Do you love artichokes? If so, why not add the plant to this year’s veggie garden? Globe artichoke is grown for its tender, delicious flower buds and with some TLC, will be a rewarding plant. A member of the thistle family, Cynara sclolymus is an annual in our zone 5 region, although perennial in coastal climates with warmer winters and higher humidity. The artichoke in the grocery store was probably grown in northern California.
Planting and Care Tips
Start seeds in early winter, or plant transplants in the ground in early to mid April. Garden centers have starter plants for sale now or will very soon. Protect the plant if Spring “treats” us to a late season frost. A sunny location which gets some afternoon shade is an ideal planting site. Soil should drain well and be amended with 4″ to 6″ of compost, tilled 6″ to 8″ deep. Artichokes are heavy feeders: a 16-16-8 fertilizer can be added at the time of planting and a high nitrogen, 21-0-0, can be worked into the soil monthly thereafter. The plant needs good moisture, however, overly wet crowns will rot and invite slugs. For best success, water with a soaker hose or drip irrigation and apply mulch to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. An occasional misting will provide beneficial humidity. Hot, dry conditions yield fast growing but less flavorful plants that are susceptible to aphids.
Artichoke plants can get quite large – up to 4′ feet wide. Check the tag for the spacing on your specific selection. Globe is a highly rated, popular variety with fleshy chokes and excellent flavor, Imperial Star has shown good disease resistance and Romanesco has beautiful purple-tinged bracts and is less “meaty”.
The plant will send up one large and several small buds on a thistle-ly stem. Harvest when the buds are tight and about 3″ across. A cook’s tip is to pick chokes which are heavy for their size. Once the bracts open, the vegetable becomes inedible. It will soon burst into an exquisite flower.
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Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com, a source for royalty free images