Wednesday, January 11, 2012

it's a dilly

Two years ago today, I proudly cataloged our herb garden under the head of African Blue Basil. The French tarragon and silver thyme, alas, are no longer with us, but everything else is doing well. Large-leaf thyme, marjoram, comfrey, winter savory, curry plant, and borage have been successfully added to the mix. Epasote is questionable but frankly not that much in demand,

Generally I buy herbs in four-inch pots, set them out in sunny spots, water sparingly, and expect to start cutting in a couple of weeks. Seed is less of a sure thing, but I have coaxed cilantro, summer savory, and sweet basil to stand for a season and sometimes reseed themselves.

For some reason, though, dill has been my downfall. I must have planted at least ten pots of dill in the last three years alone, and scattered innumerable seeds. Garden books warn that dill will bolt to seed if not kept moist, while the plant man at the local farmer's market insists that dill -- especially its tender new crowns -- must be kept on the dry side.

My gardening role models have always done well with dill. I remember visiting Liz, our Riverside neighbor, sometime in the late 70's. She sent me home with heavenly homegrown tomatoes and a big handful of fresh dill. "Chop the dill on the tomatoes," she advised. "It's better than basil." Mother-in-law Alice had huge stands of naturalized dill in California and Idaho, and would put up lovely jars of "dilly beans." I have longed to replicate these treats, and to chop fresh dill lavishly onto fish.

So last week the 99-Cents Only store was offering two healthy-looking little pots of dill along with mountains of tired poinsettias, sickly mums, and root-bound kalanchoes. Of course I'm trying again!

The Sunset Edible Garden Book specifies that container-grown dill does best in a pot of at least 12" in depth. Of course it had never occurred to me to grow dill, or any other herb, in a pot, but I decided to take the plunge with half my new crop, though I was too stingy to give it more than 8" of soil (in a 3-gallon plastic nursery pot). The 'control' pot went into the ground. Both dills look pretty good so far, but I think the potted one is doing better. I plan to move it around till I find a spot where it seems especially happy, and then hope for ample reseeding.

Yesterday I sneered at the pots of dill being sold at the farmer's market. The Spanish tarragon looked tempting, but I'm trying to stay focused on my new dill crop and the two tired poinsettias that are grouped with my hopeful hollyhocks.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License