How to Grow Artichokes
Artichokes are a hearty vegetable that can be grown in any climate, and enjoyed throughout fall! Follow this guide to learn how to grow artichokes in your garden!
Artichokes are perennial heirloom plants with edible (& delicious!) flower buds that thrive in climates with foggy, cool summers and mild winters. Artichokes can be planted in the fall, but it is important to protect their roots with a good mulching through the winter months.
If you are located in an area with a hard freeze (anything below zone 8), you will need to treat your artichokes as an annual plant - which can be planted each spring. If you are lucky enough to be located in a gardening zone 8 or above, you can expect artichoke plants to yield a harvest for about 5 years.
Artichokes are ready to harvest late summer and throughout the fall providing you start the seeds very early spring; however, if you are in a warm climate with very little cold days, you can harvest your perennial throughout the year. A single plant can produce up to 30 artichokes per year in warm climates!
Artichokes can be started from seed, seedlings should be started 8 weeks before the last frost; however, they need to experience a short cold period in order to produce flower buds. This tricks the plant into thinking it's in its second year of life. Expose them to temperatures around 50 F for roughly 10 days. If your area is expecting a hard freeze, protect the plant during that time.
You may also opt to plant an artichoke from previously grown crowns which will not need to be tricked by the cold weather. You can purchase them locally or here.
If you are not raising artichokes in a raised bed, amend your soil before planting. Artichokes like a well draining soil - their roots will rot during the winter months without proper drainage. Use organic matter to create a pH level between 6-7.
watering & care
These plants are heavy feeders and prefer a very moist and well draining soil; they need at least 5 feet of space between other plants. Artichokes prefer a mild climate, they do best in a foggy, coastal area. You can recreate this environment for them by misting in the morning and adding a 4" mulch to the roots when temperatures are extreme, afternoon shade also suits them well.
You may notice shoots sprouting up from the base of your plant. You can allow these suckers to develop a bit and then snip to transplant and expand your crop or give to neighbors. It is best to remove them before they fully develop. If you allow any to develop for transplanting, remove the weaklings and only allow the strongest to grow.
Artichoke plants yield delicious flowers, but can easily become overripe and tough. Once the flower bud begins to form, keep a close eye on the plant. You'll notice that the first bud is much larger than the rest. The flowers are ready to harvest when the petals just begin to peel back from the bud. Use sharp shears to trim the buds off leaving a 2" stem. Handle with care as they bruise easily. Once you have harvested all of the buds from a single stem, cut the stem to ground level.
It is possible to winter your plant in zones colder than 8. To do so, mulch, mulch, mulch! Cut the plant to 12", and use a mix of straw and organic compost to form a large mound. Then invert a basket over the top of the plant, and drape with a rainproof cover. Anchor it all down and hope for the best! If your plant comes back, you can expect harvest to improve with age.
If mulching isn't your thing, but you'd still like to preserve your plant try this: dig up the plant's roots after harvest. Hang them in onions bags in a cool dry place (like a root cellar). Come spring, they will start back where they left off. Simply prepare your soil, and plant as you would any root plant.