Friday, January 25, 2013

How to Grow Artichokes in the North


In order to successfully grow artichokes in the north, they must be started from seed indoors or grown from transplants because the growing season simply isn’t long enough to sow seeds directly in the ground. In the north, artichokes are grown as annuals to accommodate the short growing season.

Tip: Some northern gardeners have had success with digging up the artichoke roots and hanging them in mesh bags (onion bags) in a cool, dry, dark place. Come spring they replant the roots, feed and water them, and watch them come back to life and produce a healthy crop.

Guide to Growing Artichokes in the North

Plant Type: Annual (zone 8 & higher), Perennial (up to zone 7)
Genus: Thistle Family
Name: Cynara scolymus

How to Grow Artichokes from Seed

Sow seeds in 4” containers in rich potting soil mixed with either fish emulsion or organic fertilizer containing NPK, Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. Young artichoke seedlings require lots of nutrients to get off to a healthy start. In the north, seeds should be started in February. Water as needed.

Before transplanting seedlings outdoors, it’s important to harden them off. This process encourages artichokes to bud during their first year of growth which is needed when planted as an annual.

How to Harden Off Artichoke Seedlings

When the days begin to warm and seedlings are about 8-10” tall, set them outdoors in a shady area out of the wind for a few hours each day as temperatures permit. Slowly increase the amount of time seedlings are kept outdoors over a 2 week period. When soil and air temperatures have warmed, transplant to the garden.

How to Transplant Artichokes

Whether using home-grown transplants or those bought at the local nursery, it’s important to make sure the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has past before transplanting to the garden. Before transplanting, seedlings should have their first true leaves and sturdy stems. Seedlings should be about 8-10 weeks old. 

Where to Plant: Plant in rich soil mixed with compost. 

Plant Spacing: Plant each artichoke seedling 2-4’apart. 

Fertilization: During the transplanting process, till in compost or a complete organic fertilizer (following instructions on bag) in the spot where the seedlings are to go. Fertilize once a month during the growing season to feed hungry artichoke plants which thrive on nutrient-rich soil.

Watering: Water as needed keeping the soil evenly moist.

How to Harvest Artichokes

Once flowers have formed on the buds and before they open, cleanly slice buds off the plants at their base. 

Pest and Disease Control

Snails, slugs, caterpillars and aphids are pests to watch out for. Hand pick pests and drop them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them. Set out beer traps to kill slugs and snails. 

Varieties of Artichoke

Imperial Star
Imperial Star: High-yielding. Plants produce 6-8 mature buds about 3-4" tall. Produces first season from seed. Perennial in zone 7, annual in all other zones. Thornless. Easy to grow from seed. 85 days.

Opera: Early variety. High-yielding. Plants grow to 2 ½ - 3 feet tall and produce 3-4 primary  3-4”  buds and 6-8 secondary 1 ½ - 2 ¾”  buds. Perennial in zone 7, annual in all other zones. 100 days. 

Jerusalem Artichoke: Tubers. Potato-like taste and water chestnut-like texture. Can be harvested fall to spring. Stores well. Perennial. 

Stampede (Jerusalem artichoke): High-yielding. Extra early tubers grow to ½ pound in size. Winter hardy. Stores well. Zones 3-8.  

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