Growing Dill and Fennel in a Florida Garden

Growing dill and fennel in a Florida yard.

I’ve combined these two herbs in this post because one of them I can’t seem to grow. Because dill doesn’t like my yard, I’ve grown fennel in it’s place.

The two herbs are not interchangeable for cooking and seasoning, as they are both different, but as far as gardening goes, they are similar. They are both airy and lacy and have big yellow, open flowers that attract beneficials.

Dill

I first grew dill in my New Hampshire yard. I absolutely loved the flowers that came at the end of the season, which attracted good bugs. Here in Florida I have tried numerous times to grow it without success. This potted dill you see here was grown from seeds.

Aside from the fact that the raccoons dug around in the pot one night, it looks pretty good.

Dill plant

Fennel

Fennel on the other hand grows all on it’s own. It is considered a perennial. It has successfully re-seeded itself in my front yard and I’ve seen caterpillars on it in past years. And often the stalks will last into the following year. Here in Florida that happens with many vegetables.

Unfortunately the brown lizards ate all the worms, so I didn’t see any turn into Swallowtail butterflies.

Swallowtail worm on fennel
Parsley worm which will become a black swallowtail butterfly

Saving Seeds

Both dill and fennel have seeds that form on the flowers and are very easy to save. Because I don’t have luck with dill, I have photos of fennel seeds only.

fennel plant with seeds
Fennel flowers turning to seeds

Fennel easily grows from seeds. I have some plants that have sprung up along the front of the house. This year I saw no caterpillars on them, but I like to have them just in case a butterfly comes by to lay her eggs.

fennel plants

Parsley Worm and The Butterfly it Becomes

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.55.56 PMThis is a story about the parsley worms in my backyard. My garden is small, and a bit unique in that at the present time my vegetables are in pots and fabric bags.  I use fresh parsley often, and I have it growing in two locations.

One day I found this colorful worm crawling along a parsley stem and munching away.  I could see that he had chewed off many of the surrounding leaves.  This striped guy is appropriately called a “parsley worm”.

I couldn’t remember what type of butterfly it would become, (had to look that up) but I knew it was getting ready to form a chrysalis.

Turns out it’s a Swallowtail butterfly that emerged from the green chrysalis a few weeks later. The wrapped worm was attached to a stem of basil, which had gone to seed, but was in the same pot as the parsley the worm was eating.

But here’s what happened first.  I found the worm sitting in this position (below) and he was no longer eating.  In fact he was on the basil now, and not the parsley.  This is where he formed his chrysalis.  I checked it every day, and after a few weeks, there was something new to see.

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Worm beginning to form a chrysalis

Once the butterfly “hatched” he crawled to the top of the basil stem to try out his new wings.  Maybe this is the perfect set up for encouraging butterfly production.  I hope it happens again.

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Arrow pointing to the empty chrysalis

A few days ago I happened to go outside and saw this beautiful black butterfly at the top of the basil stem, and I knew… the baby was born!  The wind was blowing, but he held on for hours.  I kept checking on it, and then suddenly he was no longer there.

I felt like a proud parent.  I had helped a new baby butterfly enter the world. Course, I had done nothing but plant the parsley… haha!!!  But I felt good. And I’m glad I was able to see the beautiful butterfly before it flew away.  I took lots of photos, like a proud parent does, and one video.


It turns out that there are many types of Swallowtail butterflies, and the worms can be different colors too.  I honestly don’t know much about all of this, but I love it!  Imagine going from being earth bound and crawling among bunches of green parsley, to having big beautiful wings that take you up into the sky!  I will keep an eye out for eggs on the parsley leaves, and bright green worms among the branches.

 

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