If you have jars of homemade pickles dancing in your head, now is the time to plant fast-growing cucumbers in close company with feathery dill. Cucumbers sprawl while dill grows upright, so the two plants make a dynamic duo in the garden and the pickling jar.
There are two main types of cucumber – those meant to be eaten fresh and those for pickling. Pickling varieties are small, bumpy and rough. Two dill plants provide plenty of foliage for fresh cooking until early summer, when the plants cover themselves with umbels of yellow flowers and are inedible.
When the cucumbers are ripe, you can use both dill foliage and flowers to flavor your homemade pickles.
Grow Homemade Pickles:
- Prepare 10-12 sq. ft. of sunny growing space by removing weeds and amending the soil with 2” of compost and a balanced organic or time-release fertilizer. Follow label instructions for how much fertilizer to apply.
- Dig eight, 8” deep planting holes 12” apart. Set dill seedlings in the two center holes, and fill the others with cucumber seedlings. If you are starting with seeds, sow 3 seeds per prepared hole.
- Water well.
- After three weeks, thin to the strongest plants.
- Remove weeds weekly until the cucumbers begin to bloom, about 6 weeks. In tight spaces, cucumbers can be trained to a string or net trellis. Tie the dill to garden stakes when plants grow more than 2’ tall.
- Pick cucumbers when they turn medium-to-dark green and feel firm. Pickling varieties should be 2”-6” long.
- Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator until you have enough to make a batch of pickles. You need 10-15 small-to-medium cucumbers to make a 4-pint batch of pickles.
Other great vegetables for pickling include beets, carrots, onions and garlic.