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How to Grow Artichokes

Artichokes grow best where there are mild, frost free winters and long, moist summers.
Grow artichokes
Artichokes grow best where there are mild, frost-free winters and long, moist summers.

Set out artichoke crowns or root divisions in spring about 2 weeks before the last frost.

About artichokes. The artichoke is an edible thistle flower bud that is eaten before it opens. Artichokes are tender perennials that grow from 3 to 4 feet (.9-1.2m) tall and to 6 feet 1.8m) across.

Yield. Grow 1 or 2 plants per household member.

Site. Artichokes grow best where there are mild, frost-free winters and long, moist summers. (Artichokes are commonly grown along the central California coast and along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts.) The optimal growing temperature is not less than 50°F (10°C) at night and not more than 75°F (24°C) during the day. Do not plant artichokes where there are fewer than 100 frost-free growing days.

Artichoke planting time. Plant artichokes on the average date of the last frost in late winter or early spring. Set your root divisions up to 2 weeks before the last frost. The optimal planting soil temperature is between 50° and 85°F (10-29.4°C).

How to plant artichokes. Grow artichokes from offshoots, suckers, or seed. Plant artichokes in full sun. Artichokes require rich, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil with a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Add compost and well-aged manure to planting beds in advance of planting.

More at Artichoke Planting Tips.

Spacing. Set offshoots or suckers 3 to 4 feet (.9-1.2m) apart in rows about 6 feet (1.8m) apart. Sow seed ½ inch (1.25cm) deep; thin to 6 feet (1.8m) apart.

Water and feeding. Keep the soil evenly moist. Allow the soil to dry between watering. Add a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10 to planting beds in spring and fall.

Companion plants. Plant artichokes with other perennial vegetables such as asparagus.

Care. Where the winter is cold, cut plants back to about 10 inches (25cm) and cover with a box or basket, and then mulch with about 2 feet (.6m) of straw or leaves to help maintain an even soil temperature. Artichokes bear best the second year and should be started from new plants every 3 to 4 years.

Container growing. Grow artichokes in large containers at least 36 to 40 inches (91-101cm) wide.

Pests. Aphids and plume moths attack the artichoke. The plume moth is a problem in heavy artichoke-growing districts. Hose off aphids.

Diseases. Crown rot may infect plants covered in winter. Do not place mulch until the soil temperature drops to 40°F (4.4C). Remove mulch as soon as the weather begins to warm. Plant disease-resistant varieties when they are available. Avoid handling plants when they are wet. Remove infected plants and destroy them.

Artichoke harvest
Artichokes ready for harvest

Harvest. Artichokes are harvested beginning the second year. Cut buds about the size of an apple before they open. Cut stems 1½ inches (3.8cm) below the bud.

More at How to Harvest and Store Artichokes.

Storing and preserving. Artichokes will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Artichokes hearts can be frozen after cooking, canned, or pickled.

Varieties. Green Globe, Imperial Star, Violetto.

Common name. Artichoke, globe artichoke

Botanical name. Cynara scolymus

Origin. Southern Europe, North America

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    • Artichokes grow well in Southern California. They are usually planted bare root in the fall and then grow to become perennial, permanent plants that will produce a crop the following summer. (A tried-and-true good variety is Green Globe.) But there are newer varieties that can be grown from seed as annuals. Buy these plants as starts at a local garden center. Plant these in March in Southern California or plant them in late summer for a late winter or spring harvest.

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