Rob plants Florence fennel, Megan makes kale smoothies

How to grow Florence fennel and prepare kale

Rob plants Florence fennel

  • Florence or bulb fennel is an easy crop to grow and attracts very few pests and diseases.
  • Florence fennel is allelopathic to other plants which means it gives off a chemical that inhibits the growth of neighbouring vegetables. We recommend giving the crop a buffer zone and for this we use flowers. Being winter, we plant calendula on one side of it and alyssum on the other.
  • Prepare the soil for planting by adding compost and some well-rotted chicken manure. An application of rock dust, which has a good amount of phosphorus in it, will benefit this root crop too. Plant seedlings about 20 cms apart.
  • The root of Florence fennel goes as deep as the plant is high, so it’s not a vegetable that can be grown in pots or shallow beds.
  • Plant calendula the furthest away from the sun as you don’t want them blocking the sun from the fennel. Calendula flowers all winter long, it’s edible and you can make a lovely hand cream from the petals. See here for how to make calendula hand cream.
  • Florence fennel has summer and winter varieties. Summer varieties tend to be oblong-shaped, whereas winter ones are more round. Winter chilling makes winter fennel varieties a little sweeter and more tasty.
  • Be careful not to confuse fennel (the herb) with hemlock. The difference is hemlock has a striped stem whereas fennel has a green stem, and hemlock is poisonous!
  • Alyssum is a low-growing plant so is fine to go on the sunniest side. It’s a great attractant for beneficial insects as it smells very sweet and offers loads of nectar. The flowers are edible, but not the best-tasting!
  • Florence fennel is ready for harvest in around 3 months. They’re best eaten at this time, as leaving them in the ground for too long can make them woody.

Megan makes kale smoothies

Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Adam Prest