By: Laura Miller
Artichoke (Cynaracardunculus) has a rich culinary history which dates back several centuriesto the time of ancient Romans. The propagation of artichoke plants is believedto have originated in the Mediterranean area where this perennial thistle wasconsidered a delicacy.
As a tender perennial, artichokes are winter hardy in USDAzones 7 through 11. Modern day gardeners wishing to cultivate artichokes inother climates can do so by planting artichoke from seeds and growing them asannuals. Rooting artichoke cuttings is another method of artichoke plantpropagation and is used in areas where they can be grown as perennials.
When growing artichokes as an annual crop in coolerclimates, it’s best to start the seeds indoors approximately two months beforethe lastfrost date. It was long believed artichokes grown from seed were inferiorto those propagated by rooting cuttings. This is no longer the case. Followthese tips for successfully planting artichokes from seeds:
Planting artichokes from seeds can also be used to establishperennial beds in areas where they are winter hardy. Artichokes reach peakproduction in their second year and continue to produce for up to six years.Mature plants will send up one or more offshoots which is an alternative methodof artichoke plant propagation:
Harvest artichokes when the lowest bract onthe bud begins to open. In warmer climates with a longer season, harvesting twocrops per year is possible.
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Artichoke culture depends on the climate. Artichokes are perennials, but they can be grown as annuals in climates with cold winters.
In cold climates, start artichoke seeds indoors eight weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow them one-quarter inch apart in soilless mix transplant seedlings into two-to-four-inch containers. Grow them on at 60-70 degrees F during the day and 50-60 degrees F at night. When they are six-to-eight weeks old, plant them in the garden two-to-three feet apart. To set buds artichoke plants need at least 250 hours of temperatures below 50 degrees F, a process called vernalization. Be sure to protect plants from frost.
In areas where the winter temperature stays above 14 degrees F, seeds are typically sown in the fall and harvested in the spring.
Artichokes need sandy, quick-draining soil with high organic content cool nights and warm days and a regular supply of water. Mulching with a coarse, loose mulch will keep weeds down and moisture even. Full sun is a must.
Fertilize the plant with a balanced liquid fertilizer, diluted at half or quarter-strength, once a month during the growth period. Feed the plant again when the first artichoke emerges. Water plants thoroughly before the application and avoid pouring near the leaves as they can burn. Alternatively, you can also feed fish emulsion to the plants every 8-10 weeks.
Note: Green Globe and Violet de Provence survive winters the best.
In damp weather conditions, slugs can attack your artichokes. Mainly they feast on young, tender leaves. Aphids are one more threat, but they can be hosed off. Provide the plant sufficient space for air circulation.
Gray mold or botrytis can damage flower bracts and leaves by turning them brown and grey. Remove the affected leaves immediately after you notice the disease. Use a fungicide recommended for edible plants or try neem oil.