Artichoke

Why Grow Artichoke?

The largest of the thistle family, Artichokes are a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.2 – 1,5 m (4-5ft) tall and spread up to 90cms (3ft) across. With striking blue grey leaves and thistle like flowers they are equally at home in a border or in the vegetable plot. They are mainly grown for their edible, fleshy hearts which can be found between the base of the outer scales and top of the flower stem. Artichoke hearts taste great gently cooked, lightly steamed for example, but can also be eaten freshly picked or can be pickled to preserve them.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Cynara scolymus
Sowing Time : Heated Greenhouse – January
Unheated Greenhouse – February
For outdoors – Sow indoors early March, plant out early June
Harvest Time : August -Mid October
Hardiness : Not hardy – Protect From Frost
Position : Full Sun, Sheltered from strong winds
Soil Type : Well drained and fertile.
Average Plant Height : 1.2-1.5m / 4-5ft
Spacing : 90cm / 3ft
Spread : 90cm / 3ft
Soil and Preparation

Globe Artichokes perform best in light or loamy soils, with good drainage, in a sunny but sheltered position. They do not grow well at all in heavy clays.

Dig the soil over well in the autumn, incorporating a good amount of well-rotted manure or compost. Rake in some general fertilizer a couple of weeks before you plant out your seedlings.

Seeds and Sowing

Sow in the greenhouse with gentle heat in late February, harden off gradually and plant out when they have 5 true leaves, in late May, when the risk of frost has passed. Otherwise they can be sown in open ground in April, thinned during the summer, and transplanted at 90cms (3ft) apart the following year. Once the crop has become established it can be increased by root division in the spring. Using a sharp knife or two hand forks, healthy, established plants can be split up, making sure that each division has at least 2 shoots, a good root system and a tuft of leaves. Plant the new divisions 60-75cms (24-30in) apart, and trim the leaves to approx. 10cms (4in) to encourage new root growth. Plants should be replaced every 3 years to ensure the crop remains vigorous and healthy.

Caring for Your Crop

The roots of artichokes do not like to dry out in the summer or to become waterlogged in winter, so the site for a new crop needs to be chosen carefully. If low winter temperatures are forecast it is advisable to earth up the base of each plant and cover this with a thick layer of straw; remembering to remove this protection in the spring, when a feed will ensure a vigorous crop in the coming season. Slugs and aphids are the main pests that could damage the crop.

Harvesting

In the first year a few heads may be cut in late summer if conditions have been favourable to allow the plant to establish well. Subsequent years will produce more flowering heads. Pick the heads once the buds feel plump but before the scales open.

Storage

Artichoke heads will store in a polythene bag in the fridge for about 1 week.