Fennel is a versatile herb that can be found in many Mediterranean dishes. The foliage can be used as a salad component or herbal dressing when harvested as .baby greens. and the seeds can be used to flavor dishes from spaghetti sauce to desserts. Its licorice like flavor also provides a unique substitute for celery in many different dishes.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an easy herb to grow for any beginner gardener. Planting can occur in the early spring once the soil has warmed to 60-65F degrees and again in late summer. This herb is very forgiving when it comes to soil pH. It does well when the pH is from 4.8 to 8.2.
Till the soil once it has warmed and begin planting the seeds in the sunniest part of the garden. Plant the seeds ¼-inch deep and lightly cover with soil. It will take the seeds 10 to 14 days to geminate. Once germination has occurred, start thinning the plants out so that there are 8 inches separating each seedling.
Fennel can also be planted in a container. When planting in a container choose one that is 10- to 12-inches in diameter and fill with an all-purpose potting soil mixture. If the fennel is being grown for the baby greens, then only plant six to ten seeds. If the fennel is being grown for the foliage and seeds, then only plant two to three seeds. Once planted, place the container in full sun outdoors or on sunny windowsill for year round enjoyment.
There does exist another type of fennel called Florence or Sweet Fennel that not only produces edible leafy vegetation but also a bulb called an .apple.. This .apple. is formed when the leaf base of this type of fennel enlarges and forms a bulb that can be 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
Fennel does not have to be planted by itself. It typically does not do well with other vegetables or dill. It should never be planted close to or where dill has been in the past. Fennel and dill will cross-pollinate and in this case neither herb will be fit to eat.
To add a splash of color and add to culinary delights of fennel, consider planting mint, nasturtiums, and marigolds seeds along side the fennel.
Fennel not only tastes good but it is also a good way of attracting beneficial insects to the garden. These include bees, Ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachminid flies, beneficial parasitoid wasps and hoverflies. Fennel is also known to repel fleas in the yard and can be found planted around many kennel due to this fact.
While fennel has many benefits it also has a dark side. Fennel suffers from dampening off and attracts aphids, and whiteflies.
Regardless of the type of fennel the care is the same. Check soil moisture often and water accordingly. Fennel does not like it soggy but it also does not like it dry. It also likes to be fed once a month with a manure tea or fish emulsion.
Fennel is ready to harvest in stages. Young greens can be picked anytime during the growing process while the seeds need to be harvested once the seed head turns brown. When the seed head turns brown, simply place in a paper bag and hang up. As the seeds dry, they will fall into the bag for collection.
The bulbs of Florence or Sweet Fennel can be picked in the summer once the bulb reaches 3- to 4-inches in diameter. Fennel that is planted in late summer will need to be harvested before a killing frost hits the area.
Growing fennel can reward any gardener with foliage, seeds, and bulbs. When planning to add fennel to the garden space, plan on growing five plants per person per season and for a good measure add a few more. There is no such thing as too much fennel in the garden.