How to Grow Artichokes

Four Methods:Considering Climate and SeasonStarting Your ArtichokesFertilizing and WateringHarvesting and Propagating Artichokes

Believe it or not, artichokes are actually thistles! Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious. They are native to the mild climates of the Mediterranean, and cannot survive extended cold temperatures. While most climates will allow for annual artichoke growth, you may be able to grow a perennial in some warmer climates. Wherever you live, you’ll need to fertilize extensively, and to ensure they get enough – but not too much – water. All in all, expect to start growing your own artichokes in late winter and be chomping their immature flower buds by the fall.[1]

Method 1
Considering Climate and Season

  1. 1
    Identify your growing zone. You’ll want to choose a type of plant and growing methods according to how cold it gets where you live. In short, if you like a climate that has consistent winter temperatures between 10 °F (−12 °C) and 20 °F (−7 °C), plan to plant artichokes annually. If you live in a relatively warmer climate, you may be able to grow a perennial artichoke variety.[2]
    • If you live in the U.S., see the maps provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to determine what zone you live in. If you live in Zone 8 or higher – which corresponds with the temperatures cited above – go with an annual plant varietal.
    • These USDA maps also contain information on the temperatures used to assess an area’s zone, which you can compare to temperatures in your area.
  2. 2
    Choose a type of artichoke. There are several artichokes varietals, generally classified as either green or purple. Among the green varietals, go with “Imperial Star” artichokes for an annual plant and “Green Globe” for high-producing perennial. Among purple artichoke options, “Violetta” may prove especially hardy, and “Opera” will mature especially quickly.[3]
  3. 3
    Ensure adequate soil. Rich, fertile, moist soil is best for artichoke growth. That said, artichokes are hardy plants capable of growing in most soil as long as they are fed and the soil can drain. Consider building raised beds to assist in drainage if you live in an area with heavy rainfall. Plan to prepare soil with at least a hand’s depth of compost tilled into the ground before planting.[4]

Method 2
Starting Your Artichokes

  1. 1
    Plant seeds indoors. You can maximize the growing season in your area by getting a head start with your artichokes indoors. Start your seeds in individual 4 inches (10.2 cm) containers and leave them under fluorescent lights or in a heated greenhouse. In normal indoor temperatures, seeds will likely germinate in a week or so. Increase the size of planters as needed.[5]
    • Begin exposing seedlings to temporary outdoor sessions six weeks before the anticipated last frost date in your area.
  2. 2
    Transfer seedlings outdoors. Move seedlings outdoors 3 to 4 weeks before the anticipated final frost. You actually want to expose the plants to a temperature below 45 degrees to trigger flowering. They should be about as tall as your hand. Plant them with the crown of their root system just poking out of the dirt.[6]
    • Cull weak seedlings. After 8-10 weeks, healthy artichoke seedlings will have stocky stems and two sets of leaves. Remove any that do not.
  3. 3
    Use transplants in especially cold climates. If you live in a place that only has 90-100 days a year without frost, you’ll likely need to start your plants with transplants. Plan to start growing your transplants indoors late in the winter or in early spring. Harvest will occur in late summer or early fall.[7]
    • Acquiring rooted shoots from a year-round greenhouse or online plant distributor is a great way to establish transplants quickly. If doing so yourself, use a serrated knife to begin cutting an offshoot under ten inches tall that’s growing from the base of the plant. Dig around the offshoot to ensure roots come with the offshoot as you remove it.[8]
  4. 4
    Plant artichokes at least 3 feet (0.9 m) apart. If possible, 4 feet (1.2 m)-6 feet (1.8 m) between individual plants is even better. These plants have large, aggressive wingspans and require substantial room to grow. If using raised beds, artichokes don’t necessarily need their own beds, but do need ample space to spread their leaves.[9]

Method 3
Fertilizing and Watering

  1. 1
    Fertilize the soil before planting. Condition soil with nutrients your plants can begin eating as soon as they’re in the ground. For each plant, work at least one shovel full of compost or aged manure into the soil. Alternatively, you can use one cup of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Add these food sources to the soil right before planting.[10]
    • Consider adding ½ cup of feather or blood meal as well as a ½ cup of bone meal to the soil as well, for added nutrients.
  2. 2
    Fertilizer your plants as they grow. Artichokes depend on a high-nitrogen diet in order to grow to their full potential. Provide 2 teaspoons of a nitrogen-based fertilizer to each of your plants about a month after they are planted. Give an additional 2 teaspoons of fertilizer to each plant every four weeks after that.[11]
    • Place or pour fertilizer just beside the plant’s stalk and irrigate to soak the fertilizer into the soil.
    • Side-dress each plant with (1-2 lbs (0.5-1 kilo) of aged manure just before you expect them to bud.[12]
  3. 3
    Water your artichokes. Your plants require 1-1 ½ inches (4-5cm) of water per week. If this amount of water is naturally provided by rain, make sure you’re watering them accordingly. Water extra in the spring and summer to encourage the growth of larger, thicker buds.[13]
    • Make sure the soil around your plants are able to drain access water. If the ground around the plant becomes water-logged, consider replanting in a raised bed.

Method 4
Harvesting and Propagating Artichokes

  1. 1
    Harvest the flower buds. Watch out for upright flowering stems that are topped with flower buds. Most stalks will produce 3 to 5 buds. These will arrive in mid-to-late-summer. Remove the buds when the lowest scales (called bracts) on the bud begin to open. The bracts at the top of the bud will still be tight.[14]
    • Use a sharp knife, leaving a chunk of stem as tall as credit card.
    • Wait for more buds. Put freshly cut buds in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. Plan to harvest another crop of smaller buds if the growing season allows it.
  2. 2
    Prep perennials to survive. If you’re growing a perennial and hoping your plants will survive the winter, take steps to protect them. Cut the plant’s leave back after it’s flowered and the season has concluded. Mulch heavily around and above the plant to keep the roots alive.[15]
    • Make sure plants are covered by at least a hand’s depth of mulch. Cover mulch with another hand’s depth of straw or leaves for added protection.[16]
    • Perennials can usually be expected to stay productive for about four years. However, you can get a few more years of productivity by splicing plants before planting and replanting the portions separately.
  3. 3
    Cut and share prime specimens. If you have a plant that’s especially hardy and returns year after year with quality buds, consider propagating it. The best way to propagate a perennial is to splice off one of the small offshoots as the plant first emerges in the spring. Establish the shoot as its own plant.[17]
  4. 4
    Save a good plant’s seeds. Another way to propagate a particular plant is to collect its seeds. A long season, however, is necessary to allow seeds to ripen. If you live in a place with long summers, allow a large bud on your favorite plant to bloom, shrivel, and turn brown. Remove this dried flower and place it in a paper bag. Keep the bag indoors for two weeks, then shatter it and collect the seeds it disperses. Seeds regularly last for as long as six years![18]

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