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FENNEL

We admire fennel because in the vegetable world it’s often made out to be an outcast and the underdog.

If there’s one vegetable that comes up time and time again as the one to avoid planting next to others, it’s fennel. But that rap is unfounded in the small-space garden, with this mild-mannered, anise-flavoured, quasi–root vegetable/herb getting on well with its fellow tenants.

Fennel is known for its digestive qualities – balancing out the ‘windy vegetables’, such as cabbage and Jerusalem artichoke – but is better known as being another swear word in Italian (this time not so mild). See what we mean by the underdog?

Fennel is a hardy, sun-worshipping plant known for its vigorous growth. Because it often reaches heights of around 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in), fennel tends to shade out other plants. With this in mind, a good idea is to play matchmaker and plant shade-tolerant varieties in its shadow, especially in an exposed garden. While harvesting the root bulbs of this vegetable is the ultimate goal, and can be done with relative ease, don’t ignore the abundant fronds, which can be continuously harvested for a sweet herbal flavour.

PLANTING

Soak the seeds prior to planting to aid germination. The seeds should be propagated in seed trays prior to transplanting. Celeriac is slow to germinate so don’t grow despondent if you don’t see growth even after two weeks.

WATERING

In ground: Water daily for the first 4 weeks and 3-4 times a week in the absence of rainfall thereafter. More frequent watering may be required during the warmer times of the year.

In Pots: Water daily while establishing and for the entirety of the warm season, otherwise every second day – after they are 4 weeks old – if growing during the cooler times of the year.

MAINTENANCE

Add compost to the patch and plant seedlings at half the recommended spacing.

After a month, mulch to a depth of 3–5cm and apply a monthly dose of liquid seaweed solution to give them a tonic.

At 12 weeks thin out the plants, harvesting some as young fennel and allowing the remaining plants to reach maturity. Fronds can be harvested sparingly during the growth and used as a herb.

HARVESTING

Time until first harvest: About 16 weeks

How to harvest: Loosen the soil around the plant bulb with a hand fork and gently pull on the fronds to release from the ground.

TIP

If you don’t have space to grow this vegetable, you will find it growing wild in sunny positions just about everywhere. We see it near rivers, along railway lines, and even on the shoulder of the freeway.

WHEN TO PLANT

Cool/Mountainous: March - May + September - December
Temperate: March - June + September - December
Subtropical: March - September
Tropical: April - July

BEST GROWN FROM

Seedling

POSITION

Full sun

DEPTH

1 cm

SPACING

30 cm

IDEAL PH LEVEL

6.5–7.5

SOIL

Add organic matter before planting to improve fertility and ability to hold water

BEST SUITED TO

Pots, in-ground

GROWING IN POTS?

<30cm

POLLINATION

Self pollinate

CHILL FACTOR

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