We are in The Kitchen Garden today and looking at how to grow dill and fennel . Hannah from London Herb Garden gives us her expert advice
Now the sun has finally come out its time to put some fast growing seeds into your kitchen garden. Dill and fennel come under this umbrella, and are two increasingly popular flavours. With the growth of popularity of Scandinavian food, dill in particular, is squarely on the menu. The two herbs are Is different genus, but are related, and are easily identified by their aniseed taste and feathery fronds. They can grow up to a metre tall so consider this if you plan on growing.The plants are relatively drought tolerant so make sure you plant them in well drained soil. The soil doesn’t have to be rich, in fact I have seen this growing by roadsides across Europe, so don’t worry about expensive composts or soil enrichers. (However, it is important to note that this plant should not be forages in the UK as it looks very similar to a number of poisonous native species, including hemlock).
The only difference between the two plants as far as gardening is concerned, is their native habitats. Fennel (and all its variants including bronze fennel and fennel grown as a vegetable) is originally from the Mediterranean and therefore prefers warmer, dryer, sunnier conditions and does best if sown after mid-summer in the UK, as the lengthening days can cause it to bolt. Dill on the other hand is a native of Eastern Europe and is a lot hardier than many people think. It is also drought tolerant, but can stand a bit more shade and colder winters than its southern cousin. When used as a companion planting, dill draws in many beneficial insects as the umbrella flower heads go to seed. Fittingly, it makes a good companion plant for cucumbers. Fennel is also a great plant to grow to attract butterflies, as the larvae of some species live on it.
- Bronze fennel (and other fennel varieties) do not transplant well, so sow them direct in mid-summer (or after then). Sow plants into containers or into their growing site, 30 cm apart. Remember the plant grows over 1m tall so plant it where is will not create shade for other plants.
- Pick the leaves on a warm day for best flavour, and leave to go to seed if you would like more in the same place next year.
- The plant can also be grown as a microgreen.
- Dill can be sown earlier, so sow from April, thinly direct into the site where it will be grown.
- The seedlings should be thinned to 24cm apart. Further sowings can be made during the spring and early summer to extend the harvest time.
- Keep the plant weed free, and don’t worry about watering. The long tapered roots of dill will ensure that it is unlikely to need watering in all but the most extreme dry conditions.
- Harvest or leave to go to seed as preferred.
Here are two fantastic recipes from the Lover of Creating Flavours archives showcasing both herbs. Firstly dill and the classic Salmon Gravlax With Dill Sauce and secondly fennel Langoustine With Fennel and Lemon