Growing Fennel
Growing fennel root
   Growing Fennel | Planting Fennel

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How to grow fennel

With plants that require little care once they are well-rooted, adding fennel to a garden can be a rewarding addition to your spice rack. When beginning a garden of home-grown herbs, it is highly suggested to include fennel in the list of those selected to grow. Although many people choose to treat fennel as an annual herb, replanting each year; it is a hardy perennial that will come back year after year if allowed to do so. Growing to a height of as much as four or five feet, the plant prefers cooler climates, making it a good addition to herb gardens in the northern states of the US and Canada. It is reported that fennel grows best in England and Bermuda, the sprouts thriving in their chalky soils; but is certainly known to grow in herb gardens across the US, as long as it is placed in well-drained drier beds.

To grow fennel, the first decision to be made is: should you start them indoors or outdoors?

When growing fennel indoors, the seeds should be planted 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost. Of course, this is always guesswork, especially in the northern states. The last frost might come as late as April or even early May. The germination of the seeds takes approximately 10 to 14 days. Maintaining darkness and a temperature around 65 degrees during this period will afford the best opportunity for a healthy plant. When planting indoors, use peat pots so that the sensitive roots are disturbed as little as possible while placing the pot into the outside soil. The plants may be moved outdoors when they reach the height of three to four inches.

When growing fennel outdoors, it should be planted in the early spring or fall. This is the time that the soil is cool. Situated in full sun, with the seed rows three feet apart will give the opportunity for the plants to take root. Once the seedlings are thriving, thin them out to 12 inches to allow the strongest to grow to a height of 18 inches, then stake them against the wind. One ounce of seeds will be enough to fill a 100 square foot bed. If seeds are inserted into the soil too close together, it will be necessary to discard many plants when thinning them in the bed.

In order to stimulate the optimal production of leaves from the plants, remove the flower heads as they bloom. When growing fennel, it is important to note that the plants will become unruly and take over a large part of a garden if not attended to on a regular basis. It is imperative to pull and discard the woody plants and replant the newer shoots at the end of the growth cycle of a plant. Though not all of the new ones will take root, many will, making it unlikely that a new planting for the next year will be needed.
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