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Mar 15, 2012 05:58 PM

Anybody grow fennel?

I read that it can inhibit the growth of other vegetables. The one time I grew it successfully, I did not notice any problems though that was before I read this and if there were any, I would have attributed it to other things. Last year I tried growing it in a large pot away from my other vegetables without success. What say you fennel growers?

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  1. I planted fennel a couple of years ago for the first time, and I didn't really have very good luck with it. I ended up with virtually no bulbs. Though maybe I shouldn't have let it go to seed? Last year, I had little volunteer fennel plants all over the yard.

    No help, I know.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Krislady

      Thanks for your reply. If I recall correctly, there is a fennel that doesn't produce bulbs and one that does. Perhaps you planted the first type. Of course, I could be wrong and hopefully someone will correct me.

    2. To answer your question about seeds and bulbs, here's a quote from the Backyard Gardening blog,

      "Though the plant can produce seeds as well as vegetable, you can’t get both from each individual plant. You have to harvest the bulb before the plant goes to seed. So if you want to use your fennel for all its uses, you’ll need to grow a few plants to take advantage of its versatility."
      It's an entire page about How To Grow Fennel. Note that fennel isn't a great container plant.

      I've grown both the vegetable fennel and the bronze fennel variety, both from seeds started indoors. The bronze variety does not produce a bulb. I grew the bronze fennel purely for decorative purposes. But the vegetable variety was used only for the fronds and later seeds. My garden was mostly shady at that time so the fennel plants didn't get the required full sun during the day. Still, I did get what I wanted from each plant. And, the aroma was heavenly. I didn't plant the fennel in the vegetable garden but amongst plants in the perennial border.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gio

        Thank you, Gio. That is very helpful.

      2. I've grown bulbing fennel in the past. I didn't notice any inhibition of the other plants around it.

        Now, where I live in coastal SoCal, our seaside cliffs are loaded with tons of wild fennel (non-bulbing). I go out and harvest from these 3 times a year. Early spring brings out the wild frawns to be used in a lot of fish and vegetable dishes. In late Spring/early Summer, I get the fennel pollen from the flowers to use with fresh honey, cheeses, and as a light flavoring for baked goods. At the end of summer, I pull off the seeds and dry to be used in homemade sausages and warm Fall dishes (like a fennel seed crusted pork tenderloin).

        4 Replies
        1. re: Novelli

          Thanks, Novelli. I will try it again. I'm impressed with your resourcefulness!

          1. re: Novelli

            I love the way you harvest all stages of the plants. Just to clarify, those are petals from the flowers, not pollen. The pollen grains are too small to see much less collect, but the petals do taste great.

            A local market grower told me that spring-planted fennel will produce the most bulbs. Just to note, I've had fennel (not wild anise) grow as a perennial in my coastal garden, blooming continually from new shoots at the base of the stem, for over three years. The flowers produce nectar, an important food source for many beneficial insects, so I leave them in.

            1. re: toodie jane

              That's pretty much how it is here. We have fennel growing on street dividers, on the side of the sidewalks, in little patches of dirt underneath the stop signs...everywhere.

              In the summer I love seeing them loaded with bees and wasps (best garden patrol there is!)

              1. re: Novelli

                In other words, it's invasive. Once established it's pretty hard to kill.

          2. We put bronze fennel in the vegetable garden last year to provide food and hosting for the Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. They were mushed up right between 4 tomato plants and a couple of basil plants, all of which grew to enormous size.
            So my answer would be, no, it does not inhibit growth of tomatoes and basil plants. Oh, and the tansy growing right next to it practically took over the garden. So it didn't affect that, either.

            5 Replies
              1. re: jmcarthur8

                Those would actually be Anise Swallowtails (assuming you are on the West coast, if you are on the East, they'd either be Eastern Blacks (if the butterfleis were black, or Old World (maybe)) which look similar. Real tiger swallowtail caterpillars eat wild cherry leaves.
                I used to grow something that MIGHT have been fennel, of a sort. I

                say "might" because the pacakgeing was quite confusing. I would buy

                the seed packets at some Chinese grocery stores, and the seed was

                pcakaged for chinese gardeners. On the packet (along with a photo of

                a bunch of something with feathery leaves were the words "Herbs Small

                Chives Fennel" . The seed inside was always clearly fennel or dill

                (or at least something in the carrot family) it never grew all that

                much, but waht grew was...odd. Depending on which plant you pulled

                crushed and sinffed, it might smell like fennel, or dill, or parsely,

                or cumin or....

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  Yep, you're right. Eastern Blacks here in West Georgia. I am still learning my butterflies from my friend who has a certified butterfly habitat in her yard.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    was it an herb garden mix? dill, parsley, cumin, fennel, cilantro, all from same family with diff flavors, diff foliage but those some flat-topped clusters of tiny white flowers. The tiny encarsia preditory wasps (gardener's security patrol) love them.

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      Not impossible, but that seems a little more how do I put it, "advancedt" than the level of seeds this company offereed. Besides all the plants looked the same they just smelled different.