Growing Artichokes For A Delicious Summer Harvest
If we asked you to picture a thistle, you might conjure up an image of short, fuzzy leaves with brutal looking spikes, and maybe a tall, craggy stem with a purple flower on top. Not something you would want in your garden, and certainly not something you would want to eat – or would you?
Artichokes are one of the largest members of the thistle family, with the immature flower buds harvested as a popular vegetable. Growing artichokes requires a large amount of space in nitrogen-rich soil but, if properly maintained, it will produce edible buds most of the summer. Popular companion plants include peas, cabbage, sunflowers and tarragon, none of which will compete for nutrients.
Maintaining Your Growing Artichokes
Planting artichokes from seed is a gamble, so we recommend starting with a transplant that has been divided off of a mature plant. If you plan on growing multiples, plant your starts four to six feet apart to make sure all of them get enough sun.
Artichokes love water, and need a constant supply in order to produce tender buds. As a thistle, the perennial power of an artichoke plant lies in its deep roots. To encourage strong roots, water deeply between 1 to 3 times a week, depending on the weather. For more tips on developing a strong root system, read our blog article “How important is a strong root structure?”
Extremely hot summers can cause artichoke buds to open quickly into flowers. To prevent this from happening, overhead irrigation can keep the temperatures down so buds won’t open. Mulching around each plant can also help reduce soil temperatures and water evaporation.
Harvesting Your Growing Artichokes
When harvesting artichokes, all you need is a utility knife to cut the stem at a 45 degree angle somewhere between one and three inches from the base of the bud. The stem will be a useful handle when trimming the artichoke later.
The center bud matures the fastest and, after harvesting, will produce side shoots with small buds one to three inches around. These buds are also extremely tender and flavorful.
To encourage further growth, remove old stalks by cutting just above the ground level when new bud-bearing stalks appear. Trim old stalks back about once a month to avoid shocking the plant.
How To Trim Your Harvested Artichokes
Unlike other vegetables you may grow in your garden, artichokes take a little bit of extra work after harvesting before they are ready to eat.
- Use a serrated knife to trim off the top third of the artichoke bud.
- Remove the outer 2 layers of leaves from around the stem.
- Use kitchen shears to trim the sharp tips off each remaining outer leaf.
- If you want the artichoke to sit flat, cut off the stem. Otherwise, simply peel it with a paring knife.
- If preparing multiple artichokes at once, place the trimmed artichokes in a bowl of lemon water to keep them fresh while you work until ready to steam.
Prune Your Artichokes In The Fall
At the end of the summer, or beginning of fall, cut your artichokes back completely to the ground with a pair of pruning shears. A good indication to watch for is the yellowing of the plant’s leaves. Mulch the plants with compost or straw to help it winter, and uncover in early spring after the last frost.
Divide Your Growing Artichokes
Artichokes are generally considered 5-year plants. Each plant produces off-shoots that begin to crowd the parent plant. To maintain a healthy artichoke garden, carefully divide your artichoke plants every few years. You don’t have to dig up the entire plant, though. You can simply separate a rooted shoot with your gardening knife or shovel and then carefully dig it up and replant.
Let SummerWinds Answer Your Gardening Questions
Artichokes are just one of the many plants that the gardening experts at SummerWinds can answer questions about. Do you have mysteries growing in your garden that you need answers to? Come visit any of our convenient Valley locations today and speak with one of our Trusted Garden Advisors.
About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the Silicon Valley, California and the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.