Growing Globe Artichokes
With its striking foliage and sculptural form, as well as the attractive thistle-like flowers that harbor a gourmet delicacy, the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a true stalwart in both the vegetable garden and the ornamental garden.
The globe artichoke is a kind of thistle with an edible flower bud and should not be confused with its cousin, the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), which is an edible root vegetable and a kind of sunflower.
Planting and Caring for your Globe Artichokes
Lifestyle Home Garden stocks a variety of globe artichoke seeds as well as young plants. Seeds can be sown in small pots (10-15cm) during winter in a greenhouse or on a warm, sunny windowsill. Use a good quality potting soil or germination mix and only plant as many seeds as you have space for in the garden (see below) plus a couple more for good luck! Seeds usually germinate after 2-3 weeks. Keep seedlings moist, but not soggy and transplant into the garden in late August or early September. Seeds can also be sown directly into the garden beds in spring. Seedlings should be ready for transplanting after 8-10 weeks when they are about 15cm high. At first, place them in a semi-shaded position and slowly expose them to more sun on a daily basis for about a week.
Allocate a space for your artichokes in a warm, full sun position. Keep in mind that the plants will reach a mature size of ±1.5 x 1.5m. Artichokes look striking as a border along one side of the vegetable patch or along a pathway, but can also hold its own as a focal point in a bed or large container.
Artichokes like a rich, well-composted, and well-draining soil – a sandy loam is ideal. The plants will not thrive in a clay soil with poor drainage. Prepare the area by digging a 10cm layer of good quality compost into the soil to a depth of about 30cm. Plant the seedlings about 1.5m apart and add a handful of bone meal to each planting hole. Water thoroughly and spread a layer of mulch around the plants.
To give the seedlings the best start, feed them fortnightly with an organic seedling food or water-soluble fertilizer. Once established, feed with an organic 3:1:5 fertiliser to promote flowering. Keep the plants moist at all times and pay attention to good drainage. Continue maintaining the layer of mulch around the plants to ensure moisture retention.
As the plant grows, it will produce side shoots. Thin the shoots out, leaving only the main shoot and three or four of the strongest shoots. This will result in healthier, stronger buds for harvesting.
In autumn, once the plant has finished flowering, cut the shoots back to about 30cm high and cover with frost cover for winter. New shoots will start to appear in spring and the cycle will restart to a new crop of delicious flower buds.
Artichokes plants will grow and produce for 3 – 5 years, depending on conditions. In areas with very cold winters they should be regarded as annuals. Plant a few plants each year to ensure a continuous crop.
GOOD COMPANIONS: Mint, marigolds, nasturtiums, coriander, sunflower, tarragon, cucumbers and rhubarb. Tansy and Pyrethrum will help keep pests at bay. Click |HERE| to read all about Potager gardening.
BAD COMPANIONS: Potatoes
Harvesting Globe Artichokes
The flower buds are the parts of the artichoke that are eaten. If grown from seed, the plant will only start producing flower heads during its second season. Flower buds will start appearing from early spring and continue into summer. Harvest the buds before they open (they should resemble a globe) and while the stem beneath the bud is still quite soft. The smaller buds are generally more succulent and less stringy that the very large ones. Cut the buds off with a sharp knife a few centimeters from the base of the bud.
If allowed to flower, they will produce brilliant, vivid-purple, thistle-like flowers, which will attract bees and other pollinators. The flowers can also be picked for the vase.
Interesting to know that…
- Globe Artichokes were grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans as long ago as 300 BC and were considered to be both a delicacy, a liver tonic and an aphrodisiac. That pretty much covers it all!
- The Cynarin in the leaves of globe artichokes has been found to be very effective in lowering cholesterol levels and hypertension, thereby protecting against heart disease.
- Ladybirds are very attracted to globe artichokes – these little predators play a big role in keeping the garden free of aphids and other pests which they prey on.
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