The Complete Gardener's Guide,

Materials Needed

  • fennel seeds
  • small pots
  • soil
  • sharp knife

Step 1: Plant Fennel Seeds

This choice vegetable prefers a sunny, sheltered location and moist, rich soil, improved with lots of well-rotted organic matter ­— less than optimal conditions will cause the plants to bolt. Sow indoors into small pots to avoid disturbing the roots when transplanting, or sow outside when all risk of frost has passed. Harden off indoor-grown seedlings, and plant them out in late spring, spacing plants 12 inches apart.

Step 2: Regularly Water Plants

Water plants especially during dry spells, keeping the soil permanently moist. Watering will also help to prevent bolting. Weed often, and cover the stems with soil as they grow to blanch and make them sweeter.

Step 3: Harvest the Plants

Florence fennel is ready to harvest about 12 weeks from sowing; when the stems are about the size of tennis balls. Don’t allow them to grow larger, or they will become tough.

Step 4: Consider Resprouting

Instead of harvesting fennel by pulling it straight from the ground, cut the swollen stems off just above ground level with a sharp knife. Unless you need the space for other crops, leave the roots in the ground to regrow and produce a second crop of leaves.

Step 5: Keep the Stumps Well Watered

Within two weeks, the plant will produce new shoots. Although these won’t grow into full-sized bulbs before fall, the tasty, feathery leaves can be used fresh as an herb in soups and salads.

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