How to Grow Artichokes


  Imperial Artichoke

 

Your artichoke seedlings are ready to go into the ground upon arrival. If you are still experiencing freezing weather, a row cover may be enough to protect them in the garden, or they may be moved to larger pots and into a cold frame or other protected area until the freezing has ended. Mature and hardened off plants can tolerate temperatures down to around 14 degrees F for brief periods and spring rains can be highly beneficial in the early development of roots that will allow robust growth when warm weather arrives.

Artichokes are heavy feeders. Prepare the ground thoroughly with plenty of good compost or manure and mix in a balanced organic fertilizer. Artichokes like slightly acid soil and they require good drainage.

The mature size of your plants will be 2 — 4' wide and equally tall. Space them 2 — 3' apart in the row.

Ample supplies of food and water are essential to make an artichoke produce. Feed your artichokes monthly with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer: fish meal, fish emulsion, blood meal, cottonseed meal or manure tea. Monitor watering so the ground never dries out.

Mulch the ground around the plant heavily with organic matter before the mid summer heat to keep the ground cool. In the fall, as the weather cools, pull away the mulch to let the sunlight warm the soil.

In the southern states, plants may want to produce when summer temperatures are at their peak. This makes the buds tough. To curtail their growth at this time, hold back on all food and some water. When daytime temperatures drop back to the mid 70s you can push production again by increasing food and water.

Your artichokes are ready to harvest when the buds are about the size of an orange and the scales are tight and flat. Bigger is not necessarily better. When the scales pull away from the bud the edible portion of the leaves gets tough. Most plants produce one large bud followed by numerous smaller buds. Cut them off at harvest time with a knife or pruning shears leaving one or two inches of stem attached to hold them.

To carry your plants through the winter try one of the following methods. Where the ground freezes hard, cut your plants back to about two feet tall in the fall. Mulch heavily with leaves, and cover with a rain proof tarp (excessive moisture or ice will kill the roots). You may also dig up the roots, cut off the leaves and clean the roots with a brush. Loosely store the roots in a breathable fiber bag on a shelf in an area that is cool, 33 — 40° F and dry. Alternatively, plant the trimmed and cleaned roots in large pots and store them in a cool, light place. Do not feed, and water sparingly until it is time for planting the following spring.


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