How to Grow Artichokes

comments (25) April 25th, 2009

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Artichoke plants, which can be grown in many climates, produce spiny buds that hide a tender heart. If youre looking for artichoke recipes, youve come to the right place.
This artichoke bud is ready to harvest.
Unharvested artichoke buds will eventually produce stunning purple thistle-like blooms.
Artichoke plants, which can be grown in many climates, produce spiny buds that hide a tender heart. If youre looking for artichoke recipes, youve come to the right place.Click To Enlarge

Artichoke plants, which can be grown in many climates, produce spiny buds that hide a tender heart. If you're looking for artichoke recipes, you've come to the right place.

Photo: Steve Wanke

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An artichoke plant, which can spread into a silvery green fountain up to 6 feet across, makes a bold, handsome addition to any garden. Best of all, perhaps, this gem of a vegetable can be grown much more easily and in a wider range of climates than you might expect.

I remember having dinner at a friend’s home and seeing an artichoke on my plate for the first time. I wondered how I was going to eat this intriguing vegetable. My friend’s mom showed me how to approach the task. I plucked the leaves, dipped them in melted butter, and tugged the stem end through my teeth to draw off the tender meat. It was child’s play.

 

Steamed artichokesRecipe: Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Dipping Butter

more artichoke recipes from FineCooking.com...



Love Artichokes? Thank the Italians

That was a long time ago, but I remember being completely satisfied when all the leaves were gone. Then she told me about the hidden treasure, the tender artichoke heart. The artichoke is a gold mine of rich, earthy, hearty flavor, a vegetable with a taste and texture like no other.

Use the right growing technique for your climate

 

Sources for artichoke seeds
Check out our seed catalog reviews of these companies and many more...

The Cook’s Garden
PO Box C5030
Warminster, PA 18974
800-457-9703
www.cooksgarden.com

Park Seed Co
1 Parkton Ave
Greenwood, SC 29647
800-213-0076
www.parkseed.com

Territorial Seed Company
PO Box 158
Cottage Grove, OR 97424
800-626-0866
www.territorialseed.com

   

The artichoke, Cynara scolymus, can be grown almost everywhere in the United States, except possibly Florida, where the summer is too hot. The ideal growing conditions are cool and moist summers and mild winters.

If you live in a climate colder than Zone 8, your best bet is to start new plants each year. If you have a mild winter and mulch well, the artichokes may survive as perennials. Remember, it’s the artichoke’s roots that need protection.

Using transplants, you can grow artichokes as annuals in cold-winter climates with 90 to 100 frost-free days. I know people who have grown delicious artichokes in Connecticut, Maine, and Massa­chusetts. Artichokes you start indoors in late winter or early spring will be ready to harvest from late summer through early fall.

Gardeners who are lucky enough to have the best growing conditions may be able to harvest artichokes throughout the year. For these people, it would not be unusual to harvest 30 artichokes per year per plant.



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
if you're trying it for the first time, it's helpful to read and see how seasoned gardeners approach the task, from selecting seeds to planting, maintaining, watering, and ultimately planting the young seedlings out in the garden. Visit All About Starting Seeds...
   
Artichoke seedlings need lots of nutrients as they develop, so fertilize them with fish emulsion or something similar. Transplant the seedlings 8 to 10 weeks later, but only after the soil has warmed and the danger of hard frost has passed. The transplants should be 8 to 10 inches tall, with stocky stems and two sets of true leaves. Because they grow quite large, they should be planted at least 4 feet apart.

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.

Wide wingspan
  Artichoke has a wide wingspan; it's best to space the plants at least 4 feet apart.
 
 
I have also started artichokes with rooted shoots, but for this method, you need a neighbor or friend who has a plant to share. In the early spring, remove a rooted shoot. I do this with a long serrated knife, separating the offshoot from the remaining stems at the base of the plant. Then I cut a ring around the roots of the shoot with a spade, pushing down deeply to get beneath the roots. Ideally, I do this while the plants are still small, preferably less than 10 inches tall. Each rooted shoot can be replanted in a new location, spaced 4 to 6 feet apart.

Divide and share your artichokes
1. Separate a rooted shoot 2. Dig deeply 3. Lift the shoot 4. Replant
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.




Water well for tender chokes and strong plants

The artichoke part we relish is the immature flower head of the plant, which is a member of the thistle family. There are varieties of artichokes available to suit just about every situation. For a reliable grower in cold climates, try ‘Green Globe’. This variety produces heavily and matures early enough to be grown in most areas as an annual. ‘Violetto’, an Italian variety, produces beautiful purple heads with a slightly elongated bud. It matures a bit later, however, and I have found it unsuitable as an annual. ‘Imperial Star’ was developed to be grown as an annual. Its tasty buds are round, and they mature about one week earlier than those of ‘Green Globe’.

Basket full of artichokes
  A basket full of artichokes may look like an impenetrable harvest, but cooks seeking a delicious meal see a feast. Click here for artichoke recipes from FineCooking.com.
   

Regardless of the variety you plant, you will want to harvest a tender crop. Many factors can affect the texture of the bud we eat, but the most important for bud tenderness is water. Artichokes need plenty of water to produce those big, succulent buds. You may need to water up to three times a week during a hot, dry spell, especially if it occurs while the buds are forming. Like too little water, an unexpected late frost can also toughen or destroy developing buds.

Water also benefits the artichoke plant’s deep roots, which are fleshy and become quite thick. They need to be kept moist, especially during the dry months. I mulch well to conserve moisture. Make sure, however, that all that water is going onto an artichoke garden patch that drains well. Poor drainage can cause the crown of the plant, where the stems sprout, to rot. In my area, it’s not the cold winter that kills the plant. Sometimes it’s the soggy soil.

Harvest an artichoke Artichoke flower
Harvest artichokes with a cut across the stem when the buds have swelled but are still firm and closed tight.   If you leave some artichoke buds on the stem, they'll flower into stunning purple thistle-like blooms.

The buds develop at the tips of 1-inch-thick stalks. The terminal bud is normally the largest and the first to mature. It should be harvested with a slice through the stem just below the bud, which should be large, firm, and tightly closed. If a few buds escape your knife, they will open into spectacular, purple-blue, 6-inch thistle­like flowers. Allowing the buds to flower, however, may reduce the plant’s vigor for the following year’s crop in perennial plantings. And you wouldn’t want that to happen with such a delicious crop.

by Kris Wetherbee
June 2000
from issue #27

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posted in: artichokes

Comments (25)

canastaqueen43 writes: I live up-state NY,I think that's zone 5,could I grow artichokes? This is my first time if I try to grow them.I need all the input you can give me.Thank you...
Posted: 1:58 am on June 14th
victoriangardener writes: I'm very new to growing artichokes. If the artichokes has a purple plume on top is it too late to harvest the fruit?
Posted: 8:57 pm on August 22nd
cjdacook writes: I have been growing artichokes for a number of years, but for the first time this year on one plant I have two later 'sucker' growth choke buds at the base of each main artichoke. Should I pinch these off? Have never seen this before.
Posted: 1:10 pm on July 4th
user-2565019 writes: The way I over-winter my artichokes follows the weatherman. You don't do anything special until a HARD frost is predicted. Light frost does nothing to artichokes and they will start regrowing afterwards.

Now, you must prepare a little bit. Have hedge clippers in hand as well as something to cover the artichokes up. I use raked dry leaves. I cut the artichokes down to about 4-6" tall. Then I coved with the tree leaves. I chop up the artichoke leaves and compost them.

In the spring, when it starts getting close to freezing at night, I start uncovering the artichokes. I keep the leaves piled like a moat surrounding the artichokes, in case I need to recover them because of a hard frost. You can also use an overturned 5 gallon bucket, but I wouldn't use it for the whole winter. They'll overheat during the day and they might start regrowing and then get bit when the temperature drops.

Last winter, I lost one plant but I still have 9 plants that have overwintered for the last three years. I live in zone 6, used to be zone 5.

I just had my first two of the season. Last year, I got over 200 artichokes. They aren't the huge ones you seen in the stores, but I cook many a lobster sized pot full of them.
Posted: 4:29 am on June 7th
congiardos writes: I have found the perfect organic solution to rid all bugs including pesty pinchers and destructive caterpillars from all my vegetable and fruit plants. Spray them with water that has had sliced serrano chilis soaking in it to create a pesticide solution. All the bugs hate this stuff and your plants will grow to be big and beautiful without using chemicals. I spray them once a week.
Posted: 9:57 pm on May 31st
ldyfrmr writes: I have that most insect problems are caused by a lack of calcium. Soil test so you know. I recommend Midwest Labs and they only charge $25.00 per sample. And I will do your recommendations for free. I have done organics for 40 years. My artichoke is doing wonderful with 20 chokes on it after heavily applying calcium last year!
Posted: 4:45 pm on May 19th
toddandfawn writes: I live in FL, zone 9b, have 5 artichoke plants, and all doing fine. I bought them from Sweetheart Artichokes in CA. They ship them directly to your house!

Sweetheart Artichokes site has A LOT of GREAT growing info. They show you how easy it is to grow with success! Pretty much anywhere too!

For any questions try their site: sweetheartartichokes.com

The girls who owns/runs the place is great too. If you have questions that are not answered on their FAQs [which is unlikely], you can contact them for the answer and they get back to you promptly! I love it!
Posted: 11:29 am on April 22nd
thyme4tea writes: I planted 2 last year; one produced nothing and died over the winter. The other had ONE choke, but survived our mild Kentucky winter. Now I know all the things I did wrong! Better luck this year.
Posted: 11:47 am on April 12th
Jannyflanny writes: I am having a different problem. I live in NW Georgia (Atlanta area) and I planted two artichokes in two separate raised beds ladt spring. The plants have grown huge but have not produced any artichokes. I am about ready to remove the plants but I hate to do that as I am sure I have found the right person to give me help. Plus now I know about dividing the monsters! Thank you for any advice.
Posted: 3:59 pm on April 1st
AzStephani writes: Some one asked this; strawbridge5 writes: "I have pincher bugs infesting our artichokes." Any suggestions? I believe that bug has an exoskeleton, you can use DE to get rid of them. DE is Diatamaeous Earth. There is garden grade or the stuff that is used in swimming pool filters. I use both. I am not 100% sure how to use as a pesticide for plants but I would assume it is similar to extermination needs. I would (will) mix some in the soil and dust the plants with it if necessary. Wear a dust mask when doing this. Completely organic and pet safe. I wonder if it will work for aphids? Since I am growing again, I will purchase Ladybugs and Praying Mantis at the Nursery.
Posted: 4:24 pm on February 18th
AzStephani writes: Another ?, Can the green Globe be cut and cooked as a long stem? I am looking for a plant with an edible stem. How do I know when to cut?
Posted: 4:16 pm on February 18th
AzStephani writes: I live in the hot desert, when do I plant? Can I plant anytime? Do the plants produce again after the choke is harvested? How do I get my answers to these questions?
Posted: 4:15 pm on February 18th
DanielleGardenGirl writes: Hi everyone! These are some really great artichoke questions. I’ve got a few answers to some of the inquiries below:

1. For pest-insect infestations I’m a big fan of organic treatments. My first choice is Neem, a tropical plant extract that is safe and effective. It generally comes in a concentrated spray at any garden center/nursery.

2. If you are in a warm climate where the season is coming to a close, you don’t need to do anything to your plants. Just let them die back naturally and then next spring do some maintenance pruning (remove dead, diseased, or damaged sections of the plant) to refresh.

3. For anyone still waiting for fruit at this point in the season—that is normal if you are living in a cooler locale. Here in CT we usually don’t start harvesting artichokes until late August early September.

4. As for dividing, this article includes excellent step-by-step instructions. If you’re planning on moving your mature plant, I would instead try dividing and transplanting the new shoots. Mature plants don’t relocate well.

5. Last, artichokes like a fairly neutral pH, so do a soil test and adjust accordingly.

Hope these answers help!

Posted: 8:59 am on August 29th
grandmalp11 writes: can i move the plant to another location for next season?
Posted: 1:06 pm on August 26th
deeboyd5010 writes: We have several mature plants that produced well this year in high desert, Arizona. Now that the season is over, what do we do? Cut the plant down to a specific length, just let the leaves die out? What is the best action til they begin to put out new growth again in the fall?
Posted: 5:59 pm on August 6th
jregner writes: We have several mature plants that produced well this year in high desert, Arizona. Now that the season is over, what do we do? Cut the plant down to a specific length, just let the leaves die out? What is the best action til they begin to put out new growth again in the fall?
Posted: 3:42 pm on July 8th
BaldCypress writes: What is the best soil pH for artichokes?
Posted: 3:47 pm on July 3rd
strawbridge5 writes: I have pincher bugs infesting our artichokes. Any suggestions?
Posted: 8:37 pm on June 12th
Livinfast1100 writes: I like the article Kris, well put together. here are answers to a few of the questions people have asked.

1. the small buds opening too soon, you need a little more rabbit fertlizer and water if they are not getting the nourishment from the soil they mature compact. they need growth promoters and water.

2. the aphid problem and you want organic.. lady bugs you can buy at the local nursery... if there are aphids the lady bugs will stay and eat the tasty bugs as their main diet. (some bgs are good bugs) or drape them with some ultra fine mosquito netting.


3. the plants growing abilities and contingent on your watering and fertlizing and the soil conditions..... but they grow fairly vigerous from a 6" plant to a 36" bloomer within a few months and grow larger if you protect them from the cold in the winter. (in utah they are on the south side of my house and over winter fine... i protect them with bales of straw as an additional plant saver.

Posted: 1:41 pm on May 19th
yllawwally writes: How fast do these plants grow? I started with starts from a nursery. It's july and they don't have a center stalk. Is this normal?
Posted: 3:20 pm on July 25th
shantellew writes: To combat aphid infestation you might try planting marigolds in the garden area. Aphids apparently don't like marigolds.
Posted: 8:22 pm on February 25th
rbode writes: I too have issues with small buds opening too soon and questions about how to divide plants. Any help out there?


Posted: 12:39 am on December 7th
Digginginthedirt writes: My artichokes always die from aphid infestation, despite being fertilized, watered well and being planted in great organic soil. I have an organic garden, so chemicals are out of the question. I have tried a horticultural oil in an attempt to combat the aphids, but with no luck. Any suggestions?
Posted: 11:37 am on November 24th
cherrydelo writes: My artichokes start to open when the fruit is still very small. What am I doing wrong?
Posted: 8:51 pm on September 7th
RobEshman writes: I need help dividing my plants, which are 3 or 4 years old. How do I determine exactly where to divide them?
Posted: 3:56 pm on January 4th
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