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Grow at Home: How to grow Globe Artichokes

Written by Sarah Talbot

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Posted on 19 April 2021

Globe artichokes

Artichoke pencil drawing how to grow artichokesGlobe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a perennial plant (lasts up to 6 years) and one type of thistle that you are going to actually want on your plot!  
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The part you eat is a large edible flower bud which takes a bit of prep but is delicious.  Globe artichokes are extremely large plants (1.5 m/5 feet)  in diameter - so you'll need space to grow them.  They are rewardingly ornamental though, great for pollinators and add an architectural statement on your planting.

Sowing

Artichokes can be grown from seed or young plants can be purchased from your garden centre.

Sow seeds in March and April 14mm (½in) n 7.5cm (3in) pots filled with good compost.

You can sow straight into their final position too.  They aren't too fussy when it comes to soil so a reasonably fertile soil will be fine as long as it is well drained.  Sow 2 or 3 seeds  - also at 14mm (½in) deep in rows 25-30cm (10-12in) apart.  You will need to thin later to leave the strongest seedling in each spot.

Plants are more commonly propagated from rooted suckers, bought or taken from established plants from March-April. So if you see suckers that are 20-30cm (8-12in) long with at least two shoots then grab the chance to get a free plant or start off a replacement for your current plant.

Pot grown seedlings and bought plants can all be planted out in April to June. Leave them until they have at least five true leaves.  Allow 60-90cm (2-3ft) between plants. Water them well until they are established.

Care

The first year 

The first year is all about getting the plant established.  Water regularly during dry weather.  Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost and liquid feed every fortnight. 

In late autumn, cut off the foliage and mulch the crowns to protect them over winter. Pile straw or leaves over the crown and secure it with netting and a plastic sheet to keep it dry.

In spring, as the plants begin to grow again, remove the mulch and feed. 

Ongoing

In later years you can relax a little.  Weed well and mulch with well-rotted manure or similar and feed with general fertiliser in spring when the soil starts to warm.  This will help to increase yields.

As in the first year, the plants will need some protection from the cold in winter.  So mulch and cover as indicated above.  

To keep stock young and vigorous, divide plants every two to three years and plant at the same spacing as seeds.

 Flowering

How to go=row artichokes single mature globe artichoke king head Seed-grown plants usually flower the year of sowing. Like other perennial plants though it is advisable to let them establish well before harvesting.  So, as small heads start to develop during the first year, cut them off and discard to reserve strength for the following year.

Harvesting

Generally you harvest artichokes the June to July a year after planting.  They become more and more prolific each year until, after around 4 to 6 years, they will run out of steam and the planting needs to be renewed.  So watch out for suckers from your best plants as the plants start to age and you can ensure new plants come in without a break in the harvest.   

To harvest your artichokes remove the buds, when they reach the size of a golf ball.  You can let them get bigger but there is more flavour in the smaller bulbs, 

Harvest the buds before they open and start to flower - usually from July time onwards.  Cut off the main stem head (the king head) first with secateurs.  After harvesting the main head, secondary heads appear, these too can be harvested, when they have developed. As the plant is still getting established, don't let more than 6 heads develop in this second year.  In the third and subsequent years 12 heads can be allowed to develop. 

Recipe

Artichokes are best served simply. 

Start by removing any damaged scales and trim the points off the remaining scales with sharp scissors.

Remove the hairy central choke (which is inedible) before boiling until tender (test with a knife as you would a potato).  Time will vary according to the size of the artichoke but may be as much as 40 minutes for larger buds. 

Then all you need is some melted butter (or a hollandaise if you are feeling extravagant)  - pull off each scale, dip in the butter and suck the fleshy base of each scale . You can then eat the tender central heart afterwards with a spoon.

Pests & Diseases

Slugs and snails may be a problem for the seedlings.  Use beer traps or a circle of crushed egg shells to deter them.  

Aphids - look out for greenfly on the tips of the shoots and manually remove them as soon as you see them before they get out of hand.  Squash between  your finger and thumb.

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