There is some gardening advice which seems to make perfect sense when you read it on the internet, but which when you go and try and put it into practice suddenly starts making a lot less sense. Like earthing up fennel bulbs: sounds great in practice, blanching a vegetable to keep it tender by excluding the light, all very sensible.
And then you go and look at your fennel and it all becomes a lot less clear
Fennel bulbs aren’t really bulbs, they are at the base of the stalk, and they’re a few inches tall. I don’t know about anybody else’s soil – maybe if you had a solid clay it would be different – but the only way I could see to earth them up would be to bury the whole bed in an extra four inches of soil, and I didn’t have that amount of soil or compost just lying about.
After scratching my head for a bit and attempting to pile soil up around the bulbs anyway and watching it just trickle down the sides, I remembered another bit of advice on fennel cultivation, which was to mulch the bulbs with grass clippings to keep the soil moist and stopping them from bolting. Now keeping our soil moist isn’t generally a problem around here, but we do have plenty of grass clippings so in a stroke of genius, or possibly madness, I have used that instead. Half of my fennel bulbs (in the spirit of experimentation) are now cosily tucked up under a blanket of grass clippings, half are toughing it out on their own. Assuming they stay that way given the amount of wind we’ve had recently – and that they survive the attentions of the rabbits (which are still turning up their noses at the now-bolting lettuce and currently concentrating on the kale) we shall see whether it has made the blindest bit of difference.
In other news, the other half has harvested his first chilli (purple jalapeno, if you’re wondering). It has not yet been eaten, as I think we’re a bit scared of it, but it does look rather splendid. It had better be good as this will be the first of many … Recipes, preferably those for the faint of heart, appreciated in the comments.