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How to Grow Herb Fennel

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Herb fennel, which can grow 8 feet tall under ideal conditions, is easy to harvest with a simple snip of the shears.

Herb fennel makes a fine addition to egg salad or a smoked salmon dish.

Adam Gibbs

Herb fennel, which can grow 8 feet tall under ideal conditions, is easy to harvest with a simple snip of the shears.

We grow both green and bronze fennel here on Vancouver Island. Beyond color, little differentiates the two types of the herb, but we make the most of the colors in our garden designs. Both types grow vigorously and can quickly turn into a garden screening device. As garden plants go, herb fennel fronds are effortless to harvest and then snip into egg salad or tuna salad to add garden freshness. The seeds make good culinary accents. And for the budding ikebana enthusiast, the fronds offer an elegant backdrop for an arrangement of peonies.

Herb and bulb fennel are different

What is herb fennel, also known as sweet fennel? Is it the same as bulb fennel? The common herb fennels, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Dulce' (green fennel) and its color variant ‘Rubrum' (bronze fennel), are hardy perennials in my garden. They have a sweet licorice flavor in the leaves, stalks, and seeds.

The vegetable fennel, called Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum, is grown for its fist-size bulbous base. Sometimes called finocchio or Florence fennel, this biennial vegetable is normally grown as an annual, though its habit in mild winter areas is to flower, set seed, and die in the second year. The leaves of bulb fennel have a flavor similar to herb fennel's, but cutting the leaves decreases the potential size of the


Fennel can grow in partial shade

Hardy in mild climates, drought tolerant, and little bothered by insects, herb fennel is a kitchen gardener's and cook's friend. It is reliably hardy in the Pacific Northwest, provided the soil drains quickly in the winter. It is said to be hardy to Zone 6, and in colder zones, it can be grown as an annual. Fennel grows best in full sun, but the plant can cope with up to three-quarters shade.

The soil should be rich, moist, and well drained for ideal growth, but herb fennel, like many herbs, has a way of keeping itself going almost regardless of conditions. It has a long taproot that searches out water in dry conditions (bottom photo). Our soil's pH ranges between 6.5 and 7.5, and we regularly get herb fennel plants 8 feet tall.

Planting fennel is no problem. The seeds can be sown directly into garden soil about the time of the last frost. My seeds have sprouted and grown well without any covering of soil. Sowings can be made a month earlier in containers. The seeds should be covered with a thin layer of potting soil and placed in a cool greenhouse or cold frame.

Be wary of where you put your fennel, because it crosses easily with dill, and the results are poor. It's best to keep them far apart or to prevent them from showing flowers at the same time. Herb fennel seedlings can be transplanted without problems until their tops are about 6 inches high. Larger plants have long taproots, and although they can be transplanted in late winter or early spring, they take longer to reestablish themselves.

Category: Forex

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