Most herbs are a useful ally to the organic gardener, but there is one that is the exception to that rule. That one is fennel, which is a shame because fennel is a great plant for keeping pests away. So let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of companion planting fennel.
Companion Planting Fennel
There are so many plants that won’t grow anywhere near fennel that it’s best to keep it away from pretty much everything. That said, there are a few worth mentioning so read on for some of the more interesting effects of companion planting fennel. The following are taken from the complete writings of Dr. John R. Christopher.
What Not To Grow With Fennel And Why
Here are a few specific plants and the effects of growing them near fennel. There are many more but this short list will give you the general idea.
Caraway And Fennel
If you sow caraway seeds anywhere near fennel you’ll be forgiven for thinking you have a faulty batch of seeds. Fennel actually stops the germination process of caraway seeds.
Coriander(Cilantro) And Fennel
Fennel will hinder the germination of coriander seeds in much the same way as it stops caraway germination. This works both ways though, as coriander will hinder fennel germination too. Plus if fennel is growing and coriander is planted nearby the fennel will not produce seeds.
Beans And Fennel
Beans are liable to suffer from disturbed growth if grown anywhere near fennel.
Kohlrabi And Fennel
I have no idea why kohlrabi specifically suffers from disturbed growth when grown near fennel. Or if indeed fennel affects all brassicas, the good doctor never made it clear. But it’s probably good practise to keep fennel away from all brassicas.
Tomatoes And Fennel
This one makes a lot of sense as fennel is related to parsley. Fennel will blight the growth of tomatoes. As does parsley with some types of tomatoes( more research is needed on this subject).
Potatoes And Fennel
Like their relative the tomato, potatoes will not grow well near fennel. This is the same for all members of the nightshade family.
Peppers And Fennel
As members of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes peppers will struggle to grow near fennel.
Aubergines(Egg plants) And Fennel
Another member of the nightshade family of plants, aubergines will not grow successfully near fennel.
Wormwood And Fennel
A useful plant for repelling flea beetles, moths and cabbage white butterflies, wormwood stops or hinders growth in many plants. It exudes a chemical that has been identified as absinthin, from both the roots and from leaves washed in rainwater. Fennel will not grow too well around wormwood.
What To Grow With Fennel
Sadly this is a very short list, why? Because fennel is not a very companionable plant. The following even have a caveat.
Dill And Fennel
Being members of the same family, these 2 will grow together reasonably well. However, if you are wanting to save seed from either plant, they should be kept apart. This is due to cross pollination, as they are so closely related.
Where To Plant Fennel In The Vegetable Garden
Fennel is a relatively easy plant to grow, it prefers full sun, well draining, nutrient rich soils. The plants should be watered during dry spells, and they make excellent insect repellents. Apart from slugs and snails that seem to enjoy that aniseed flavour especially in seedlings and young plants.
Sadly, as noted above, fennel is not a very friendly herb. So it’s best to keep it as far away as possible from other plants. In fact, it’s probably best to grow fennel either in a dedicated bed, or to get the benefits of its insect repelling qualities, in pots.
Did You Know?
Fennel is said to relieve colic in infants and is more effective when mixed with catnip. Dairy farmers used to feed fennel to cows and goats to increase milk production.