By: Jonathan Sturm

Florence fennel, or finnochio is a variety of the common fennel found growing in railway yards and other unused patches of waste ground everywhere. A much-thicker base, caused by thickened leaf stalks, distinguishes Florence or sweet fennel. It is this mass just above ground level that is the edible portion. The seed is sown in early summer in deep, well-drained soil. Fennel cannot stand waterlogging. The edible bulb is harvested from autumn until mid spring.

Fennel is an unsociable plant that inhibits the growth of other plants in the vicinity. As a consequence, it is best grown away from the main part of the garden if possible. It is grown in rows 300 mm apart with 150 mm between plants. They are generally sown direct, but transplanting is possible. A dense planting needs no blanching, but where stands are thin, draw the soil up to cover the bulb.

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