Artichoke plants have been gardener’s favorite, especially for those living in warmer regions. Aside from their edible crowns, artichokes can add visual interest to the garden. The perennial plants grow well in warmer climates but gardeners in cooler regions can also have these herbaceous plants in their backyard. Knowing how to grow artichokes is the key secret to successful harvests in any regions.
Artichokes are typically easy to plant from seed produced by the buds. Timing should be your major concern, especially if you live in cooler regions as artichokes aren’t hardy in winter. How long do artichokes take to grow? Most plants take about 150 days to reach maturity and they need two years to set initial flowers and they usually produce buds in spring.
Learn more about how to grow mushrooms.
According to the history, the Greeks and Romans are the first that used artichokes as a food. Another literature mentions that the perennial plants were grown in Cordoba, North Africa, Egypt, and Jerusalem. But significant improvement in artichoke cultivation took place in Muslim Spain and Northwest Africa.
The plants are also known as globe artichokes, French artichokes, or green artichokes. It belongs to Asteraceae family, the same family with dandelions, thistles, and sunflowers. Artichokes are often grown as annual plants, despite they are short-lived perennials. It has edible buds which can be harvested before the flowers bloom.
Early artichoke buds come with green bracts that enclose the actual flowers. It also has tender and edible heart at the base of the bud. This is the part that can be cooked and processed into delicious dishes. But when the buds bloom, the flower structure becomes coarse, and it is no longer edible. You can also smell surprising fragrance from crowns.
Artichokes or Cynara scolymus can reach 3 to 6 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide when mature. The plants can grow well in full sun so that warmer regions become the best place to cultivate artichokes. It also requires light and fertile soil with well drainage as soil with soggy characteristics can make its roots rotten. Artichokes bloom in early fall or late summer, so you need to harvest before they bloom.
There are several varieties of artichokes, allowing you to choose the best one to grow in the backyard. How to grow artichokes from different varieties is quite similar though each of them comes with different characteristics.
- Big Heart—this artichoke is known as a thorn-less variety. The plants are hardy in warmer temperature.
- Imperial Star—if you are beginner, this variety should give you a successful planting. Imperial Star is easy to grow from seed and is usually grown as annual plants. The plants are also suitable for cooler regions.
- Green Globe—this is the most popular variety in California. But if you live outside California, the plants may not adapt well.
- Violetto—the Italian heirloom is often used to produce small side shoots.
- Purple of Romagna—this is also an Italian heirloom which is often used by chefs.
Learn more about how to grow asparagus.
How to Grow Artichokes and Get the Best Harvests
Artichokes take around two years before flowering, so they are often planted in pots. Especially for commercial cultivation, the containers will be sold in the second year. There are many things to consider when it comes to growing artichokes, such as time, place, sowing, and maintenance. So, how to grow artichokes correctly?
The first step of growing artichokes is sowing. The best place to start seeding is indoors or in a greenhouse with controlled environment. You can seed the plants at least 8 weeks before the last frost date. When the seedlings are strong enough, harden them before transferring to soil. They need to experience chilly climate so you can put the plants outside in mid-spring for a week.
Gardener in cooler regions should plant in the early spring. After the last frost, you can transfer the seedlings in soil or in containers and overwinter the plants. They will produce buds in spring so it won’t be disturbed by chilly winter.
Before transferring the seedlings, choose fertile and well-drained soil. Artichokes can grow quickly so it needs a lot of water and nutrients. To plant the seedlings, prepare the soil with 2-inch compost and make holes 2 to 3 feet apart.
Once your artichokes are transferred, you should keep them from wet soil but giving sufficient water is also necessary to produce large buds. Too dry soil will result in fewer and smaller buds. Be sure the soil has well drainage as poor drainage can cause rotten roots.
How to grow artichokes is actually easy. The plants don’t need intense treatment as they don’t have many pests. You may only need to weed the area and put mulch to keep the soil moist. Fertilize the plants with organic fertilizer that contains high nitrogen for excellent harvests.
Typical artichokes grow and reach maturity in 150 days or 5 months after planting. But the plants need two years before setting flowers. In warmer climate such as California or Mediterranean, the plants produce buds throughout the year but mostly they begin in summer. The buds can be harvested when it reaches 3 inches. Make sure to harvest the buds before blooming. To harvest the buds, cut them along with the stem.
After the buds are cut, the plants begin producing smaller buds. You can wait for the next harvest. Some gardeners cut the stalk an inch below the ground. This treatment helps encourage the development of new shoots for the next harvest.
A well-maintained artichoke plant can produce up to 15 years. But the gardeners need to remove the side shoots in order to prevent overcrowding that diminishes productivity. However, most gardeners replant the artichokes every 5 to 10 years for excellent harvests rather than pruning the stalks.
Now that you know how to grow artichokes in the backyard, it’s time to buy the seed and start sowing before the last frost date. Whether you want to plant in garden bed or containers, make sure you have everything needed by the plants to grow well. Enjoy the visual interest and flavorful artichoke buds!
Learn more about how to grow parsley.