Foeniculum vulgare, or fennel, is an umbelliferous herb that is widely used in alternative medicine and cooking. Having fennel in the garden takes care of one important ingredient in Mediterranean and European dishes, notably sausages and meatballs.
Growing Fennel – Basic Instructions
Since fennel grows tall, the best place to plant it would be at the backyard or any area of the house not restricted by height. Growing fennel takes one to two weeks of germination and between eighty and ninety days to harvest. Despite being a hardy plant, it requires regular watering and loose but well-drained soil. Fennel is best planted in late spring, after the last trace of frost. This perennial plant should be cut down to eight inches during winter when grown in cooler climates. When growing fennel, dill plants should be kept as far as possible to avoid cross-pollination, resulting in seeds that taste bland and odd.
Fennel Plant – Maintenance
Putting fennel seeds in a container is not recommended, but if necessary, a large pot at least twelve inches deep or equivalent to five gallons should be used. A fennel plant requires plenty of space for its bulbs to grow, but gardeners who grow fennel for its seeds can sow more than one plant per pot. Although fennel is not prone to disease or pests, spraying pyrethrin-based insecticidal soap can keep whiteflies on fennel leaves at bay. The roots of a fennel plant demands more attention, as they do not react positively to overwatering and may be permanently damaged when left wet for too long.
Fennel Bulbs – Care
The bulb of fennel can withstand one or two instances of frost. It is important to remember to hill up the soil as the bulb starts to develop so that it does not turn green from exposure to sunlight. When the fennel bulbs grow as big as a small tennis ball, they are ready for harvest. Allowing them to grow any larger would give them a bitter taste. To reap the fennel bulbs, the plant should be sliced of at the soil line. After harvesting, they should be refrigerated and consumed within a few days, as this is the period when they are at their best texture and flavor.