Having a perennial vegetable garden means less stress and fewer costs. A perennial favorite is an artichoke as it will continue to produce each year. Find out when to plant artichokes and how to care for them.
When to plant artichokes: Artichokes are a perennial plant although some varieties can be treated as an annual. If growing from seed, start your artichokes inside about eight weeks before the last spring date. Then, transplant them into your garden. If you are growing them from seedlings or dormant roots, you can plant them directly into the garden after the last frost date. Keep the soil moist for your artichokes and use plenty of mulch. This crop needs a lot of nutrients, so add good compost to the area before planting. Then, fertilize once a month. To protect your artichokes during winter, cut back the foliage. Then, add leaves or straw to the area. Once spring hits, you can remove the ground cover to allow your artichokes to grow again.
Planting Artichokes in Different Climates
You should be able to grow artichokes in a tropical climate. They like full sun, a bit of heat, and moist soil.
Artichokes also need a cooler winter for their dormancy period. However, if you want to grow them in a tropical climate, you can find varieties that work better as an annual.
Artichokes will not do well in a dry climate. They need soil that is moist and unless you want to hand-water your crop every day, it’s best to pick a different vegetable to grow.
A temperate climate is perhaps the best for artichokes. The mild spring and fall weather will provide natural rainfall and still be warm enough for the plants to grow.
You also don’t have to worry as much about winter care as the season will be cool but not overly cold.
You can have some success with a continental climate for artichokes but a bit more care is needed. The growing season will be shorter and you might not get the second harvest in the fall. Furthermore, be sure to cover your plants with leaves and straw to help them survive the winter.
Unfortunately, artichokes need more sun and warmth than a polar climate can provide. You can still try but the short growing season probably won’t agree with artichokes.
Choosing Artichokes Seeds
A fairly easy variety to grow, this type is especially good if you live in a northern climate as it is hardy. If you are worried about very cold winter temperatures, you can treat this variety as an annual.
For those that want an earlier artichoke season, this variety is a good option. You can get plenty of buds on each plant and you can also treat it as an annual.
With gorgeous purple buds that are a bit long to look at, this is a great, all-around option. Treat it as a perennial if you want a constant supply of artichokes in your garden.
How to Plant Artichokes Seeds
Seeds vs Shoots vs Plants
Before you begin planting, you should first know that there are many ways to start this plant. Which one you choose will depend on your availability as well as your time commitments.
You can definitely start with artichoke seeds. If you go this route, it is best to start them ahead of time inside.
Aim to start them inside about eight weeks before you transfer them outdoors. This should be late winter or early spring.
First, place the seeds in warm water for a few hours to wake them up a bit. Then, place the seeds in sowing trays where they will have enough nutrients.
The soil should remain moist and be kept in an area that has bright light. While windows are a good place, the area needs to be warm so watch out for any drafts.
Seedlings or shoots
If you want to skip a few steps, you can simply start with artichoke seeds or shoots. These should be available at your local gardening center.
Wait until after the last spring frost before planting the seedlings. For most areas, this will be sometime in May.
Finally, you can also plant artichokes based on dormant roots. These will look like bare roots but they will come to life when back in the soil.
If you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t go below freezing in the winter, you can plant artichoke roots in the fall. However, in most areas, it’s better to wait until the last frost date in the spring.
Artichokes love the full sun so make sure the area you plant them in isn’t covered by any shade. Whether you are planting seedlings or shoots, make sure the hole is relatively deep for all the roots.
Aim to have the top of the root structure be just above ground level.
Artichoke plants can really spread out so you want to leave about three or four feet between each plant. Furthermore, if planting rows, leave up to five feet between them.
Artichokes need a lot of nutrients to grow. If your soil isn’t rich enough, the buds will be small and your artichokes won’t be edible.
Start your soil off right by mixing in a good amount of aged manure or compost. Give it a good mix before planting.
How to Water Artichokes
Artichokes love the sun but they also need continually moist soil. This means a lot of care is needed for the best results.
If artichokes don’t have enough water, their buds won’t become edible. Many gardeners who grow artichokes will install a drip irrigation system to help with regular watering.
How to Grow Artichokes
After you transplant your artichoke seedlings, you should apply a layer of mulch around the area. Moist soil is paramount with artichokes, and mulch will help retain moisture.
However, you should remove the mulch once your plants start to bud. You can then replace the mulch with compost.
Artichokes need a decent amount of fertilizer. Try to aim to add fertilizer every month during the growing season. A balanced fertilizer with an equal ratio of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will do well.
Unlike many other vegetable crops, artichokes are perennial which means they need winter protection. During the fall, you will need to take a few steps to prepare them for the new season.
After your fall harvest of artichokes, you can then cut the plants back to about six inches of foliage. Keeping this foliage will help bring more nutrients to the roots.
Take fall leaves and cover the crowns of the plant to keep them insulated. The leaves will also break down and add more nutrients to the soil.
If you live in a very cold area, you can add a foot or two of straw on top of your artichokes. Just remember to remove the straw and leaves in the spring, right after the last frost.
Pests and Diseases
Artichokes are susceptible to some diseases, so watch out for signs of discoloration, wilted stems, and small buds.
Bacterial crown rot is a common disease and is evident by a lack of growth and leaves that wilt. Always clean your scissors if you are starting from cuttings and never transplant diseased plants.
As for pests, aphids, slugs, and beetles may be attracted to your artichokes. Inspect leaves for any holes and use a natural bug-repellant to deter these pests.
How to harvest artichokes
Timing is very important when harvesting artichokes. You want the buds to be a good size but they need to still be closed tight.
Take a sharp, clean knife, and cut across the stem about two inches below the bud.
Artichoke plants will have multiple buds on them for harvest. While only one or two will be the main, larger buds, there should be four to six other, smaller buds, that are still edible.
How many harvests will I get?
You should be guaranteed at least one harvest with your artichokes. This will be in early summer.
Once temperatures increase in the summer, your artichoke plant will then become dormant but still alive. In some areas, you will then get a second harvest in the fall, once temperatures start to cool off.
How long do artichokes take to grow?
Artichokes will be mature and ready for harvest after 85 to 100 days. To guarantee a harvest before the summer temperatures become too hot, start your seeds inside, just at the end of winter. Then, transplant your seedlings into your garden in mid-spring, around May.
Artichokes are a perennial crop and if you time them right, you can actually get two harvests out of them. Start your seeds indoors at the end of winter and then transplant them to your garden after the last frost date in the spring. They will be ready for harvest in early summer and then again in the fall.