The artichoke is an easy-to-grow vegetable,  on top of which it  can produce crops for 3 to 5 years. It is only important to choose the variety that is best suited to the region’s micro climate. Example: violet artichoke is very sensitive to humidity and reaches its full potential in sunny areas with low rainfall, while the globe artichoke withstands the rigorous temperatures of cold and humid regions.

The artichoke harvesting period varies depending on regions and cultivated varieties. In France, for example, harvesting is done between April and June for violet artichokes grown in the southern regions, while it takes place between July and September for varieties grown in other French regions.

For beautiful artichoke buds

To grow artichokes, you can choose between three methods: seedlings in containers, offshoots and seeds. For the latter, indoor sowing is carried out in the early months of the year, while the outdoor procedure is conducted in April-May at a rate of three seeds per hole. Proceed to transplanting when the seedlings have two leaves, although this growing method is advised against, as it yields poor results. You should know that artichoke is an invasive plant, with seedlings reaching 5 feet (1.5 m) a few weeks after planting and developing just as much in width. Given that it is a very greedy plant, enrich the soil with manure before planting it. Repeat the procedure in the fall and then add nitrogen fertilizer in spring if necessary. In all cases, avoid replanting artichokes in the same place for a period of at least 5 years after the last harvest.

For beginners, the recommended choices are the seedlings in containers, which are available in the trade, or the offshoots. The latter, also called suckers, are young shoots that appear at the base of an old artichoke plant. During the retrieval procedure, make sure that the offshoot is removed with its roots. Do not touch the offshoots that are at the centre of the plant because they are needed for the next harvest. The artichoke prefers deep tilled and well-drained soils that have a high content of organic matter. It is then becomes essential to bring in well-ripened compost or cow manure during land preparation. The ideal planting time depends on the variety: in September for the violet artichokes and in March-April for all others. To preserve the ground, it is advisable to grow lettuce or chicory with artichokes.

During planting, leave at least 3 feet (1 meter) between plants so that each seedling can develop properly. In regard to offshoots, put two in each hole at a depth of one inch (3 cm) or less. For containers, one plant per hole is more than enough and they need to be watered abundantly. Ensure that the soil is never dry during the first few weeks. You can also set up a layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. In winter, earth up each seedling if the soil is light and put a layer of mulch if the soil is heavy. To harvest, remove the flower buds (edible part of the plant) before the scales open up.

How to look after the artichoke plants?

The artichoke can be infested with black and green aphids and if the first lodge themselves in the flower heads, the latter settle on the leaves. To fight against aphids, focus resort to natural methods as much as possible : you can, for example, spray a mixture of water and hot peppers, soapy water or the water used to cook potatoes. It is also possible to incorporate natural predators of aphids such as green lacewings and ladybugs. To prevent slugs from finding refuge in the artichokes, simply install slug traps. Powdery mildew is a disease caused by fungi and characterized by the presence of white spots, mainly on offshoots and seedlings. Ramularia leaf spot is another disease caused by fungi. It leaves white marks on the foliage and, in both cases, the artichoke must be treated with an appropriate fungicide.

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Published in Summer vegetables by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011