Guide to Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are large, easy-to-grow plants that need little attention and produce a large crop. They are officially part of the daisy family but grow in broadly the same way as potatoes so it is the underground tubers you will be eating. A relative of sunflowers, they produce tall stems that are topped with yellow flowers in late summer.
You can plant them from February to April for harvest from November to January.
Even if you aren't reading this in the planting timeslot its good to consider them now. That's because you will need to have a large space for them.
They grow into seriously big plants so will also need a lot of space both to grow and so that they don't overshadow neighbouring plants. They can get up to 2m (6 1/2') tall and need about 1.5m (5') between rows. You can also grow them in large pots or garden containers. They also like full sun too.
To take advantage of their height, if you are in a windy area you can use them as a windbreak or a screen. You may need to support them with canes if the site is too exposed. The alternative to supporting them is to cut them back to 1.5m (5') in midsummer. The plus side of this is that you will reduce the chance of wind rock that will weaken the plants and cause them to topple. The minus side is that you, and all the pollinators, will lose the lovely flowers.
Planting Jerusalem Artichokes
Like potatoes, they are grown from tubers not seeds.
If growing Jerusalem artichokes in containers then a Vigoroot Potato Planter will work. Simply, fill your planter with compost and find a sunny spot to place it where it will not overshadow your other plants.
For growing in the ground, pick a large sunny site with room for the final plant. Chances are you will only need a couple of plants to supply your needs as they crop heavily.
Planting Jerusalem Artichokes
Thoroughly weed the area and dig in some compost to ensure good drainage.. Plant the tubers 10–15cm (4–6") deep with 30cm (1') between them.
When the stems are 30cm (1ft) tall, draw up a mound of soil, about 15cm (6in) high, around them to stabilise the plants and avoid wind rock.
And that's about all there is to growing Jerusalem Artichokes. If you are growing in containers then you will need to water occasionally. If you are growing in the ground though, you will only need to water if there is a harsh drought.
Harvesting Jerusalem Artichokes
Harvest from November to January.
When the leaves start to turn yellow in autumn, cut down the stems to leave 8cm (3in) stumps. Place the cut stems over the plants to keep the soil warm.
The reason for doing this is that Jerusalem Artichokes don’t store very well once you have dug them up. So the best thing to do is to leave them in the ground until needed. Layering the cut plants onto the soil will make it easier to dig up the tubers as the weather turns frosty.
A word of caution though... as you start to harvest them only eat a limited amount to start with. If you have too many they are notorious for causing wind. This is due to a carbohydrate they contain that is not broken down during digestion. They don't have the nickname of Fartichokes for nothing!
Jerusalem Artichokes Forever!
Once you have grown Jerusalem Artichokes you are in it for the long haul. The chances of finding every single tuber they produced are slim and they will re-grow from any tubers you missed.
Garden Pests & Diseases
Slugs and snails may be a problem when the plants are young. Simply cover with a Victorian Bell Cloche, an Easy Tunnel or use a beer trap until the seedlings are big enough to tolerate a little nibbling.
They may get infected with fungal disease Sclerotina - you will see a fluffy mould around the base. If you have this then it is game over for that plant. The fungus can remain in the soil too. So remove and destroy the infected plants straight away and do not compost them.
If you would prefer to grow the larger showier globe artichokes then check out this guide. How to grow Globe Artichokes
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