Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What? Dill again?


I never know where dill will pop up in one of our gardens. Hundreds of seedlings have sprouted this spring under our two shrub redbuds (Cercis chinensis), which means a dill plant grew and went to seed there last summer.

I first and last planted dill in one of our flower beds so long ago that I cannot remember the year. The dill has grown, flowered, gone to seed, and kept us well supplied every year since.

So when I spotted the dill seedlings this year, I decided to move a half dozen or so to a sunnier location. Today’s gentle rain should be settling them in nicely in a nearby bed.

As a flower, dill doesn’t rate magazine covers. What can I say other than the unremarkable yellowish flowers radiate on short stalks from a common point, sort of like the ribs of an umbrella. But I don’t grow dill for its flowers. I grow it as an herb—to add zip to summer salads, soups, and vegetables.

But I have to confess another reason for welcoming the herb. Caterpillars of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly love to dine on dill (see photo) as much as they love the foliage of carrots, celery, and parsley. Parsley gives both the caterpillar and the adult their nicknames, “parsley worm” and “parsley swallowtail.”

Look for a “parsley worm” on your parsley, carrot, celery, or dill this summer. When you find one, don’t bring out the heavy artillery. As our moms taught us, “Share your toys.” Observe the “worm” as it munches on the foliage. By sharing your dill, you’ll help complete the life cycle of the beautiful black swallowtail.

Flower. Herb. Butterfly host. Shouldn’t you add dill to your veggie garden?

1 comment:

  1. Well then, yes I should grow dill - very convincing. Actually, now that you mention it, I think I've seen something frilly coming up that I've been pulling, never making the connection that it's probably seedlings from the dill I grew a couple years ago. I should definitely let a few remain.

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