If you’re looking for an unusual vegetable to add to your garden, fennel is a great option.
Fennel is a perennial herb that belongs to the carrot family.
It has an anise flavor and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.
Fennel is easy to grow and thrives in both cold and warm climates. Seeds should be sown in Spring and the plants should get plenty of warm sunlight and water before being ready for harvest towards the end of Summer.
Types of fennel to grow
Florence fennel, or finocchio, is the type that is often seen in supermarkets. It has a white bulb at the base that is used as a vegetable.
The stalks and leaves can also be used, but the bulb is the most popular part.
Florence fennel is best grown in areas with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
Common fennel, on the other hand, is grown more for its seeds and leaves.
The seeds are used as a spice, while the leaves can be used as an herb.
Common fennel is a hardy plant that can tolerate colder climates and poor soil conditions better than Florence fennel.
It is also more drought-resistant.
How to sow and grow fennel
Fennel seeds should be sown in Spring, either indoors or outdoors.
If sowing them indoors, do so about six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
Sow the seeds in potting soil and keep them moist and they should germinate within two to three weeks.
When they have grown their first true leaves, they can be transplanted into either larger pots or into the vegetable patch or garden.
Choose a spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight and has well-drained soil as fennel does not like to sit in wet soil.
To help the plants you can dig up the soil and mix in some compost or manure before planting the seedlings.
Plant the seedlings about 12 inches apart and as they grow, thin out the weaker seedlings so that the remaining plants have room to grow.
Fennel needs to be watered regularly, especially during dry spells. and you will need to feed the plants with liquid fertilizer every few weeks.
Common fennel will self-seed, and grow as a perennial, so you can allow it to do so if you want it to come back next year.
Florence fennel, on the other hand, is an annual and will not come back on its own meaning that you will need to sow new seeds each year.
How long does it take for fennel to grow?
Fennel seeds germinate within two to three weeks, and the plants will be ready for harvest within four to six months.
Common fennel will take slightly longer to mature than Florence fennel.
Once the plants have reached maturity, you can start harvesting the leaves, stalks, and bulbs as needed.
Where should fennel be planted?
Fennel should be planted in an area of your garden that gets full sun.
It also prefers well-drained soil as it does not like to sit in wet conditions.
Can you leave fennel in the ground over winter?
Common fennel will die back and re-grow the following season so this can be left alone.
Bulb fennel will not survive the winter. The bulbs will rot if left in the soil and the plants will not recover.
Does fennel grow well in pots?
Fennel can be grown in pots, but it will need a large pot as the roots can spread out quite widely.
It is best to choose a pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter.
How tall does fennel grow?
Fennel can grow to be between two and five feet tall, depending on the variety.
When is fennel in season?
Fennel is typically in season from late summer through early fall.
Can I grow fennel from seeds bought from the grocery store?
You can grow fennel from grocery store seeds, but it is best to buy them from a reputable source as they may not be viable.
What pests and diseases affect fennel?
Fennel is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but aphids, slugs, and snails can be a problem.
Aphids can be controlled with a strong spray of water, while slugs and snails can be controlled with traps or by hand picking them off the plants.
Fennel is also susceptible to root rot, so it is important to make sure that the soil drains well.
How to harvest and store fennel
The leaves, stalks, and bulbs of both common and Florence fennel can be harvested at any time once the plants have reached maturity.
To harvest the leaves, simply cut them off the plant as needed.
The stalks can be cut with a sharp knife, and the bulbs can be pulled up by the roots.
Both the leaves and stalks can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark place and will keep for several weeks.
Fennel seeds can be harvested when the seed heads turn brown.
The heads should be cut off the plant and the seeds can be shaken out.
The seeds can be stored in a cool, dry place for several months.
Fennel is a delicious and versatile herb that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
It is relatively easy to grow, and can be started from seed, bought as a seedling, or grown from a bulb.
Fennel prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and will self-seed if left to its own devices.
The leaves, stalks, and bulbs can all be harvested and used fresh or dried.
Fennel seeds can also be harvested and used as a spice.
With a little care and attention, you can enjoy fresh fennel from your own garden for many months of the year.