Growing Fennel

This year, I grew fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) for the first time. I started fennel bulbs from seed in February under grow lights and transplanted them to the garden in late April. 

Growing Fennel

Fennel is grown from seed and enjoys full sun and well-drained soil. If starting indoors, begin about 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost date. If direct sowing from seed, plant seeds 1-2" apart and thin to about 6-12" apart. Plants should grow about 3-6 feet tall and will have lovely wispy fronds that will appeal to most pollinators (I found butterflies liked mine). In my small garden, I was able to grow about 10 bulbs of fennel in two 2’x4’ planters.

First growth indoors of fennel seed under grow lights.

First growth indoors of fennel seed under grow lights.

Because I grow food in such a small space, I want to be sure my space goes to food I will definitely eat. I don't tend to cook a lot with fennel, but do occasionally. I'll be honest, the challenge of growing something new is what got me to grow fennel this year for the first time. I'm happy to report that I have no regrets about growing fennel, and it was delicious. 

The fennel bulbs when first transplanted from the indoor seed pots.

The fennel bulbs when first transplanted from the indoor seed pots.

Both the fennel and the fronds (light greens at the top that resemble dill) are both edible. Fronds can be made into pesto, added to salads, sauteed with other vegetables and meat, etc. Fennel has an anise (licorice) type of flavor. I like to roast it with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and Parmesan, but as you'll see if you make the Fennel and Seafood salad, it can be amazing raw too.

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Fennel in pots.

The fennel got as big as my head (see below). Truth be told, I should have probably harvested these earlier, but didn't get around to it. The taller they grow, the more they end up with a tall, thick stalk that's inedible. So, best to pull them when the bulb is nice and compact.

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I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine