Growing Artichokes in the Vegetable Garden
Globe artichokes make large plants and it might seem inappropriate to consider them for the small. However, the plant is so decorative, with its silvery foliage, that it may be grown with great effect in a herbaceous border and so relieve the pressure on space in the . If you are fond of globe artichokes it may well be worth your while growing them there, for they are expensive to buy.
Sow in a sunny position from about the middle of March in the south to May in the north. The earlier the sowing the better: if conditions are right, they will provide globes in their first year. The site should be well drained, with ample compost dug in. Allow the plants plenty of space: they grow to some 2m (6-1/2 ft) high, with a spread of about 1 m (3-1/4 ft). Plant 2 or 3 seeds in each site as an insurance against failure; if all the seeds germinate and grow in each site, remove the weakest when they are a few inches high, leaving the best plants to grow on. If the plants are in a windy location, support them with bamboo stakes.
Subsequent attention is simple. Keep thefree of weeds during the early weeks; thereafter the lower leaves will smother any weeds. The soil should be kept moist, and the plants fed occasionally with a dilute liquid fertiliser.
According to weather conditions and time of sowing, the globes will be ready from late June onwards. The edible parts of the globe artichoke are the bud scales and base. It is therefore essential to cut off the buds just before flowering, while they are tender. After you have removed the first bud from each plant, subsequent side buds may appear. Although tasty these will not be as large as the first bud unless you limit the number allowed to grow on each plant.
To maintain the quality of your crops when growing artichokes, replace the plants every 3 years either by sowing fresh seed or by cutting suckers off the old plants. The suckers should be 250-300 mm (10-12 in) long, with some root attached, and should be cut in April and planted at once. You can also use the remains of the old plant to grow another crop — artichoke chards, which are used in the same way as Swiss chard. Cut the plants down to about 30 mm (11/4 in) in July. New growth will soon arise, and when it is about 600 mm (24 in) high bunch the leaves together and tie. Wrap them with strong paper and earth up the plants with dry soil to blanch the chards. The chards will be ready in about 6 or 7 weeks; after their removal the old plant should be composted. Globe artichokes are rarely troubled by pests or disease. The main problem is with slugs and snails, which enjoy the young growth and chards; they can be killed with Draza pellets.
I would recommend the ‘Green Ball’ variety for growing artichokes at home.
Site: Sunny, open
Soil: Well-drained, enriched
Sow: Mid-March to May
Harvest: Late June onwards
This plant can be used in two ways: raw in salads, and cooked by various methods. Like the globe artichoke, it is rather a large plant for the kitchen garden. Nor is it suitable for the herbaceous border, as it might be difficult to dig up the tubers without damaging flowering plants nearby. The best thing to do is to raise the plants in a corner of the garden where they can be used as a screen to hide your compost heap, dustbin, or other feature.
Plant the tubers in late winter or early spring, at a depth of 125-150 mm (5-6 in) and about 300-350 mm (12-14 in) apart. They will grow in virtually any soil, but do best with reasonable and the addition of compost. Subsequently, keep the soil weed-free, and stake the plants to keep them tidy. They may grow up to 3 m (10 ft) high and will get straggly in windy conditions unless you use stout poles or bamboo for staking; the plants can be secured by tying them with string or wire strung between the poles.
Harvesting is from late October onwards. Dig tubers as required, making sure to remove them all from each position during the course of the winter: they do not store well. Select small, well-formed tubers from the latest diggings for planting next year’s crop. About 1 kg (2-1/41b) will be sufficient for a 5-6 m (16-20 ft) row.
Pests and diseases are unlikely to cause trouble.
Recommended variety ‘Fuseau’
Site: Anywhere, preferably with some sun
Soil: Well-drained, enriched
Plant: February —March
Harvest: Late October onwards