How to Grow Fennel

Learn how to grow fennel, even in colder climates with enough care.

| October 2014

Made at Home Vegetables, by Dick Strawbridge and James Strawbridge (Mitchell Beazley, 2012), proves just how productively green you can be all year round. Whether you have a tiny urban plot, a terrace, a community garden allotment or plenty of space in your own garden, growing your own vegetables is one of the easiest ways to transform the way you eat. The following excerpt from the chapter “Autumn” teaches you how to grow fennel.

Purchase this book from the GRIT store: Made at Home Vegetables.

Fennel is a vegetable with a distinctive aniseed taste. The bulbs, fronds, seeds and even the stalks can be eaten, and all have the aniseed flavour. Fennel originates from the Mediterranean so it does like a bit of sunshine, but it is possible to grow it very successfully in cooler climates.

Fennel can be grown from seed or by dividing the roots. The seeds are slow to germinate, so in early spring it is best to sow them under cover and only try sowing outside after all danger of frost has passed. Fennel does not like being transplanted, so it is best to sow the seeds in compostable pots, or try toilet rolls packed with compost. Don’t plant fennel near dill, as cross-fertilization may occur. Fennel and tomatoes or potatoes do not do well if planted near each other.

Sow the fennel in rows 45cm (18 inches) apart and 1cm (1/2 inch) deep, covering the seeds with a fine tilth. The plants can easily grow to 1m (about 3 feet) high, so they need reasonable separation. Covering the beds with black plastic to keep them warm is useful for early sowings. You can succession sow every couple of weeks.

For division, split fennel vertically and plant the segments in sandy soil in the autumn, for maturing the following year.

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