Globe Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus) is a luscious herbaceous perennial that produces lovely big flower buds that when prepared well are just a delight to eat. I also like to grow them as they are a fabulously elegant architectural plant with their large soft many lobed grey-green leaves that are a great addition to any garden.
They can be eaten raw in salads, steamed as a vegetable or they can be pickled like the store bought equivalent. But with most things home grown, once you have tried fresh or home preserved product you will find it difficult to buy the jars from the supermarket ever again.
Whilst the Southern Highlands is not the perfect growing area for artichokes, due to the cold winters, I have always had reasonable success with them and as they are ready for picking in late spring, when I often do not have a lot of things ready for harvesting in the annual vegetable garden. They will continue to find a spot in my productive garden.
Autumn is the time I divide my Globe Artichokes to increase plant numbers.
I like to have at least 12 to 18 plants, producing around 8-10 buds per plant, to give me enough to eat fresh and then surplus to preserve.
They will produce for three to five years before needing to be replaced with young vigorous plants.
To avoid a decline in production I like to plant out new plants each year. Plants are available for purchase all year round but during late summer and autumn the mature plants produce offsets or suckers, which emerge at the base of the main trunk. These are the quickest and cheapest way of increasing your plants numbers.
So at this time of the year I like to remove these off sets from my oldest plants to start a new section of young plants. This ensures I always have plenty of two and three year old plants in full production.
I remove the offsets by carefully sliding a large knife in-between the main stem and the offset and slicing all the way into the soil, then gentle lifting the offset away from the main stem.
I trim the larger leaves and roots and then replant in a prepared bed.
Artichokes do best in full sun and as they do not like wet feet. I put then in a raised bed into which I have added a combination of well-rotted chicken and cow manure, blood and bone and couple of handfuls of sulphate of pot ash. The pot ash will encourage better flower bud formation.
I choose about five or six of the strongest offsets and plant them at 1m intervals, I then water them in well. I usually mulch heavily with sugar cane mulch to prevent weeds and to maintain soil moisture. Whilst I fertilise these plants in the first year, come late spring I remove the flower buds to encourage larger stronger plants that will produce better in the flowing year.
Once established (in their second year) I maintain then by fertilising from late winter to mid spring with weekly feeds of an organic high nitrogen liquid fertiliser, such as my home made Fertiliser Tea or Powerfeed to encourage lots of leaf growth. Then switch to high potassium fertiliser such as Comfrey Tea or Seasol for two weeks to encourage flower production.
By Late spring I should have between around 8 to 10 large flower buds appearing on each plant, which when ready I will harvest.
Artichoke are a cheap and easy care plant that are a great addition to any productive backyard, so why not get started on getting your patch of artichokes going by planting some now!
Will you be growing Artichokes at your place this year? I would love to see what you’re growing and working on, so please share on my Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to show me your latest crop!