Artichokes

GROWING ARTICHOKES

artichoke

 

ARTICHOKE CROSS SECTION

cross_section

WHERE TO PLANT

Artichokes thrive where mild winters and cool, foggy summers prevail. In these conditions, they are perennials, yielding harvests for up to 5 years.  When choosing a spot in the garden for your artichokes, you’ll need to consider that these are plants that can be in place for up to 5 years.

Give your artichokes room to spread.  Mature plants can reach over a metre tall and 1.2 metres wide.  Artichokes thrive in full sun to partial shade.

SOIL CONDITIONS

Artichokes need light, fertile, well-drained soil.  Sandy soil or loam is ideal. Prepare your soil by working 10cm of compost into a trench about 15cm deep and equally wide. Two reasons artichoke plants fail are summer drought and winter soil that’s waterlogged. Adding compost improves soil’s ability to retain water in summer and drain in winter.

MAINTENANCE

After artichokes are established and unfurling new growth, fertilize the plants once a month with a liquid fertilizer.  You can apply a liquid high-potassium fertilizer every 2 weeks during periods of active growth to encourage flower buds to form.  Keep weeds out of artichoke beds. Give plants a thick mulch.  As the buds begin to form, remove the mulch and apply a 10cm thick layer of compost around each plant, extending from the base of the plant outward to about 30cm.

HARVESTING

Flower buds form in early summer atop tall stems that soar out of the center of the plant. Each stem forms several flower buds, with the top bud ripening first. Harvest buds while they’re tight and firm and hopefully at least 3 inches in diameter; if buds begin to open, they lose their tenderness. Fully open buds are inedible but produce striking, large, lavender flowers.

The lower buds that develop later won’t grow as large as the top bud. When you have harvested all buds on a stem, cut the stem to the ground. For large, established plants, prune the entire plant back by a third to spur a fall harvest.

COMPANION PLANTS

The brassica family :  cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower.