How to Grow Artichokes

how to grow artichokes

This is one of the vegetables that really feels like a gourmet crop - globe artichokes are striking architectural thistle like plants with jagged silvery leaves and grow up to 5 foot high - They are good planted at the back of a perennial border if you don't have anywhere else to grow them - treat it just like any herbaceous perennial.

When To Plant 

Sow March to April under glass or in a seedbed outdoors and plant out a year later - most people buy young plants though rather than grow from seed.

Plant out in April spacing 90 cm apart with 90cm to 1m between rows - one or two plants are usually enough for a few good meals over the summer and each plant should yield 6 to 10 buds per season. 

Care Tips

Water in after planting and during dry spells in the summer when plants are carrying a crop and feed in April by sprinkling organic fertiliser around each plant and mulch generously.

No supports are needed and in autumn cut down the old stems in the same way as herbaceous perennial flowers in your borders.

Artichoke Harvest

Throughout the summer from July to the end of September -  cut off half the green flower beds when they are roughly the size of your fist using secateurs to snap through the stem about two centimetres below the base of the bud -  take care they can be prickly! 

Possible Problems

Black fly often attack the flower buds but a light attack is no problem as the outer scales are removed when preparing artichoke heads for cooking.

If you see aphids on the developing crop wipe them off with a damp cloth or a soft brush dipped in water.

Expert Growing Tips

Artichokes like a warm sunny spot with some shelter and a light well drained soil.

Allow plants a year to get established before you start pruning but don't allow flowers to develop during the first year - snip off baby buds as soon as they're seen.  The plants are most productive in their first four to five years so in year 3 remove some of the small offsets that form around the base of a mature plant and pot them up to start  next year - these will establish themselves while the old plants are in their final year.

If you don't pick artichoke buds at the right stage for eating they continue to develop into flowers these open into attractive giant Thistle flowers with purple spikes at the top of a prickly green base they look good in the garden but if you cut them just as the colour starts to show they can be dried and used to spectacular effect in winter flower arrangements.