Annual fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, also know as “bulb” fennel, is a versatile vegetables that makes a great addition to soups, salads, pizza’s and has even been know to make an appearance in desserts (Fennel cupcakes)! It’s high in vitamin C, and is also a good source of calcium, fiber and potassium.
Annual fennel is a relatively fast growing vegetable. Closely related to the hardy perennial herb fennel, It is know to be a finicky plant due to it’s propensity to bolt before maturing into a nice sized bulb. To avoid bolting:
- Plant your fennel early in the season while the weather is still cool
- Be sure to provide your plants with consistent irrigation
- Add a balanced granular fertilizer when seeding or transplanting your fennel
- For the largest, most flavorful bulbs, fertilize again every two weeks until harvest
In the Seattle-area, we can usually grow fennel all summer long, but for those growing in warmer climates plant it early to mid-spring for an early summer harvest. Fennel can be direct seeded or transplanted into the garden. To direct seed, sow plants ¼- ½” deep, and thin to 6-8” apart.
Harvest “bulbs” 3-4” diameter. The crunchy white “bulb” that you eat consists of the swollen stem bases of the leaves. Once harvested, cut off the stalks and store “bulbs” in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Perennial fennel is a beautiful, tall herb that will add a soft, feathery texture to your garden and attract beneficial insects. This type of fennel is a good source of seeds and fronds that are great for seasoning. Perennial fennel is very hardy. It's root spread aggressively and can fill your garden with unwanted volunteer plants. It is considered an invasive weed in some areas so plant with care!
We have found that perennial fennel doesn't grow well in containers, but do plant it someplace where it's spreading nature won't consume other plants or it's tall fronds won't shade them out!