Artichokes are a delicious and unique vegetable that can be grown in a variety of climates. Artichokes can be a perennial for zones 7-12, but can still be grown in zones 3-6 they will just be an annual and will need to be replanted each year. Artichokes are a member of the thistle family and are native to the Mediterranean region. Growing artichokes can be a fun and rewarding experience for both experienced and novice gardeners. In this blog post, we will discuss how to grow artichokes in your own backyard.
- Choosing the Right Location
Artichokes require full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. They also prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, it may be necessary to amend it with organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Artichokes also need lots of space. Plants regularly will grow 3-4 feet wide! The plants have large leaves and will definitely shade out and crowd out other small plants, so give them room.
Artichokes can be planted in the spring or fall, depending on your climate. In areas with mild winters, fall planting is recommended. In colder climates, spring planting is best. Artichokes take 110-120 days to mature, so starting early is essential for those in colder climates with shorter seasons. Start by choosing healthy, disease-free plants. Plant them 2-3 feet apart in rows that are 3-4 feet apart. The soil should be moistened before planting and kept moist until the plants are established.
Artichokes require consistent moisture, but not standing water. Water them deeply once or twice a week, or more frequently in hot, dry weather. A good rule of thumb is to provide about 1 inch of water per week (about the same amount as you would give a tomato). Remembering that they are mediterranean will help to reduce the amount you have to water. A mulch of organic matter around the base of the plant can help retain moisture and suppress weeds until the plant is large enough to shade the soil to hold moisture near the plant as a living mulch.
Artichokes benefit from regular fertilization. They are heavy nitrogen feeders. Apply a balanced fertilizer, but one that focuses on Nitrogen (such as Trifecta like 5-10-4) every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. It's also a good idea to side-dress the plants with compost or aged manure. You can also liquid feed with a fertilizer like compost tea or worm compost tea for a gentle but regular feeding.
Artichokes require minimal pruning during the growing season, but it's important to remove dead or diseased leaves and flower heads to keep the plant healthy. The largest amount of pruning will be done at the end of the season. For those in warmer climates where Artichokes are perennial, chop the entire plant off roughly 8 inches from the soil level, mulch heavily with leaves, and this will encourage the new growth and reflowering to form more artichokes next season.
Artichokes are ready to harvest in about 110-120 days after planting. The artichokes are ready to harvest when the buds are firm and tight, and the scales begin to separate. Believe it or not, what you are harvesting is actually the unopened flower! To harvest, cut the stem about 2 inches below the bud. It is highly important to harvest to ensure more artichokes. NOTE: Each subsequent harvest will have more artichokes but they will be smaller than the first harvest.
- Pest and Disease Control
Artichokes are relatively pest and disease-free. However, aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites can be a problem. Keep an eye out for these pests and treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.