How to Grow Artichokescomments (33) April 25th, 2009
Artichoke starting options
There are three ways to begin your artichoke garden: with seed, with shoots taken from existing plants, or with dormant roots. Artichokes are easily started from seed in a greenhouse or under fluorescent lights. Starting in February, I seed directly into 4-inch containers. Getting a head start is a vital step in producing artichokes the first year, whether they are grown as an annual or as a perennial.
|How to Start Seeds
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Artichokes feed heavily, so, for each plant, work into the soil one cup of complete organic fertilizer or a shovel of compost or aged chicken manure just before planting. You can also apply 1⁄2 cup each of feather or blood meal and bone meal for each plant. I raise rabbits, so my plants receive a 2- to 3-inch layer of rabbit manure, on which they thrive. A midseason dressing of aged manure benefits the plants, too, if you have poor soil.
As with some other plants, particularly rhubarb, many of the artichoke plants you start from seed won’t turn out to be true to the type described on the seed packet. This happens about 20 percent of the time. I always plant extra artichokes so that I can get rid of the odd fellows and still wind up with the number of plants I want. To do this, I cull the seedlings that don’t appear to be thriving. Then I cull again at the end of the season, so I’m left with only plants that produce great-tasting chokes or show other characteristics I want to preserve.
|Artichoke has a wide wingspan; it's best to space the plants at least 4 feet apart.|
|Divide and share your artichokes|
|To divide an artichoke plant, first use a knife to cleanly separate a rooted shoot. Then dig deeply with a spade to collect the root mass for relocation. You can replant the separated shoot elsewhere in the garden or give it to a gardening friend.|
You can also buy dormant artichoke roots at some nurseries. Where you live determines when you plant these. In frost-free climates, you can plant in the fall or winter. In other climates, they should be planted in the early spring, spaced the same as rooted shoots. These root shanks should be set in the ground vertically, with the growth buds just above soil surface.
Whatever your choice for starting artichokes, the plants will prosper in slightly acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. Full sun is best unless you live in an area with hot summers, then afternoon shade may prove beneficial.
Keep the planting bed moist, and water the plants as they grow. New shoots will arise from the ground each year. To encourage large, flavorful buds, remove all but one or two of the strongest shoots.
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