Growing fennel is a great way to add diversity to your diet. It’s an easy herb to grow and there are a variety of ways to use it… few plants offer you the opportunity to both eat the bulb, leaves and stems fresh and use the leaves and seeds in dried form.
Fennel requires plenty of sun and will grow in most types of soil as long as it has good drainage.
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Fennel is a cool weather crop, but seeds need a temperature of at least 65 degrees to germinate. For this reason, it's often easier to start seeds indoors about a month before the last frost and then transplant to the garden.
When transplanting, be careful with those roots! Fennel can be sensitive if not handled delicately and revolt by bolting.
Most other plants dislike growing near fennel, so it's best to plant it alone or in pots. Do not plant near dill, as the two will cross-pollinate, harming the flavor of both.
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Fennel will grow well in average garden soil that is well-drained. It should be kept drier than most other garden crops, but keep it lightly watered consistently throughout the growing season.
As the plants get taller, they may need to be staked to prevent the leaves from falling over.
Cut the plant back after flowering to encourage more production and side-dress it with compost mid-season. During the hottest part of the summer, fennel may need a little afternoon shade to prevent it from bolting to seed.
Fennel leaves can be cut from the plant before it flowers. Flowers can be picked for ornamental use, or the flowers can be left so that you can harvest seeds when the pods turn brown.
The bulb can be used once the plant has reached maturity about 12 weeks after planting. The bulb should be about the size of a tennis ball when you harvest.
Fennel is best eaten fresh, but the leaves can be dried and stored in glass jars for flavoring foods later. The seeds can be harvested after seed heads have turned brown and are great for flavoring foods.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Fennel Herb. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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