Herb Series – Part 4 – Fennel

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This may not be the most common Italian herb, but anyone who knows about fennel, knows it is often used by Italians – especially to flavor sausage, stews, salads and even fish.  Related to parsley, fennel can be used for ornamental purposes thanks to its bush like shape with its tall flowery branches reaching sometimes up to 4 feet.  You can prepare the bulb of fennel like an onion, but not an onion substitute b/c  fennel is very sweet.  You can also use the leaves as part of your salad.  Fennel seeds also acts as a natural gas reliever… just thought I’d mention it…

fennel plant
fennel plant

To Grow:

Sunlight: Full sun is needed.  That means 8 hours direct sunlight.

Type of soil:  Rich and deep.  In other words it should be well fertilized and hold lots of organic materials for nutrients.   My father in law grows this and does not need to fertilize because his soil is already so rich from years of tending to it.  Make sure the soil has good water drainage.

Planting by Seed: Plant seeds when the temperature is consistently above 59 degrees F.  Otherwise, they will not germinate (start to grow).  Space the seeds 12 inches apart and only about 1/4 inch deep into the soil.  If planting rows keep the rows 3 feet apart because these babies will grow!  You should start seeing them sprout between 1 and 2 weeks. It will take 3 months until full maturity.

Watering:  During germination you do not want the soil to become dry.  Make sure to water each day (not drenching) until the shoots come up.  Then do it once or twice a week.

Harvest:  When you can see the bulbs are about 4 inches, pull it out of the ground.  Hold the bulb when you pull it out.

Note:  Aphids really like fennel, so do not plant these near other aphid attracting plants.

Next week we tackle rosemary and dill!


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