Monday, September 19, 2011

Growing Bulbing Fennel in Kihei

2 months from seed - perfect for summer harvesting

Harvested in August at 2 months

There's a short list of veggies that will germinate and grow in Kihei during the hot summer months and believe it or not, fennel is one. Although bulbing fennel is considered a cool season crop it can be harvested at any stage and in the summer the plants are at their best when harvested at 2 months.

Fennel di Firenza
3 months from seed

Fennel seeds have average to below average germination. I plant a generous amount of seed initially and thin the plants as they grow. Even when grown during our coolest weather, I've yet to achieve fennel bulbs that grow as large and round as those found at the market.

4 months from seed

I've grown five varieties of fennel and all have produced a somewhat lean fennel bulb. When full grown, fennel has long, thick roots. It grows well in a container but needs a soil depth of at least 8 inches. For mature bulbing fennel, I plant seeds from October through December. I fill a container with an organic potting soil amended with green sand and an organic all-purpose fertilizer.

Mammoth di Napoli
Producing a flower stalk in late June

If you plant fennel during the fall and leave a bulb to grow through the spring, it should eventually produce flower stalks full of seeds and pollen during the summer. In Tuscany cuisine fennel pollen is known as spice of the angels.
Fennel Pollen Recipes
Foraging for Edible Wild Fennel in Hawaii

Fennel needs daily water and an application of an organic all-purpose fertilizer once a month or fish emulsion twice per month. As the bulbs grow larger it's important to make sure the water is reaching the deeper soil in the container.

Baby fennel is used by gourmet chefs. Here are some photos of it being grown by a farm that grows for the gourmet restaurant market:

Fennel can be used for the bulb and fronds. The fronds are used like dill and work well with baked fish. Sliced fresh fennel bulbs pair very well in a salad with oranges. And, the white bulbing portion can be juiced with other veggies.

Orange & Fennel Salad
Apple & Fennel Salad


  1. I'm planning on planting some fennel next weekend Jane, hope mine get as nice and fat as yours. I'm surprised to hear that fennel is a good summer crop for Kihei, wouldn't have guessed that!

  2. Hi Julie! I've been growing chard, celery and fennel this summer. These plants have yet to bolt or go to seed in the heat. But I have to use them when they're small as the leaves/stalks become tough and bitter when they grow to normal size.

    Fennel is really easy to grow but it takes about 4 months to reach full size. I bet it will grow fat and sweet in your climate!

  3. Aloha, Jane! I am only a couple of weeks away from moving home to Maui. The tools, seeds, books and all will take a slow boat over, but I hope to have the garden beds tidied up so I can get to planting again by the time the shipping container comes in. That fennel looks pretty! I have seeds, and I've seen little pots of it at Kula Hardware. That will be fun to grow!

  4. Hi Pomaika'i! That's great that you'll be back on Maui for what I think are the best months to plant a garden - October and November. You should be able to grow large, round fennel bulbs in Pukalani during the winter months. I was surprised how easy it was to grow.