Fennel, a semi-hardy perennial, is cultivated as an annual. Two kinds are commonly grown in the garden: sweet fennel and Florence fennel. Sweet fennel is more popular and reaches a height of 4 to 6 feet. Florence fennel or finocchio grows about 2 feet high and has thickened, overlapping leaf bases. Fennel is a member of the family Apiaceae, which also includes dill, cumin, coriander, caraway and parsley. It is grown for its feathery foliage, which is used fresh; for its bulbous root and stalks, which can be used raw or cooked; and for its dried seeds, which are used to flavor savory Mediterranean dishes.
Scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare
Common name: Fennel
How to grow and maintain Fennel:
Foeniculum vulgare seed is planted by the grower at depths of approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inches primarily on 40-42 inch raised beds with 2 seedlines per bed. Foeniculum vulgare seed is usually coated to facilitate precision planting although thinning is required to achieve the final stand. It is also transplanted, particularly in the winter months, from plants produced under greenhouse conditions.
Water soil with a light spray nozzle setting until shoots appear, usually between 1 and 2 weeks, afterwards water once or twice weekly as needed.
Control weeds when plants are young. Mulch plants with straw or lawn clippings to prevent weed growth and help maintain cool and moist soil conditions.
When bulbs develop, apply 3 tablespoons of a nitrogen based fertilizer (21-0-0) for every 10 feet of row. This plant requires moderate amounts of nitrogen but has low phosphorus and potassium requirements. A soil test will determine if it is necessary to add additional phosphorus and potassium to the soil.
Harvest Foeniculum vulgare when the bulbs are roughly 3 inches wide. With a sharp knife or pruners, cut the bulb free of the tap root and clean up any withered or brown fronds. You can cut the rest of the fronds a couple inches above the bulb if you would like, but some growers prefer leaving the fronds on for market. If you do this, keep fronds misted and cool: Like dill, they will readily wilt. Fennel(Foeniculum vulgare) keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week, but it should be used up rather quickly.