Monday, June 18, 2012

Artichokes: From Seed to Harvest

I am starting a new blog series called “From Seed to Harvest”. In this series I will write about one vegetable, fruit or herb and what it takes to get it from a seed to your kitchen table. I am going to list varying growing conditions, soil preparation techniques and more. My goal is to arm you with as much information as possible to increase your chances of success with the varieties we cover.

First up, is the artichoke. Yes, you can grow them in your garden. While they will be much happier in warmer climates, they have been shown to be hardy in as far north as zone 4. Of course the colder your climate the more “tricks” you will need to use to take advantage of shortened growing seasons such as starting them earlier indoors and the use of cold frames.

When planting your artichoke seeds, make sure you do not plant them deeper than a quarter of an inch. Although they are a medium sized seed, you want to make sure they can push through the topsoil without much hassle. This depth is irregardless of your starting method. i.e. outdoors, indoors, in a cold frame or via a propagation dome.

Your artichoke seeds should be planted in a soil where the temperature exceeds seventy degrees Fahrenheit but not greater than eighty. If you are starting your seeds indoors, a propagation dome is an excellent tool to use to ensure germination in under 14 days.

Artichokes are one of those few home vegetable gardening anomalies where the pH is neutral to more alkaline. The best way to increase your soil’s pH level is the use of limestone. The finer the powder of the limestone, the faster it will amend your soil. Before you add anything, be sure to take a reading of your soil’s pH with a soil tester.

For your artichokes, you want your soil’s pH level to read anywhere from 6.5 to 8.0, which is a little less than neutral to a little above.

If you started your artichokes indoors, just like any other veggie started indoors, you will want to acclimate them to the outdoor temperatures. When daytime temps allow, bring your artichokes outside and then back inside at night when temps drop. This process is also called hardening off.

When permanently planting your artichoke starters be sure to give them plenty of room to grow. While you can probably get away with eighteen inches between plants, twenty-four is the recommended space. For square foot gardeners out there that is the equivalent of two squares.

Artichokes are heavy feeders so be sure to prepare your soil with plenty of compost, and feed them throughout the season with compost/manure tea or other organic fertilizers.

If your artichoke is a nice evenly green color and isn’t open, then it is ready to be harvested. Try not to wait too long as once it begins to open it starts losing its tenderness. Be sure to harvest your artichokes by clipping them off at the bottom.

The most popular variety is the Green Globe and for artichokes, sunflowers, and tarragon make for great neighbors in companion planting methods, while following Jerusalem artichokes in a crop rotation, is not a good idea.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the monthly Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

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