How to Grow Artichokes

Did you know that artichokes are thistles? This discovery comes as a surprise to many people. However, that is not to say that they are not tasty. These plants do best in mild climates such as those present in the Mediterranean, and they have a hard time surviving in cold weather. Thus, you will find that in some places growth takes place annually while in others, their growth is perennial. The good thing about having a wooden shed is that you can regulate the temperatures to make the conditions suitable for the healthy growth of artichokes.

The one thing that farmers have to do, regardless of the climate, is frequent fertilization of these plants as they require many nutrients to thrive. They also require lots of water during germination and aftercare. What else do you need to grow these plants?

Climate Considerations

By now, you have already figured out that climate plays an essential role in the growth of these tasty plants. Thus, it is best to start by identifying your growing zone, information which you can get from your local forecast. These details will help you in the selection of a type that cannot only survive but also thrive in your zone. Supposing you live in an area where the temperatures consistently range from ten to twenty degrees Fahrenheit, you can grow the plants annually. However, where the temperatures are much warmer than this, you can look forward to perennial production. Where you choose to have the plants growing in a shed, you can look forward to the latter.

Agricultural research service maps will help you determine your zone as well as what variety can work for your area. If you are in zones 8 or higher, an annual plant will work for you. If you are unsure of your zone, you can use the temperature records on the map and compare them to those in your locality to help you in making an informed decision.

Variety Selection

These plants come in two types: green and purple. In this case, it all depends on what you like best. Suppose you would prefer to plant the green variety, Imperial Star does best for annual cultivation while the Green Globe type is the best for a perennial. Where you choose to have the purple option, Opera is the best variety as it matures quite fast. You can opt to grow the Violetta which can resist infestations and harsh weather.

Soil Preparation

No matter the variety you plan on planting, it is necessary to prepare the ground such that it is fertile, productive and moist. The good thing about these plants is that they quickly adapt to the conditions, as long as there are adequate nutrients in play. The soil should also be well-draining to avoid water retention that could hurt the germination success rate. Suppose you live in an area that receives heavy rainfall that could work against the draining abilities of the soil, having a raised bed will help. For people planting in sheds, ensure that you loosen the soil and prepare it by adding at least six inches of compost to it.

Starting The Seeds

The best way to increase your chances of germination is by having the seeds indoors. Plant them in four-inch containers and allow them to have access to natural light if they are in a shed, or fluorescent light if they are in a house. Under these conditions, the seedlings will be out in a week or thereabouts. You can have as many planters as you deem necessary for the planting.

If you plan on transferring the seedlings to the outdoors when they are ready, you should start hardening them off at least six weeks before the last frost date. You can do this by exposing them to the outdoor conditions now and then, and they will get used to the temperatures. Be slow with the hardening as too much of the same could end up weakening the seedlings.

If the seedlings will grow outdoors, move them to the garden at least three to four weeks before the anticipated final frost. At this time, they should be as tall as your hand. Exposing them to temperatures below forty-five degrees Fahrenheit will trigger them to flower. Thus, if you have them in a shed, you should adjust the conditions accordingly to achieve this.

As you place them into the ground that you have prepared using the compost, ensure that the crown lies above the soil line by a fraction. If you notice any weak seedlings among the lot, be sure to cull them. It should take about eight to ten weeks for successful seedlings to have two sets of leaves coupled with strong stems. Where any of the plants do not exhibit these features, remove them from the lot.

Here is another way that you can start your plants. Suppose you live in an area where the climate is frosty throughout most of the year, your best bet in growing healthy plants lies in the use of transplants. Thus, your ideal planting time for the same will be in early spring or towards the end of winter, and your harvest should be ready towards the end of summer or the start of autumn. You need rooted shoots for this, and you can get them from a greenhouse or other trusted establishment. You can also get them yourself by cutting an offshoot from the base of a plant, as long as it is less than ten inches tall. As you do so, ensure that you get roots during the removal process.

Whichever way you choose to start your plants, it is essential that you provide adequate spacing for them. Where space is not an issue, a four-foot distance will be sufficient. If you cannot achieve this, you can make do with three feet. This spacing allows for the plants to spread their leaves as they grow wide.

Fertilization

Before planting the seedlings, you need to fertilize the soil. You can use a shovel of compost for each plant, or you could substitute this with a cup of high-nitrogen fertilizer. You should also have half a cup of blood meal coupled with half a cup of bone meal in the soil for added nutrients. Once the plants are mature and are about to bud, dress each plant with a pound or two of aged manure.

Watering

The plants will need at least one inch of water per week. Where adequate rainfall is available, there is no need for irrigation. Ensure that the soil drains well to avoid problems associated with water-logging.

Harvesting

Most of the stalks will result in three to five buds towards the end of summer. Once the lowest scales on the buds start to open, you can harvest the buds using a sharp knife as you prep to enjoy the results of your hard work and patience.

Knowing how to grow artichokes will come down to preparation and selecting what is right for your zone.

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