How To Grow Artichokes
Fruit, vegetable, flower? What exactly is an artichoke? Technically an artichoke is a type of thistle, though they are considered by most gardeners as a vegetable, since the buds are eaten before the flowering stage.
In the Northwest, artichokes can be planted as a perennial, as they are quite hearty. If you have temperatures that don’t normally go below 15 degrees that is. In colder climates, they can be planted as a annual.
Artichokes can be planted from seed, though it is usually easier to buy established plants or rootstock from your local nursery.
For the more willing, it’s best to start them indoors 8 weeks before the last frost. We have found it easiest to plant 3-4 seeds in a plastic pot, then thin to one plant after germination.
Once the last frost has passed, you can then harden them off by setting them outside during the day and bringing them back inside during the evenings for a week.
When you’re ready to transplant them outdoors, we like to add plenty of compost and mix in all purpose organic fertilizer. They can grow quite large, so leave 6 to 8 feet between plants. Water them well after transplanting, and you should be able enjoy artichokes for years to come!
Remember, they usually don’t flower the first year you plant them, normally the second year. It’s a long wait, but well worth it in the long run.
Caring For Artichokes
Be sure to water them well during the growing season, they tend to be quite thirsty plants. We usually dig some compost into the soil every spring around the plant. You can also side dress with compost or organic fertilizer every month or so.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for. You want to harvest your artichokes when they are full and dark green, yet before they start to open up. You want to keep the buds compact. Once they start to open, they become quite tough and woody.
If you start to see the purple flower emerging, it’s best to just let it go and enjoy the beauty of the flower!
After you have harvested all of the buds, cut the stalks back down to ground level, give them a nice layer of mulch and wait again until next year.