Growing Fennel Herb in Northeast Florida Gardens
(Foeniculum Vulgare var. dulce & Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum)
Fennel Herb Origin and Uses:
Fennel is an perennial or biennial herb, it is a member of the Parsley family and originated in the Mediterranean area. It closely resembles Dill herb plants at first appearance, but the smells and flavors are distinct.
There are two types of Fennel herb plants. Common Fennel and Florence Fennel.
Common fennel / Foeniculum Vulgare var. dulce , also known as wild fennel, or sweet fennel, is a biennial plant, is often confused with dill, and does not produce a bulb. Common fennel is most often grown as an annual in Northeast Florida. Common fennel has allot of different varieties grown in garden centers including purple and bronze leaf forms. If fennel is grown for its shoots, leaves, and seeds, all of which are used culinary as a seasoning, incorporated into other dishes.
Florence Fennel /Foeniculum vulgare var azoricum, is a perennial herb selection grown for its round bulbous edible leaf bases. Florence Fennel is often referred to as Finocchio, or sweet fennel. The bulbous leaf bases are served roasted, marinated in a vinaigrette, battered and fried, or eaten raw in a salad, and therefore considered a vegetable dish rather than just an herb.
Both types of fennel have edible leaves and seeds, their attractive lacy foliage is often used as a garnish, or chopped and used much like you would use Dill herbs in the kitchen. Fennel has a distinctive Anise-like scent and flavor. The dried shoots of fennel are added to the fire when grilling seafood and meats to add subtle flavor. Note: Like Dill, Fennel’s “seeds” are not seeds at all but tiny dried fruits that contain the seed within them.
Medicinally, fennel water is used as a ‘gripe water’ to ease the stomach of infants. Fennel tea made from crushed fruits and leaves is also used as an appetite reducer.
Growing Season for Fennel Herbs in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida Gardens:
A cool season annual for Northeast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine area gardens. Fennel can be sown from seed directly into the garden in late summer, fall and spring.
Sun Exposure for Fennel in Northeast Florida:
Plant Fennel herbs in areas where it will receive full sun throughout the day.
Soil Preference for Fennel:
Moist, rich, and well draining soils.
Amend your planting site generously with compost when installing your new Fennel herb plants into the garden.
Water and Fertilizer Requirements of Fennel:
Newly planted seeds will require watering every day until the set of mature leaves emerges, then taper back watering to three times a week, then twice a week for in-ground plants and three to four times a week for potted containers.
In General, Herbs need little fertilizer. To much fertilizer can lead to lush green growth with low volitale oils in the plant, less oils equals less flavor and aroma for your herbs. However, when planting into Floridas sandy soils you may find your plants in need of a boost. If so, try fertilizing with a mixture of organic fish emulsions and seaweed at one ounce of each per gallon of water. Put into a sprayer and water every other week or as needed with the mixed solution. If your leaves still look a bit lackluster consider a bit of blood meal fertilizer.
Or, if you find your plant struggling at any point, make up a batch of compost tea and water generously. Repeat as needed weekly or biweekly.
Size of Fennel When Mature:
Fennel plants will grow to heights of 3-6 feet depending on the selection. Florence fennel will grow to 2 ft during the first season, grow higher the second season and set fruit (seeds). Common or Wild Fennel can grow up to 6 ft in height.
Sowing Fennel Seeds into Northeast Florida Soils:
Fennel seeds germinate easily and can be directly sown right into their final destination in the garden, or sown into a pot and transplanted into the garden. Sow your Fennel seeds 1/4 th of an inch below the soil surface.
Harvesting Fennel in the Northeast Florida Landscape:
Fennel can be harvested in as little as 6-8 weeks time from the foliage sprouting above the soil level. Harvest Fennel by removing the outer and lower leaves and shoots as needed.
Fennel seeds, or fruits can be harvested by trimming off the flower stalks in early morning when the seeds have turned a light tan color. Put the flower umbels into a paper bag and allow the seeds to fully ripen. Once fully ripened the seeds can be easily shaken loose. If left in the garden to ripen, seeds will scatter into the soil when you touch the flowering heads.
Blooms and Seeds of Fennel for Northeast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine area Landscape:
Fennel flowers are attractive clusters of small yellow blooms held atop the foliage of the plant in summer. The delicate flower umbels really are quite showy. Combined with the feathery foliage, Fennel herbs makes a pretty garden planting.
Dill seeds are small, oval, and flat, they are a brown color when mature.