Fennel is one of the more hard-working herbs in the garden. Every part of the plant is edible, from the roots to its small yellow flowers. The roots are used as a cooked vegetable, while the stems, leaves and flowers are used as both a vegetable and a herb. The seeds add a slight anise flavor to anything they are added to, and can easily be dried for future use. Planting fennel in your garden allows you continuous access to this truly versatile plant.
Prepare a garden bed in early spring as soon as the soil thaws and dries enough to work. Lay a 2-inch layer of mature compost over the bed and till it into the top 6 inches of soil to improve drainage and soil quality.
Sow two seeds per hole, planting them at a ¼-inch depth. Space the seeds 10 inches apart in the row, spacing rows 18 inches apart. Seeds germinate within seven to 14 days in most cases.
Thin fennel seedlings once they are 3 inches tall. Pinch off the weaker seedling in each planting hole at soil level. Leave the stronger seedling in place.
Water the fennel as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy---usually once weekly is sufficient. Irrigate until the top 6 inches of soil feels moist when you stick your finger into it.
Lay a 2-inch layer of bark mulch around the fennel plants once they are 4 inches tall. Mulch preserves soil moisture, prevents weeds and insulates the soil.