Growing artichokes can be tricky, especially if you live in a cooler climate. They require warm soil, lots of light and well-drained soil.
If you’re really feeling adventurous or are an expert home gardener, growing them from scratch is doable and rewarding. If not, picking up an organically raised artichoke plant from your local nursery and transplanting it in your garden is the easier way to go.
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Artichokes originated in the Mediterranean region, leading them to flourish in warm and sunny weather with warm soil. In contrast, they tend to have a tough time in freezing temperatures and will most likely not survive a hard frost.
They are not fans of overly moist soil, and their size along with the girth of their buds require plenty of nutrients. Make sure their beds have adequate drainage, and keep them happy with a generous supply of rotted manure or compost.
All of this adds up to sowing your seeds indoors where you can closely control the water, heat and soil of this finicky plant until you’re sure the frost has passed. Plant them about 6 weeks before the last frost, as that is about the time you’ll want to transplant.
As soon as the frost is gone, transplant your artichoke plant to your garden, leaving just over 2 feet (63.5 cm) in between each seed.
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As mentioned above, artichokes are hungry plants that demand continuous watering (although no over-watering) and plenty of nutrients. As with the planting phase, the soil that receives your transplanted young artichoke plants needs well-fertilized soil.
In addition to the compost- or rotted-manure-rich soil, feed them a liquid organic garden fertilizer such as aerated compost tea or fish emulsion.
Artichokes are perennials, so you won’t be able to harvest until the 2nd year.
For maximum deliciousness, you’ll want to harvest your artichokes just before they begin to open… you’ll know they’re ready when the top bud (also called the “terminal” bud) has a consistent green color throughout. To remove them, cut them off at the base.
The lower or “secondary” buds will be ready to harvest shortly thereafter – no more than a few days.
Your freshly picked buds will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.
For up to 6 month storage, you’ll need to blanch the artichoke before freezing in order for it to maintain its flavor. Before doing so, remove the stem and all outer leaves including the choke (the immature leaves in the middle) and scoop out the hair-like portion on top of the heart.
Next, pour lemon juice on what remains in order to preserve its color.
To blanch, add lemon juice to boiling water, then reduce heat to just below boiling. Soak fully submerged artichokes for 20 minutes, then place in cool water for about the same amount of time.
Drain the artichokes thoroughly, place them in a freezer bag and freeze.
Artichoke seeds will last about 5 years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing artichokes. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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