Easy Steps To Grow Fennel In Containers
The popular herb fennel is typically grown for its distinctive anise flavour as a food ingredient. Bulbul fennel is grown for its extensive, white bulbs, which go particularly well with fish. Can fennel be grown in pots, though? Learn more about how to grow fennel in containers.
History And Origin Of Fennel
Fennel was widely available in the ancient Mediterranean region. Roman soldiers thought fennel could make them stronger. Marathon, which translates as “grow thin,” is its Greek name. The Greek name of fennel reflects the idea that it can aid in appetite suppression.
Greek mythology holds that Prometheus, the person credited with introducing fire to humanity, hid it inside a fennel stalk. A fennel stalk with a pine cone on top was used as a wand by devotees of Dionysus, the god of wine, theatre, and agriculture. The Thyrsus was the name of this wand.
Pliny, a Roman author, asserted that fennel had excellent medicinal qualities and was particularly advantageous for vision. Fennel was deemed necessary for every garden by the great emperor Charlemagne in 812 AD (CE) because of its extraordinary therapeutic properties.
Throughout history, different cultures have held a variety of fennel-related beliefs. Even some Western cultures believed fennel could ward off ghosts and evil spirits. In the past, they used to fill their keyholes and hang them from their doorways.
English people used fennel as an appetite suppressant in the 1200s. It served as their fuel during their days of fasting. Fennel was first used in a patented medicinal elixir known as absinthe in the late 1700s, some 500 years later. After World War I, it gained popularity among Bohemians in Europe and the US.
Spanish missionaries brought fennel to North America for the first time. In their herb gardens, they raised fennel. From these mission gardens, it escaped cultivation, and today it grows untamed in California.
Today, Europe is where fennel is most popular. All over the world, fennel seeds are used as a spice in food. Due to its intriguing flavour, availability in various forms, and distinct health advantages, it has earned a place in modern kitchens.
Types Of Fennel
There are two types of fennel.
1. Herb Fennel
The main reason herb fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is grown is for its seeds. It also goes by the name sweet fennel. It is a herb used to flavour food.
The fennel herb plant can reach heights of three to five feet. All of the foliage's parts are edible, and it has feathery, dill-like foliage. The herb is a common ingredient in soups, salads, fish dishes, and teas. Additionally, fennel seeds are utilized in drinks, desserts, and baked goods.
Late summer sees the appearance of yellow flower clusters. It is harvested and used for the leaves, stems, and seeds. Hardy and perennial, sweet fennel has a flavour similar to sweet licorice in its seeds, leaves, and stalks.
2. Vegetable Fennel
Due to its flavour, the vegetable fennel (also known as Florence fennel or Finocchio – Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce) is frequently called anise fennel or fennel of Florence. Vegetable fennel dishes can be made using a plethora of recipes. Florence fennel is related to carrots and yields a vegetable that resembles a bulb.
Vegetable fennel is shorter in height than herb fennel. Usually, the fennel bulb is taken before the plant blooms. You can always wait till a few plants have flowered before harvesting them, then take both at once. As microgreens, fennel seedlings are also grown.
Varieties Of Fennel
Numerous plants go by the name “fennel.” All fennel varieties have tall, feathery leaves that resemble dill plants and an anise-like scent. Here I’ve shared the most popular varieties of fennel.
1. Florence Fennel
The annual plant is known as Florence fennel. Foeniculum vulgare v. azoricum is frequently used as a vegetable. Florence fennel, also known as “bulb fennel,” has a broad, bulbous root that resembles celery and grows to a height of about 3 feet. Italian cooking frequently uses the Florence fennel's leaf stems. Florence fennel can be used in stir-fries, either boiling or steamed or in salads in the form of raw slices. Washington State University Extension suggests the Florence fennel varieties “Trieste” and “Zefa Fino.”
2. Sweet Fennel
A perennial plant known as sweet or common fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, is grown for its seeds and as a herb. Sweet fennel can grow to be between four and five feet tall. Fennel leaf is a prominent ingredient in sauces and mayonnaise in French and Italian cooking. Fennel is a component of specific bread, pastries, and alcoholic beverages.
3. Bronze Fennel
Bronze fennel or Foeniculum vulgare, “Purpurascens,” is sweet fennel whose leaves have an attractive bronze cast. The plant is beneficial not only as an herb but also as an ornamental in the flower garden. Bronze fennel is often planted in butterfly gardens since it attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects. In particular, the bronze fennel is a vital host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly.
How To Grow Fennel In Containers
Choose The Right Container
Depending mainly on the kind, fennel plants can reach heights of 3 to 5 feet. Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom at least 12 to 14 inches deep, as its roots extend widely to prevent waterlogging.
Can fennel be grown in pots? If the pots are large enough, yes. For starters, fennel produces a lengthy taproot that requires a lot of depth. Additionally, by “earthing up,” you can develop susceptible fennel bulbs. To protect the bulbs from the sun as they grow.
Fennel is simple to grow in pots. Doing so may be an excellent way to keep the plant from self-seeding in undesirable areas of your landscape. The container must have drainage holes, be at least 10 inches deep, and be the same width. In rows 18 inches apart, space seeds are 4-6 inches apart.
Typically, seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days. Florence fennel plants should be spaced 8 to 12 inches apart after they start to bulb. Plant 3–4 feet of row every 3–4 weeks to provide a steady supply of bulbs.
Selecting A Planting Site
The key is a sunny planting location with sufficient soil drainage. Raised beds and containers are additional possibilities in addition to planting in the garden. To prevent cross-pollination, fennel should not be grown in the same region as dill or coriander.
This will change the flavour of the seeds. To prevent it from shading surrounding plants, remember to account for the fennel variety's mature size before planting. Additionally, planting near beans or tomatoes is not advised because it may stunt their growth.
Soil To Grow Fennel In Containers
Use loamy, well-draining soil to grow fennel in containers. Additionally, it's a terrific idea to improve the potting soil by adding 20% old manure or compost. You can aerate your soil by turning it with a trowel throughout the middle of the growing season. Fertile, well-draining soil is preferred by fennel.
Before planting, add compost Performance Organics All Purpose In-Ground Soil to your existing soil to improve it. Use loamy, well-draining soil to grow fennel in containers. Additionally, it's a terrific idea to improve the potting soil by adding 20% old manure or compost. You can aerate your soil by turning it with a trowel throughout the middle of the growing season. But take additional care to protect your fennel plant from harm.
Sunlight To Grow Fennel In Containers
Plant fennel where it will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day because it loves the sun. After the final spring frost, sow fennel. Light frosts won't harm this plant, but it needs protection when young. It's simple to grow fennel. They prefer soil that drains well and directs sunlight. Rich soils are excellent for them. Once or twice a week during dry months, water them.
Fennel cultivated in containers needs to be constantly moist without becoming waterlogged, so plant it in soil that drains well and water it frequently. To get the most delicate flavour, harvest the bulb before it bolts. Evenly moist but not saturated soil is preferred by fennel. When the soil feels dry, about an inch deep, water, but make sure the plant doesn't get soaked.
The soil will dry out quicker if you grow the plant in a bright, well-ventilated area. Keep the soil just barely damp at all times. Water the plant only when the topsoil seems dry to the touch while it is grown inside. Additionally, keep the leaves dry and always water from the root.
Temperature And Humidity
Fennel is a perennial plant within its growth zones, but gardeners outside those zones frequently grow it as an annual. Frost and low weather can harm the plant. Additionally, hot and dry weather may encourage it to bolt and set seed. As long as the temperature is relatively warm, gardeners in mild climes can occasionally plant in the late summer for a fall harvest. The plant thrives in conditions with moderate humidity and temperatures between 60 and 70°F.
Grow Fennel From Seeds
Spring is the optimal time to plant fennel seeds. They can be planted in containers or immediately outside. We will focus on seed growing in pots since they have a higher chance of surviving. However, if you want to attempt growing things outside, you have to scatter some seeds in the location where you want them to grow and give them a little water every so often. However, if you'd prefer to grow fennel seeds in containers, the following instructions should be able to assist you.
- Assemble fennel seeds, appropriate seed compost, and seed trays.
- The compost should be put in a compartment. Almost all of the compost should be at the top.
- Put a few seeds on the ground.
- The soil over the seeds just a little.
- Continue until all of your compartments are filled.
- To evenly wet the seeds, softly mist the tray.
- Put the tray somewhere warm and sunny.
- When you see that the soil is getting dry, mist the tray.
- In a few weeks, the seedlings should start to appear.
- They can go in their pots around 7 cm (about 3 inches) tall.
- You must harden off the ones you intend to put in the garden. Simply leave them outside for a few hours every day.
Grow Fennel Bulbs
Grow your delectable companion from a more straightforward bulb. Even a fennel plant from the store will work for this! Just use the leaves when cooking; don't touch the bulb. If you've never seen fennel before, the bulb is the plant's bulbous white base.
- Pick a jar or shallow dish.
- In the vessel, place the base face-down.
- Add enough water to cover the bulb's bottom half.
- Put the bowl in a bright spot.
- Water should be changed every few days.
- Within a few days, new shoots should appear!
- New, stronger roots will eventually emerge.
- The fennel can be kept in water and harvested frequently.
- The traditional bulb can also be moved into a pot.
The amount of compost needed to grow fennel is only 20%. Later, throughout the plant's growing season, you can side-dress it twice more with compost or aged manure. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer to fertilize a more than 4 weeks old plant. Only use half of the recommended dose listed on the product's label. Feed the plant every four to six weeks.
Fertilizer is typically unnecessary for fennel. However, it will value compost that has been incorporated into the soil at the time of planting and layered around its base periodically throughout the growing season.
Due to its lengthy taproot, fennel is challenging to separate. The best way is seed propagation. If you live where fennel can only be produced as an annual, this is a quick and low-cost way to acquire new plants. This is how:
- Look for seed heads to develop at the end of the fennel plant's growing season.
- To gather the seeds, shake the heads over a sheet or tarp.
- For a week or two, spread the seeds out in a single layer in an excellent, dark, dry location to finish drying them.
- The following spring, sow the seeds in the garden after storing them in an airtight, labelled container.
If you'd like to stop the plant from going to seed, you can pinch off blossoms as they appear. This prolongs the period during which the foliage is developing and tasting at its peak. In your garden, it also prevents the plant from readily self-seeding. Allow the flowers to bloom, though, if you want the seeds for harvesting or self-seeding.
Potting And Repotting Of Fennel
An all-purpose, well-draining potting mix works nicely for fennel. To avoid needing to report your container-grown plants, try to pick a pot that will fit their mature size straight away. The roots of fennel dislike being disturbed. So using biodegradable pots for seedlings that can be buried in the ground is necessary.
Harvest the remaining fennel off your plant if frost is predicted in your area. If not, the vegetation will probably be harmed or die. Fennel plants can overwinter for a second growing season in warm areas but often deteriorate afterward. Row coverings or another type of protection should be used to safeguard the plants if unseasonably cold weather is predicted in certain regions.
Common Pests And Plant Diseases Of Fennel
Though caterpillars may eat the leaves, fennel rarely has significant pest or disease issues. The simplest solution is to remove them from the plants manually. They most frequently take the form of parsley worm caterpillars, which develop into important pollinators for gardens called black swallowtail butterflies.
Therefore, if they aren't posing a severe threat, you can decide to disregard these green caterpillars with black and yellow stripes. Aphids can occasionally be a problem, but powerful water sprays can remove them. On edible herbs, avoid applying chemical pesticides. Root rot can occur in soil that doesn't drain well. Try a raised garden bed or container to obtain ideal soil conditions in heavy soil conditions.
Gather fennel leaves as needed for fresh use throughout the growing season. Both raw and cooked foods use it. A bushier growth habit and hence more harvestable foliage will be encouraged by frequent harvesting. A third of the plant should not be removed at once, though. Bulbs can be harvested as soon as the base of the stem swells. Remove the plants, and for up to five days before using, store the bulbs, unwashed, in the refrigerator.
How To Take Care Of Your Fennel Plant
Fennel in pots and gardens has similar requirements. Both enjoy the sun and thrive in nutrient-rich, wet, well-drained soil. It might be challenging to maintain sand moist and well-drained. But skilled gardeners can maintain moisture in well-draining soil by adding a lot of organic matter to the soil. We will now examine the specifics of caring for the two varieties of fennel.
The herb fennel returns yearly because it is a transient perennial. The plants must be replaced after just three to four years, though.
Would you like to try some delicious vegan fennel recipes for your kids? Please click here to find them on my vegan website.
Fennel bulbs are grown as annuals because they are harvested whole for use in cooking. Feel free to comment here if you need any help growing fennel in containers.
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