Artichokes are not only a unique vegetable to include in your garden, but it's also rather attractive as it grows. While they aren't a common gardening choice, it isn't difficult to grow artichokes. With a little bit of know-how, you can enjoy a harvest of fresh artichokes that will provide a nutritious change of pace and attractive artichoke flowers in late summer.
What Are Artichokes?
Artichoke plants are from the family of thistles, cultivated over centuries in the Mediterranean into delicious food! While the entire plant is edible, artichoke plants produce edible flower buds that can be harvested and cooked before they bloom.
Thistles are known for their capacity to grow in almost every location, and artichokes are no exception. Artichoke plants can be grown in nearly every one of the USDA hardiness zones in the United States and can even be grown perennially in zones 7 through 11, where offers mild winters. In colder climates, gardeners grow artichokes as annuals.
How To Plant Your Artichokes
It isn't common to start growing artichokes from seeds. It's certainly possible, but it takes a considerable amount of time. Planting artichokes directly from transplant is much easier. And you can find artichoke root divisions and transplants at many nurseries and online.
Grow From Artichoke Seeds
Indoor artichoke seedlings will need to be about 60 days indoors before they can be transplanted into your garden. If temperature drops below freezing, wait to plant until after the last frost or cover plants with a 6-inch layer of protection. For best result, start indoors in a container and grow outdoor when it's frost-free
Artichokes require a lot of space, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall and spreading out up to 6 feet in diameter. They're very large plants when thriving under ideal growing conditions! Since they require full sun, you'll need to give them even more growing space, or they'll shade out each other. Plant artichokes 4 feet apart in rows, spacing rows 6 to 8 feet away from each other. While planting, build the row up into a mound to improve the soil drainage.
Care For Growing Artichoke Plants
Soil And Light
Artichoke plants need plenty of sunlight and will thrive in full sun. While they can tolerate some shade but will result in less harvest
When it comes to the growing medium, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil will give you the harvest worth the hassle. Best that you avoid sandy soils with excessive drainage.
Most artichoke plants are heavy feeders and will consume nearly all of the nitrogen in your soil, so it's best to amend your soil with ample compost prior to planting. The soil artichokes thrive in needs a good pound of compost for each square foot of garden soil. You'll also want to pair them with certain plants that won't be competing with the artichokes for nitrogen. Good choices for that are peas, cabbage, sunflowers, and tarragon.
Artichoke plants need water to produce tender buds. At the time of planting, water deeply and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Being in the thistle family, artichokes send down deep taproots. The stronger this taproot is, the more likely your artichoke will grow perennially. To foster a strong root, water your artichoke thoroughly 1 to 3 times a week. Extremely hot summers can cause your artichoke buds to open too quickly. To help keep the temperature down around the plant, you can either use overhead irrigation systems or mulch around each plant to keep the soil moist and cool. Avoid soggy soil as it can damage the crown and root system.
Because artichokes pull so many nutrients from the soil, you'll need to fertilize them every two weeks during the growing season. Any balanced vegetable plant food, such as fish emulsion, will work. Working organic matter high in aged manure into the soil around the plant will also work great.
Pests And Diseases
Artichokes are pretty hardy and strong plants. Still, there are a few common pests and blights to keep an eye out for.
- The artichoke plume moth larva will wreak havoc on the edible buds throughout the spring and summer and will require insecticide to keep at bay.
- Slugs, snails, and earwigs will eat leaves and stems.
- If your artichoke plant falls prey to Curley dwarf, gray mold, or botrytis blight, they'll need to be removed entirely from your garden. There isn't any remedy for infected plants, and you don't want the disease to spread.
Harvesting Artichoke Buds
The artichoke growing season will depend on your climate. In warm weather zones, they'll grow throughout the winter and start putting on buds in May, letting you harvest artichokes in mid-June harvest. In mild climates, the dormant roots will wake up and start new growth in early spring. Both in these zones and in the cooler regions where artichokes are grown as an annual, you'll be harvesting artichokes in early fall.
The artichoke bud in the center of the plant will be ready for harvest first. Use a knife to cut the stem a couple of inches from the base of the bud. That stem handle will come in handy when you go to trim up your artichoke in the kitchen. After harvesting the center bud, you'll notice smaller buds begin to grow on side shoots. These small buds are typically smaller, only reaching 1 to 3 inches in diameter, but they are extremely tender.
Have enough artichokes in your kitchen? Consider letting the buds go to flower as the last hurrah. The bright, neon purple artichoke flowers against the silver-green outer leaves are stunning and surprisingly fragrant.
Caring For Your Artichoke Plant After Harvest
If you want your artichoke plant to grow as a perennial, you need to continue caring for it after bud production stops in the fall. Cut plants back to a couple of inches above the ground, and then apply a thick layer of organic mulch, such as leaves or straw, as protection from cold temperatures. Remove mulch in the spring when the last frost date for your zone has passed.
After five years, you'll need to divide your mature plants, as they'll produce off-shoots that will crowd up your garden bed. Every few years, separate rooted shoots with your knife, dug them up and replanted them to a new artichoke bed.