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Gary - Plot 16b:
Someone commented about how fabulous my fennel looked last year so I thought I would share what I did. I think I was just lucky as I didn't do anything special but here goes:
The seeds I used were Kings Fennel Rondo F1 which can be sown directly into the ground or in modules. Kings say that fennel doesn't like root disturbance but starting them off in modules worked fine for me. You can plant anytime from April to May. I have some growing on the windowsill in the conservatory as we speak. Last year I potted them up into larger pots before I hardened them off outside. I then just planted them on the allotment, 25 - 30cm apart and let them grow, keeping the weeds at bay and keeping them well watered until the plants were established. As the swollen stems start to develop, it's a good idea to gradually build earth up around them to preserve the whiteness and flavour. I harvested the leaves from July and bulbs from September and October. I may have left some to get a bit too large, but live and learn. The only other bit of info is that I planted them where I had grown onions the year before, but I am not sure if that is relevant.
Unlike the fennel in the herb section which is grown specifically for its leaves, this fennel is grown for the bulbous plant base which can be used chopped raw in salads, braised as a vegetable or added to casseroles. It has a mild aniseed flavour with a texture much like celery. I love it grilled on the BBQ and you can find my recipe (with a little help from Jamie Oliver) on the "Vegetables and Sides" page of the Recipe section of this website. Happy growing!