How To Grow Fennel: Tips & More

Fennel is known for its bulbous, white base, which looks like an onion. It is also layered like cabbage and has a celery-like crunch. Fennel produces a delicious harvest with a subtle anise flavor and feathery leaves. Fennel, a member of the carrot family, is used in many cultures for culinary and medicinal purposes, including as a popular garnish for soups. Learn more about growing fennel.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Fennel

Fennel loves soil that is rich in organic material and is well-draining. Fennel plants thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 to 6.8. It needs to be grown in full sunlight and cool temperatures during the spring and fall.

Growing Fennel From Seed

Fennel can be difficult to find and is not always as readily available at nurseries and garden centers; however, you can always grow fennel in your garden by starting them from seeds.

  • You can sow seeds directly in the garden. Seeds can be planted at 1/4 to a 1/2 inch in depth and covered lightly with soil.
  • Start seeds indoors, then transplant them to the garden. Seeds should be planted at 1/4 to a 1/2 inch in depth, and once the frost is no longer a threat, it can be transplanted outdoors.
  • If allowed to germinate, fennel plants can self-sow.

How to Grow Fennel

Fennel can proliferate and should be grown outside as often as possible, but it can also be grown in containers. Fennel is a hostile neighbor in vegetable gardens, so it’s best not to allow it to mix with other species or interplant it.

Fennel attracts beneficial bugs to your garden, specifically ladybugs, syrphids, flies, tachinids, and hoverflies, which feed on common garden pests.

How to Plant Fennel

Fennel plants grow to a height of 3-6 feet. You should space plants 12-18 inches apart, with two to three feet between rows.

When to Water Fennel

You should water plants until they have well-established roots and can tolerate drought.

Fennel and Nutrients

Fennel is an easy-going and adaptable plant. Fennel doesn’t require much fertilization besides being planted in soil rich in organic matter. To give plants an extra boost, you can add compost to your soil.

Common Fennel Plant Diseases and Pests

Fennel is relatively easy to maintain and not easily affected by disease or pests. However, you might encounter some problems from time to time.

These are just a few issues to be aware of when growing fennel.

  • Caterpillars – You might notice caterpillars on the leaves of your plants. This crop is most likely to be sought out by the swallowtail butterfly.
  • Aphids– A quick spray with a garden hose can keep aphids away. You can also grow and plant nasturtium near your home as a trap crop.
  • Downy Mildew – Space plants appropriately to allow for airflow between them and prevent mildew from growing.
  • Powdery Mildew – Space plants properly to allow for adequate airflow. To eliminate powdery mildew from plants, spray the leaves with 1 tsp dish soap solution to 1 gallon of water.

Harvesting Fennel

Fennel matures quickly in the garden and can be harvested in approximately two months. Once the fennel plants have been established, harvest the feathery fronds and trim the foliage for garnish. You can harvest the bulb once it is at least 2 to 3 inches in diameter. After the flowers have dried on their plants, collect the seeds, and make sure not to drop any, as dropped seeds can produce more fennel plants.

Here are some delicious ways to use fennel.

  • Add thinly cut raw fennel to your salads for an intense anise taste.
  • The crunchy taproot becomes softer in texture and more robust flavor roasted.

The Best Fennel Varieties To Grow

There are wide fennel varieties you can choose from and try in your garden, including these!

  • ‘Bronze’
  • ‘Florence’
  • ‘Rhondo’

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