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Some plants will 'pickle' your fancy
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
More and more homeowners are sticking herbs or vegetables in their flower borders so they can snip a few leaves or flowers for culinary purposes. With that in mind, I've got another plant for everyone to consider.
Overuse of my digital camera can keep me from adequately enjoying my surroundings, but sometimes I'll look at the pictures later and something unexpected will take my breath away. I was browsing through my photos recently and came across a couple of shots from the butterfly and hummingbird garden we maintain at Mississippi State University's Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs.
Some pictures from last year revealed a spectacular planting of dill and a Black Knight buddleia. Oh, what a combination! This planting had it all, including wonderful fragrance and incredible nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. Additionally, the dill provided the ultimate benefit as a larval source of food for the swallowtail butterfly.
The color combination was terrific. The dark violet flowers of the buddleia were the perfect complement to the bright yellow flowers of the dill.
While I am a pickle aficionado, I almost never consider planting dill, even though a pickle without dill would just be a cucumber. Dill is used in salads and fish and poultry dishes, and to spice other vegetables.
Dill looks quite at home in the butterfly or perennial garden with its tall, feathery foliage and yellow flowers. Grow dill in the herb garden with fennel, which also has feathery leaves. Both plants make outstanding choices for the herb or butterfly garden. Your love for butterflies may determine whether or not you get any of the herb for pickles. Plant a bunch, just in case.
In addition to combining them with the Black Knight buddleia, plant dill behind Biloxi Blue or Homestead Purple verbena. MSU researchers also have combined it with Flare perennial hibiscus, another butterfly and hummingbird plant.
The site should have plenty of sun and well-drained, organic-rich soil. Prepare the bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like fine pine bark and compost, along with 1 pound per 100 square feet of a slow-release 5-10-5 fertilizer. Dill also is an excellent fall and winter crop, although this timing doesn't exactly match with the cucumbers. Sow multiple crops in the spring and thin to 12 inches. Dill will go to flower and seed quickly with very hot temperatures.
Keep watered and well mulched during the summer. Harvest dill when the flowers are open but before seeds have formed. Immature leaves can be harvested as flavoring for sour cream, meat and fish. Dill seeds are good to use fresh or dried in salads.
Dill is mostly sold generically, but Tetra is a shorter selection known for its heat tolerance.
There is a new edible landscape showing up in unlikely places, and I hope it will be included at your home, too.