How to Grow and Harvest Fennel

Growing fennel is a treat if you like licorice but this herb is sometimes called celery herb because it resembles bulb celery or celeriac.

If you grow it at the wrong time (stress it) it will develop seed stalks instead of nice foliage and bulbs.


Fennel illustration showing parts of plant

The wrong time is sowing it so that it matures during hot weather.

Either sow a little early (April 15 to May 15 in zone 4) or a little late.

Note that all cultivated varieties of Florence Fennel (F. vulgare v. azoricum) do grow bulbs if grown properly. Plain old Foeniculum vulgare does not form a bulb.

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Growing Fennel

Sow the seed directly into peat pots and only slightly cover this seed (no more than 1/4 inch deep. Germinate it at a 65-70F soil temperature and thin the seedlings to the single strongest plant in each pot. Grow the seedlings on at 60F (any warmer and the plants will start to stretch.)

In early June, transplant outside and if you have to grow more than a few plants, put them in rows approximately 8 inches apart in the row and 18 inches between rows.

Hill up the base of the bulb if you want to blanch the root; do this two to three weeks before harvest.

You can grow a late crop by sowing directly into the warm soil in the first week of July. Sow seeds one to the inch and then thin to 8 inches apart. Depth etc of the fennel seeds as above.


Fennel bulb after harvest

Harvesting Fennel

Harvesting is as simple as walking down the row and pulling (or digging) up any growing fennel bulb that is larger than two inches in diameter.

I note the stems can be eaten and used as celery. Use the leaves in fish dishes and the seed in making bread.

Traditional Uses Include

  • Digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in infants.

  • Medicinally used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, cholera, backache, snakebites, and bedwetting.

  • Women use to increase breast milk, promoting menstruation, easing the birthing process, and increasing sex drive.

  • Fennel oil is used as a flavoring agent in food, laxatives, and fragrance for soaps and cosmetics

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