Grow Your Own

Florence fennel

Florence fennel, a wonderfully ornamental vegetable, is grown for its swollen leaf bases or ‘bulbs’ and edible leaves. When using in salads, the flavour can be improved by slicing the bulb and putting it in a bowl of water and ice cubes in the fridge for an hour. Steam, grill or boil the ‘bulbs’ and serve with cheese sauce or butter; infuse the leaves in vinegar or add as garnish to salad.

Florence fennel

Grow

Provide plenty of moisture throughout the growing season, keep weed free and mulch to conserve moisture.

Earth up (mound soil) round the bulbs as they start to swell, from mid-summer until mid autumn, until the bulb is mature and about 7-10cm (3-4in across) to blanch bulb and to exclude autumn frosts.

Feed with high potassium fertiliser every two weeks once established.

The largest bulbs are formed in warm, sunny, moist summers.

Problems

Bolting: Crops start to flower and produce seeds prematurely; leaves are unusable. This is most often caused by dry soil or hot weather but with fennel, it can be caused by day length and transplanting shock.

Remedy: Ensure the soil or compost in pots is kept moist, especially during hot, dry spells. Using a temporary shade screen or sheets of shading material will help during very sunny weather. Keep the soil moist at all times.

Find out more information on bolting

Slugs: Eat leaves and young shoots.

Remedy: It’s impossible to completely eradicate slugs and snails, so protect vulnerable plants. Non-chemical controls including hunting by torchlight on mild, damp nights, or making traps consisting of a jar half-filled with beer sunk into the ground near plants. Iron phosphate-based pellets are effective and less likely to harm other wildlife than other pellets.

Find out more information on slugs

Small bulbs: Small bulbs grown; only a small part of the bulb is white.

Remedy: Ensure that they are earthed up properly and maintain moisture levels in the soil.

Harvesting

Around 20 days after ‘earthing up’, cut the bulbs off at ground level. They will then re-sprout and the small shoots can be used in salads.

Varieties

'Perfection’: Produces medium sized bulbs with a delicate aniseed flavour. Resistant to bolting and ideal for early sowing.

‘Cantino’: Has a refreshing aniseed flavour. Bolting resistant.

‘Amigo’ AGM: Produces uniform, slightly flattened bulbs. Bolting resistant.

‘Heracles’ AGM: Fast maturing, with moderately sized, flattened bulbs.

Do now

  • Sow seeds indoors
  • Thin out seedlings

Month by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Plant out
Harvest

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