- Germination Days: 7-10
- Hardiness Zone:3 - 9
- Planting Depth:1-2"
- Plant Spacing:12"
- Row Spacing:2'
- Growth Habit:Upright
- Soil Preference:Well drained, temperature range 65 - 70 degrees, 6.5 – 7.0 pH
- Temp Preference:Warmer
- Light Preference:Full Sun
- Days to Maturity:65 days
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) Native to the Mediterranean region and belongs to Umbelliferae or carrot family. Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, particularly in France and Italy. Fennel is highly prized for its licorice-like flavor and the countless of health benefits it provides, and has been used in natural remedies since ancient times.
Fennel plant is an erect, aromatic, glabrous, much-branched, biennial herb growing up to 39 inches tall. The plant requires well-drained, light, moderately fertile soils, particularly in sandy loams but needs supplemental watering during the dry seasons that provide enough sun. It has a thick, spindle-shaped taproot that produces a pithy, smooth or erect, robust, glabrous stem filled with white spongy pith and is bluish-grey colored. Leaves, bulb and seed are edible part of fennel. Leaves and seed are consumed as seasoning. Bulb is used as vegetable. Fennel plant has swollen, bulb-like structure, measures about 3-5 inches in width and about 3 inches in length and is white or pale green colored.
- Best location:Plant fennel in full sun.
- Soil preparation:Plant fennel in well-drained compost-rich soil, however, fennel will grow in all types of soil. Fennel prefers a soil pH of 6.0-6.7.
- Seed starting indoors:Fennel grows a taproot and is best sown in place. If started indoors, plant in individual peat pots so that taproots are not disturbed at transplanting. Sow seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.
- Transplanting to the garden:Set fennel in the garden after the last frost in spring.
- Outdoor planting time: Sow common fennel seed in spring as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date. You can also sow fennel in late summer or early fall for harvest before the first frost. Fennel is half-hardy and will tolerate a light frost.
- Planting depth:Sow fennel seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Seeds must be covered completely to germinate.
- Spacing:Space fennel plants 10 to 12 inches apart. Space rows 2 to 3 feet apart.
- How much to plant:Grow 1 to 2 fennel plants for cooking; grow 4 to 5 plants for preserving.
- Companion planting:Grow fennel with sunflowers, calendulas, and nasturtiums to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects to the garden. Fennel may interfere with the growth of beans, tomatoes, and kohlrabi. Do not plant near dill or cilantro; they may cross-pollinate.
- Watering:Give fennel regular, even watering until it is established. Once established, fennel can be kept on the dry side. Do not overwater.
- Feeding:Side dress fennel with aged compost at midseason.
- Mulching:Mulch around fennel in summer to keep roots cool. To make bulb fennel tastier, mulch around the base of the plant to blanch the bulb and make it tender.
- Care:Common fennel can grow 3 to 4 feet tall and may require staking or supports, especially if it is growing in a windy spot. Mound soil up around the base of Florence fennel to blanch the bulb and make it tender.
- Container growing:Common fennel will grow easily in a container. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep; fennel forms a taproot so the container must be deep enough for the root.
- Winter growing:Fennel can be grown outdoors in mild winter regions.
Pests / Diseases
- Pests:Fennel is a member of the parsley family. Parsley caterpillars may attack fennel. Remove caterpillars by hand.
- Diseases:Root rot can be a problem if fennel is overwatered or planted in soil that is not well-drained.
- Fennel leaves can be snipped for fresh use once plants are 6 inches tall or more and established. Snip leaves before flowering. Common fennel will reach maturity in 60 to 70 days. Harvest the seeds of common fennel after flowering when they turn brown. The thick bulbs at the base of Florence fennel can be eaten like a vegetable as soon as it is large enough to eat; peak flavor of the bulb comes after flower buds have formed but before blossoms begin to open. Harvest seeds when they turn from yellowish-green to brown. If you do not want seeds, snip away flowers as they form.
- Use snips or scissors to harvest leaves. Cut only the top 2 or 3 inches to ensure regrow.