How to grow globe artichoke, an attractive architectural vegetable plant that is as happy in the flower borders as it is in the vegetable patch.
The globe artichoke is actually a thistle and as it needs a good season under its belt before it produces any quantity of its edible flowers, this plant needs a permanent position and will not fit into your crop rotation groups.
How To Grow Globe Artichoke:
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As globe artichokes do not fit into a rotation plan the preparation of the soil is done prior to planting, by digging the soil and adding plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.
To be honest the preparation of the bed is quite simple and the greatest care will have to be given to the location rather than anything else.
These plants are big, they can grow up to 1.5 meters high, and can fill an area of almost a meter. The leaves are an attractive silver colour and the size of the plant makes it a good architectural plant that is at home in the flower bed or the vegetable garden.
Globe artichokes can be grown from seed, sown under glass in March or April and grown on until the seedling has half a dozen true leaves. Then, as long as the risk of frost has past, and after a period of hardening off, plant into its final location.
Although seed sowing can be successful, it can also be a bit hit and miss, and even if you get the seeds to germinate perhaps growing from seed is not the best way to give your artichokes the best start. It would be more usual to buy a root stock split from another well developed plant.
To plant the root cutting dig a hole as large as the root and back filling with a mix of soil and plenty of well-rotted manure. If you are planting more than one plant space them no less than 60cm apart, but nearer 90cm would be better.
Once the plant starts to grow, other than weeding and feeding, there is very little else to do.
But it is important to give your globe artichokes the best possible start, so during its first year do not let any flowers develop, just snip off the buds as they form and the plant will use its energy to develop a strong root system.
It is also worth feeding your plant during the flowering season, either with liquid tomato food, or better still, comfrey tea.
At the end of the summer the artichoke will start to die back, and by Autumn the plant will be dormant for the winter. To protect the crown from frost, remove any remaining leaves and cover with straw and netting and protect the plant from excess water with a plastic sheet.
In early spring uncover the crowns and mulch with some well-rotted manure.
Again feed with a liquid fertilizer as soon as flowers start to develop.
In the second year you harvest the main stem flower first, this is called the king head, and then only harvest 6 other buds, removing any further buds as soon as you see them developing.
On the third year you can harvest all of the buds, and the plant should be at the peak of its production from the fourth to sixth year.
As the plant develops you will notice that it will send shoots out from the main stem. These are the root stocks that you can cut from the plant to plant elsewhere, so if you have a super productive plant the shoots will be a clone and should be as productive.
If you have room you can let the plant continue to send out shoots, or you can control the spread by cutting them off.
It is worth starting more plants going before the mother artichoke gets to its sixth year because the plant will start to show signs of exhaustion and will produce less flower heads.
Globe artichokes are fairly trouble free, they are not susceptible to any disease, although they are a favorite of slugs and snails.
Larger plants are pretty resistant to pest attacks, but is well worth placing some slug traps around the them to keep them at bay.
Greenfly can also be a problem on growing tips, but an insecticidal soap spray will easily take care of them. Take a look at the pest and problems page for help with dealing with garden pests.
In this how to grow globe artichoke guide we have talked about how many buds to harvest each year, the other thing to remember is to wear gloves, they have some sharp thorns on the bud petals that can hurt
To pick the artichoke simply cut the stem about 10cm from the bud when the petals are still closed and the flower head is between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball.
There are 2 ways of preparing artichokes, the first involves removing the lower bulb leaves and cutting the hairy choke to reveal the artichoke heart, this can be boiled or steamed and used in a variety of ways.
The other way of preparing artichokes is probably the easiest way and will give far more artichoke to eat.
Cut off the top few centimetres of the bud and remove the smaller petals nearer to the stem, carefully wash under running water, opening the petals a little to run water through them.
Place the artichoke in a saucepan with a few centimetres of water, some lemon and garlic, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until cooked. Large artichokes will take up to 45 minutes, and smaller ones around 25.
The artichokes can be eaten hot or cold, pull off an outer leaf, dip in butter or mayonnaise and pull your teeth through the softer part at the bottom of the petal, then discard.
Once the petals have all been eaten you will be left with the heart and the choke. The choke cannot be eaten, it is called a choke for a reason and you will need to cut it off. The choke is the hairy part of the heart that would have formed the middle of the flower, and once cut away you will be left with the delicious artichoke heart.