How to Grow Fennel

What is fennel?

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an annual plant grown for its culinary uses and aesthetic significance. Learn how to grow fennel so you can enjoy this delicious herb when it’s fresh!

Originating from southern Europe, The fennel plant is grown naturally all over Europe, North America, and Australia and is cultivated in gardens across the globe. The Egyptians and Chinese utilized it to treat ailments, and the lore of their use was transferred to Europe by traders from the beginning.

Fennel is to be both a vegetable and herb. It’s easy to cultivate and is a trendy addition to organic gardens because it attracts ladybugs that are natural predators for some of the most dangerous pests,’ claims period living‘s garden specialist Leigh Clapp.

It’s also an excellent choice for butterflies’ gardens because swallowtail caterpillars utilize it as a food source and pupal spot. The plant is adorned with tiny yellow flowers in the summer months, followed by fragrant seeds which can be harvested along with the leaves.

How to use fennel?

Fennel has a mild flavor similar to that taste of licorice. Every component of the plant can also be eaten; they are utilized in many different cuisines across the globe.

Fennel is an excellent choice for dual-purpose use in the kitchen garden since it imparts aroma and texture. It is also a beautiful airy accent to the form of a bouquet cut. Then, somebody realized they used it to flavor dishes.

Today, its fresh anise-like flavor is popular with cooks from all over the world. Its fluttery, branching floral, yellow-green foliage and tall stature are attractive for border plantings, garden designs for cottages, and so on.

woman smelling fennel bulb

How to Plant Fennel

Fennel is a perennial with a soft texture, which means it can survive the winter in areas with warm temperatures. However, it is susceptible to cold temperatures. Fennel can be planted indoors from mid-May and then planted out until the end of June.

It can take 60 to 90 days for the majority of varieties of Fennel to develop. The use of modular trays for seeding is suggested since Fennel does not like disturbance to its roots. The majority of gardeners plant the fennel plant for their annual.

Fennel Propagation

There are two ways of propagation when researching ways to cultivate fennel. It is possible to divide plants. However, this isn’t as simple as it is for other plants in the garden and usually isn’t a good choice. It’s because fennel has an extremely long tap root that isn’t a fan of being split or moved.

Fennel is not a fan of getting its roots damaged or transplanted. Therefore, direct sow Fennel seeds in your garden or pots at the beginning of the season when the soil can be treated.

They were soaking the seeds for a few days before sowing will guarantee more significant sprouting. Seeds should be planted early in the season and covered with 1/8″ soil. Keep the soil damp until the seeds begin to sprout.

Then reduce the size of the fennel plants to 12-18 inches (31-46 cm.) in rows of 18-24 inches. Transfer young fennel plants delicately outside, taking care not to damage the root ball. Plant a new plant in mid-summer for harvesting in the autumn.

Growing Fennel by the Bulb

The steps to cultivate Fennel are easy, as the fennel flower is a delightful garden plant. Fennel is among the vegetable garden ideas requiring little effort and care. It is part of the family of parsley and carrots and is a relative to other herbs like caraway, Dill, and cumin. Like these different herbs, Fennel can produce aromatic fruits, frequently but inaccurately called seeds.

Fennel bulbs, also referred to by the name of Florence Fennel, aren’t as simple to grow as other fennel plants however they’re worth the effort as they can be eaten raw or cooked, and are a common ingredient for Italian food.

The problem with fennel bulbs is that they can be susceptible to bolting, and the plant may flower and seeds too quickly. To avoid fennel bulbs bolting, pick an option resistant to bolts, stay clear of planting seeds too early, or move the seedlings and ensure the soil remains damp.

How To Grow Fennel Bulb

  1. Fennel is an excellent plant in spring after having had the most recent frost. It’s a perfect choice to plant in containers, raised garden beds, and the in-ground garden.
  2. Seed directly where you would like the plants to develop, from the middle to late spring.
  3. Suppose you wish to plant the fennel plant earlier in the indoor climate and plant only one seed in each small container or module. You should ensure that you transplant the contents of every pot to their fullest to prevent disturbing the roots.
  4. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep in the ground.
  5. When the seedlings have grown large enough to manage, you can thin them out to 12 inches following the variety.
  6. They must be planted in an area that get a minimum six hours of sun and well-drained, fertile soil.
  7. Seeds should be thinly sown and covered with soil.
  8. Maintain the soil’s moisture throughout the growing season to reduce the chance of bolting when the soil surface is dry.
  9. For the best results, improve your soil’s natural soil by mixing with a few inches of old compost or any other nutrient-rich organic matter.
  10. Although not necessary, you can bury the bulbs as they develop, and this will cause them to blanch and shield them from frosts in the late season.
  11. Improve leaf production by feeding your plants regularly with aqueous-soluble plant food.
  12. Feed your plants every two weeks with a heavy potash feed.
  13. When the bulbs reach a suitable size, usually around that of a flat tennis ball, carefully pull them out from the soil or cut them from the bottom. If you are harvesting from rows, avoid disturbing roots, significantly if plants are growing.
  14. The bulbs are harvested from the end of summer until autumn.
  15. Pick fennel leaves at any time; however, do not cut over one-third of the plant at one time.

Closeup of fennel bulbs growing in garden

How to Grow Fennel in a Pot

  • It is not recommended since 300 mm pots will only hold one plant.
  • For growers who are struggling For growers who are struggling
  • Select a pot at least 300 millimeters in diameter and depth and place it in a sunny location.
  • Directly sow seeds, placing 2-3 seeds on the bottom of the container. Cover them lightly with Yates Black Magic Seed Raising Mix and soak in water. You can also plant one seedling in the Center of your pot.
  • Regularly water. 
  • When the plant is growing and the bulb starts looking like it is expanding, it is essential to mound soil around the bottom of the plant to increase the harvest.
  • Suppose the bulb has reached an edible size, typically around that of a tennis ball. Carefully dig it out of the soil, or cut off the bulb at the Base. The leaves can also be cut to be used as an herb.

Types of Fennel

There are two kinds of fennels that you can plant in your garden, based on the way you intend to utilize them.

  • Herb
  • Bulb or Florence Fennel

Herb fennel is known as a sweet flavor Fennel. It is used for flavor. It is mainly grown to harvest its seeds. The classic herb type has delicate bronze or green leaves that can be harvested according to the need.

Florence fennel ( Foeniculum vulgarevar. Azoricum) is used more like an herb grown to produce its bulbous stem.

The primary species plant, the common herb Fennel, cannot produce many bulbs and is mainly cultivated for its leaves. Both plants are worthy of being included on your garden in the kitchen ideas list because they enrich many meals, including fish and vegetables to soups, curries, and sauces.

Cultivars Fennel Crop Include:

  • “Solaris” produces large semi-flat bulbs that can’t be bolted
  • “Zefa Fino” is a variety of a variety that is ready for harvesting in just 80 days and is resistant to bolts.
  • “Orion” is waiting to be harvested in the next 80 days. It is a vast, thick, round bulb with a smooth texture.

Herb fennel types include:

  • “Dulce” has a delightful taste.
  • “Rubrum” is often referred to as red or bronze fennel due to its bronze leaves.

Fennel vs. Dill

At first look, Dill and Fennel leaves can appear identical. The leaves are soft with bright yellow-green hues and grow in a branch. But fennel leaves tend to be larger than the Dill leaves. They also are distinct in their flavor.

sliced fennel bulb on wooden cutting board

Fennel Seedling Care

If you are growing seedlings indoors, you must be cautious so that they should not grow too tall, i.e., long spindly plants.

Soil

Fennel likes rich soil as well as drains quickly. Before planting, you should enrich the ground you have by mixing compost. In the event that your garden is placed in pots, make sure that they are filled with soil that is fertile. Soil is enriched by aged compost and can provide the right amount of organic nutrients for plants to get going strong.

It is a fan of acidic soil and is happy with a few drops of mild fertilizer and maybe a bit more water in the event of dry and hot weather.

Sunlight

Seedlings get ‘leggy’ when they are exposed to too much heat or not enough sunlight. Fennel thrives best and provides an excellent harvest in areas with full sunlight. If you plan to start your plants in a window, ensure they receive maximum sunlight.

They are attracted to warmer weather and thrive in areas with temperatures ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can Build a temporary lightbox by putting an opaque sheet of tinfoil on the side facing the room of the tray for seedlings. It will reflect light onto the darker part of the plant.

If your plants are on the heat bench or inside the propagator and appear spinning, turn down the heat and let them get as much sunlight as possible. I say this since you need to factor that you are taking into account the extra sunlight’s heat and the wind factor, both of which could make you fall out of acceptable temperatures within the tolerance limits. This shouldn’t affect your crops. It’s just not ideal.

Thinning

If two fennel seedlings germinated in your pots, you must take the weaker one out. Don’t remove the seedling because you’ll harm the roots of the one you wish to keep. Cut the seedling with your finger or cut it with scissors.

Watering

Make sure to regularly give plants at least one inch of water each week (more in hot temperatures). Put your finger in the soil and test for water. If the soil’s top layer is dry, it is provided it with thorough watering.

However, you must be cautious but don’t allow the compost plug to dry out completely, or it’ll form an overhang and will not absorb the water when you next need to water. The amount of water you need will depend on the weather conditions; however, on a hot day, you’ll need to water your garden regularly, but if it isn’t fascinating, every two days is fine.

Pruning

You could cut off the flowers when they appear to keep the plant from becoming seeds if you’d like. The foliage will continue to grow and taste the best for as long as possible. It also keeps the plant from self-seeding within your garden. If you want seeds for harvesting or self-seeding, allow the flowers to blossom.

Harvest

Any time harvest the Fennel crop. The more you trim it, the larger it becomes, which will lead to more extensive and better crops for your garden. Don’t cut less than one-third of the plant when you harvest. Certain varieties of fennel produce bulbs that are harvested when they reach a size of several inches. The leaves can be stored on the counter, with cutting stems placed in a glass with water.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Fennel is not prone to severe diseases or pests; caterpillars may nibble on the leaves. It is best to handle this by taking them off the plants using a fork. They are usually caterpillars of parsley, which develop into black butterflies that are valuable pollinators for your garden. Therefore, you can decide to avoid the caterpillars in green with bands of yellow and black in case they aren’t causing any significant problems.

Aphids can also be an issue. However, they can be controlled by powerful sprays of water to remove them. Beware of using pesticides that contain chemicals on edible plants.

In soils with low drainage capacity, root rot may develop. If your soil is extremely heavy, consider raising your planter or container to create the best soil conditions.

Disease

Fungal disease is an issue for certain plants, and weeds may be a factor in reducing the air circulation between your plants. Plants with a clear, healthy space between them are more beneficial than crowded plants.

fennel bulbs

Final Tip

Fennel growing soil’s ideal pH level is between 6.5 – 7.

If the soil is too acidic, you can apply dolomite or lime before sowing.

Avoid excessive watering.

Plant Profile

  Common Name               Fennel, Sweet Fennel, common Fennel

  Botanical Name                Foeniculum vulgare

  Family                                 Apiaceae

  Plant Type                       Perennial, herb

  Size                                   4.5 to 6.5 feet tall, 2 to 3.5 ft. wide

  Sun Exposure                  Full sun

  Soil Type                          Moist, well-drained

  Soil pH                              Acidic (5.5–6.8)

  Bloom Time                      Summer

  Hardiness Zones              4–9 (USDA)

  Native Area                       Mediterranean

Other gardening articles:

  1. Herb Gardening For Beginners
  2. Growing Strawberries In Raised Beds
  3. How To Keep Basil Alive
  4. How To Grow Green Onion
  5. Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
  6. How To Grow Lettuce
  7. How To Grow Kale

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