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May 20, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Growing Globe Artichokes

  • Globe Artichokes are a gourmet treat, and are very popular in the Mediterranean regions. 
  • The part of the artichoke that we eat is the undeveloped flower bud of the artichoke plant. The best part of all is called the artichoke heart.
  • We can eat the fleshy base of the ‘scales’ dipped in butter and sauté the hearts as a delicious appetiser. 
  • Artichokes are perennial architectural plants, looking very stately and spectacular at the back of a mixed border in your garden, as well as being grown for the edible flowers on your allotment. 
  • First year plants grown from seed will sometimes only produce two or three heads, established plants can produce twenty to thirty heads each season.
  • Some years you may get a second crop in late autumn. 
  • To encourage this; leave the small secondary heads on the plant at harvest time.
  • Prepare a bed in a sheltered, sunny position, in fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Prepare your soil by digging approximately a foot deep and mixing compost and chicken or rabbit manure into the soil.
  • Globe Artichokes grow to 1.5m x 1m (5ft x 3.25ft), making big clumps of arching, jagged silvery leaves.
  • Plants can be grown in groups, 60cm (2ft) apart with 75cm (2.5ft) between rows, but as each can produce up to 30 edible heads, one plant may be enough for your needs.
  • Although artichoke plants can be grown from seed, this is a long-winded process and many consider that it’s far easier to buy ready-rooted suckers to plant in the spring.
  • Alternatively, in Autumn start your own cuttings by removing the 20cm (8″) long suckers, or side-growths, and pot up into 100-125mm (4″-5″) pots of potting compost and over winter in a frost free greenhouse or frame, ready to plant out the following spring.
  • Artichokes can be started from seed in a greenhouse, conservatory or even in a well lit, warm room on the window sill. 
  • Sow from late February onwards, plant a couple of seeds into 9cm pots using a good quality soil-based composts such as John Innes ‘Seed’. You may wish to mix in a little horticultural grit or vermiculite to help with the drainage. Give the seeds a further, light covering of compost, then water in well. 
  • Water as necessary from that point on, but at no time should the compost be left sodden or be allowed to completely dry out. 
  • The seedlings will benefit from a weekly dose of a good liquid fertilizer, we normally use Miracle-Gro because of its high success rate and simple application.
  • Artichokes are frost tender and you should wait until the threat of frost is over before thinking about transplanting outdoors. 
  • The seedlings should be planted into their permanent postion once they are 20cm (8″) tall, and with two sets of true leaves.
  • The problem with growing from seed is that they won’t all come true. You buy seed of a named variety and about half don’t produce the flower buds of the shape and size you were expecting. It takes a few months to realise this, so it’s frustrating if your garden is small.

  • If you are planting the artichoke plants into the soil, plant the artichokes so that the crown is just above the ground.
  • Once you have your plant’s crown above the ground, whether you started from seed or not, mulch around the base to retain soil.
  • Keep your plant watered. Your soil should be moist, but not soggy or with standing water. You can mix sand into heavy soil prior to planting to help the soil be able to drain well. Or, you can plant your artichokes on mounds to allow for proper drainage.
  • Fertilize your artichoke plant monthly, we find that Miracle-Gro is both successful and simple to use.
  • You’re not meant to let a less than one year old plant come up to flower. 
  • You’re told to remove the flower buds as soon as they form on first year seedlings. 
  • Debudding is a good idea, encouraging them to put energy into root development and surviving the first winter, but before you cut the buds off, check that they do, or do not correspond with what you were expecting. 
  • You need to let at least one flower bud grow to a decent size so that you can detect this. 
  • If it’s looking good, keep the plant and leave it where it is, labelling it clearly. 
  • If it produces something mean, spiky and inedible – as they sometimes do, reverting to species – then whip it out, or move it to the ornamental part of your garden.
  • Stake all your plants and divide them every third or fourth year.
  • Harvest your artichoke before the bud starts to open and while the plant is still green and tight. This will ensure you have the best, tastiest plant to eat.
  • Be patient, artichokes may not produce well for the first year. Continue to tend for your plant properly and you will soon reap the rewards.
Rather than try to describe how to trim, prepare and eat an artichoke, I can do no better than to point you at a site where the author has far more knowledge and experience of the subject than me. Please click on the link below:

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