Use fresh fennel leaves in salads or with eggs, fish and sauces.
Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day; partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day; shade means little or no direct sun.
Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.
Life Cycle This refers to whether a plant is an annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals complete their life cycles in one year; biennials produce foliage the first year and bloom and go to seed the second year; perennials can live for more than two years.
Height The typical height of this product at maturity.
Spread The width of the plant at maturity.
Sow Method This refers to whether the seed should be sown early indoors and the seedlings transplanted outside later, or if the seed should be sown directly in the garden at the recommended planting time.
Direct Sow/Indoor Sow
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- Sow seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost in spring using a seed starting kit
- Sow seeds ¼ inches deep in seed-starting formula
- Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 3 pairs of leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Sow outdoors in spring after the last frost. In frost free areas sow from fall to early spring.
- Sow in average soil in full sun.
- Sow seeds thinly and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil.
- Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.
Planting in the Garden:
- Select a location in full sun where water drains quickly after a rainfall.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
- Do not allow plants to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet.
- Thin 10 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches high.
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant's stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- As a tender perennial, sweet fennel is short-lived but will reseed abundantly.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Enjoy the young leaves as a garnish and flavoring for soups, salads, and fish.
- Bulbous stems may be roasted, grilled or served raw.
- Stalks may be used as a celery substitute or used to make broths.
- Use the tasty seeds crushed or whole in sausage and other meats, as well as to make a refreshing tea with a warm, sweet anise flavor.
- Fennel’s lacy texture makes it a valuable garden plant and it is also a favorite of black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
- Fennel may be stored fresh in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer in the fridge for a few days. Separate the stalks from the bulbs and store separately.
- Fennel bulbs may also be frozen after blanching for three minutes.
- Leaves may be dried, but lose flavor when dried. Stalks may be dried, but remove the leaves first.
- Seeds are easily dried.