Don’t take too many leaves at a time, however, as that could damage the plant.

Fennel bulbs should be harvested when they reach the size of a small tennis ball—leaving them too long results in a bitter taste to the bulb.

Garlic

container loaded with garlic

Cooking applications:

Garlic has a strong onion-like flavor, muted by cooking, that enhances all foods except sweets and desserts.

It figures prominently in Mediterranean cuisine. It is best to store garlic bulbs at room temperature in a well-ventilated area. To prevent bitterness, remove any green inner sprout before chopping, and cook gently in oil only until a light gold.

Medicinal qualities:

Throughout history, garlic has had countless culinary and medicinal uses. The herb is grown for its root or bulb, which contains important health-promoting nutrients.

It has proven benefits for heart health, infections and cancer. Garlic is thought to have originated in central Asia before spreading around the world.

The strong-flavored cloves are filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Garlic also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.

Best Conditions for Growing

Preferred Soil:

Fertile soil that retains moisture but has good drainage, a mixture of sand, clay, and organic materials is best Sunlight

Requirements:

Garlic requires plenty of full sunlight.

Temperature Requirements:

Garlic is best planted in the fall—it can be grown in the North and can even withstand freezing temperatures as long as there aren’t sudden drops.

Tips for Growing

Planting:

Purchase bulbs of garlic from a nursery during the cold months. Most places will not have already started seedlings available. Don’t buy any garlic bulbs from the supermarket—they are usually treated to avoid sprouting.

The cloves will need to be planted about 6 weeks before the ground freezes during the fall months. In mild climates place the cloves into the ground in January so you can harvest the garlic during the fall.

While garlic can be planted in the spring, the bulbs will be smaller and fewer in number. Choose a gardening spot that is fertile and has good drainage and retains moisture.

Garlic grows the best in soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, but it will grow in soil with a pH ranging from 5 to 8. Be careful not to plant garlic near onions, otherwise they might get a disease called “pink root”.

Make sure to pick a gardening spot that won’t be disturbed since garlic takes two years to grow. You’ll need to weed the spot well, since slow-growing garlic competes very poorly.

Plant only the cloves which are the largest, and throw out any cloves that are blue-green colored or pitted—these are moldy and won’t grow.

Don’t peel the cloves before planting them. Place them into the ground with the pointy end sticking straight up about two inches into the ground. Separate the cloves by five inches. If you are planting larger kinds of garlic, put them three inches down and separate them 10 inches from each other.

Cover the planted areas with mulch and compost to help keep the moisture in and weeds out. Mulch once again when the ground freezes completely to help keep the plants from getting to cold.

When springtime arrives, take the mulch off of the ground so the soil can be warmed up by the sunshine. Cut off any flowers that have developed to help the garlic plant grow bigger bulbs.

Consider making “compost tea” and sprinkling it over the plants several times during spring.

Watering:

Water the garlic plants with one inch of H2O every week until the leaves turn a yellow color or the plant falls over—both of these are indicators that the bulbs can be harvested soon.

Harvesting:

Remove the leaves of the garlic plant anytime you desire, but don’t take off more than 25% of the top plant growth or the size of the garlic bulb will be less than it could have been. You can dig up the garlic bulbs three fourths of the top plant is yellow.

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