Artichokes: Care, Growing Guide, & Facts
Table of Contents
Artichokes Plant Description
Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are herbaceous perennials belonging to the Asteraceae family, which also includes thistles, dandelions, and sunflowers. In warmer climes, they are short-lived perennials, but in chilly climes, they are usually planted as annuals.
The edible flower buds of artichokes are picked before the blooms open. Artichokes are not widely farmed in the United States, despite their popularity in their native Mediterranean region. The only state with a significant commercial artichoke industry is California.
The prime growing season there is from March to May, but you may enjoy artichokes maturing all summer if you plant some at home. Make sure you have enough room, though; these are big plants.
Artichoke leaves are silver-green in colour and have a long, arching form. The leaves, despite their velvety appearance, may be rather thorny. The plant’s stems are robust and meaty.
The components of the flower buds that are sold in produce aisles are the flower buds. The soft, tasty artichoke “heart” is found at the base of the blossom. If left to grow on the plant, artichoke blossoms open into massive, dome- or muff-shaped purple thistles that are incredibly aromatic.
Depending on the weather, artichokes are planted at different periods of the year. They must be sown in the spring, when they are cultivated as annuals. They are commonly sown as seeds in late summer or as young plants in mid-autumn in warmer zones where they persist as perennials.
It usually takes 85 to 100 days for them to reach harvest. They grow up to 3 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.
How To Care Artichokes?
Because artichokes take two years to blossom, they are usually offered as container plants or as developed root crowns in their second year. They grow to be enormous plants that should be spaced at least 4 feet apart, preferably 6 feet apart.
Plants that are cultivated as annuals or whose tops will be destroyed by frost will not grow as large and can be planted closer together. Before the buds turn into thistle flowers, harvest them for eating.
Cut them down to ground level once the blooms fade if you’re cultivating them as annuals, then cover them with mulch for the winter. Artichokes are typically referred to as “architectural plants,” and it’s easy to see why when you see a tall, branching example.
Because few animals attack artichokes, you may use them as edible landscaping in your decorative borders. You may still pick them whenever you choose, but the majestic plants and textured leaves will give them visual appeal all season long.
Artichoke plants should produce for three to five years, with side shoots emerging from their roots. The young shoots may now be lifted, divided, and replanted.
How To Grow Artichokes?
Artichokes thrive in direct sunlight. Although they can withstand moderate shade, the flower buds will suffer.
Artichokes like a sandy, well-drained soil that is also rich. It’s preferable if the pH is somewhat alkaline. It’s best if the soil is slightly sandy. To keep the roots from decaying, good drainage is essential, especially in places where they will be overwintered.
During hot summers, however, the soil must be able to retain water long enough for the roots to absorb it. When growing artichokes as perennials, amending the soil before planting is extremely vital to ensure that they will thrive in future years. If your garden soil is poor, try growing your artichokes in raised beds.
Water deeply and regularly one to three times per week.This will keep the flower buds plump and sensitive while also allowing the plants to build a robust root system that will keep them erect.
iv. Temperature and Humidity
Warm, dry weather, such as that found in the Mediterranean area and California, is ideal for this plant. The plant will blossom prematurely if it is exposed to too much heat.
Artichokes thrive in warm winters, i.e., 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and cool, wet summers, i.e., 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit when planted as perennials.
Because warmer soil causes plants to blossom too rapidly, keep the soil cold by mulching around the base of the plants.
Throughout the growth season, apply a balanced vegetable plant food every two weeks.
Varieties of Artichokes
1. ‘Big Heart’ is a thornless cultivar with a high heat tolerance.
2. The most common commercially farmed type in California is “Green Globe,” but it does not acclimatise well to less-than-ideal growing circumstances.
3. ‘Imperial Star’ is a versatile plant that is easy to cultivate from seed and has been developed to be used as an annual. This is the kind that gardeners in zones 6 and colder should use.
4. Chefs choose ‘Purple of Romagna,’ a sensitive Italian heirloom.
5. The Italian heirloom ‘Violetto’ is valued for producing hundreds of little side shoots.
How To Grow Artichokes From Seed?
Seeds should be started indoors at least eight weeks before the latest frost date in your area. Before placing the seedlings outside, harden them off, but don’t wait until all threat of frost has passed—artichokes require a tiny bit of cold to establish buds.
This may be done by bringing your plants out in mid-spring and exposing them to temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly lower for a week to ten days.
If you try to save seeds from your artichokes, they may not grow true, resulting in plants that look nothing like the original. Purchased seed that has been produced under regulated conditions will yield superior results.
Common Pests and Diseases in Artichokes
Artichokes are only attacked by a few pests. During wet weather, slugs may be an issue, especially with new, fragile leaves. Aphids can be a bother, but they can be washed away before they take over.
Allowing ample room for air to move freely around the plants will help reduce aphid issues. Botrytis, often known as grey mould, may wreak havoc on leaves and flower bracts. It is most common on damaged leaves, which become brown and eventually grey in appearance.
As soon as the illness is visible, remove the infected leaves. Use a fungicide certified for food plants, such as neem, for serious infestations.
Established artichoke plants develop buds on a regular basis throughout the year in optimum conditions. Buds, on the other hand, begin to develop in most locations in early June.
The centre bud matures earliest and may be picked when it reaches a diameter of around 3 inches. When the bracts are still firmly curled and the bud feels firm, it’s time to harvest. To make it simpler to deal with, remove a 1 to 3 inch section of the stem along with the bud.
Side branches will start developing tiny buds once the core bud is clipped. When they’re hard and approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, harvest them. Small buds can be incredibly soft and aromatic, requiring just a brief reheating before consumption.
Artichokes Winter Care
If you wish to grow artichokes as perennials, adapt your overwintering procedures to your environment.
Zones 8 and higher: Cut the plants to soil level after the last harvest in the fall and cover them with 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch, such as straw.
Zones 6 to 7: Cut the plants down to around 12 to 18 inches after the last harvest in the fall in zones 6 to 7. Wrap the plant with organic mulch, such as straw, leaves, or even compost, and then put a huge basket on top of that. Wrap the basket with a waterproof tarp after adding another layer of straw or leaves.
Zones 5 and cooler: You can either follow the procedure outlined for zones 6–7, or you can pot up your plants, move them to a dark, cold, but above-freezing location, and water them on a regular basis over the winter.
After all the risk of frost has passed, bring the pots back outside in the spring and either transplant the artichokes in soil or continue to cultivate them in containers. Remove all covers in the spring, as soon as the soil has thawed and no heavy frosts are forecast, regardless of your zone or method.