Coping with an Obsession over Globe Artichokes

April 23, 2010

In many areas growing globe artichokes is a bit of a stretch for the backyard gardener, but that doesn’t stop an increasing number, including myself, from trying their hand at cultivating this interesting gourmet vegetable crop.

A previous article; “Growing Artichokes in Spite of Mother Nature” brought the following inquiry from a container gardening artichoke lover in Wisconsin:

Hello there Kenny, my name is Michelle and this is my very first time attempting to grow artichokes. I live in Wisconsin but was born and raised in California, so chokes are like my potatoes – I gotta have them!

Struggling to Keep Baby Chokes Alive and Growing

globe artichoke imageI have somewhat limited garden space and decided to try growing chokes in pots, inside a hoop type greenhouse. I am renting and my landlord has graciously agreed to allow me to have a green house but doesn’t want me digging up the lawn, therefore the pots are a must.

I’ve started the choke seed long ago however; they appear to be damping off and dying so I think I’m watering them too much. I also noticed blue mold sitting on top of the soil, so I carefully removed it with a spoon and put all that were involved in “quarantine” so to speak. Out of desperation I have started a “second wave” of seeds just last week.

Germination is going well, as it did before, but I’m just nervous about drowning these babies, if that’s what I did. I lightly fertilized them when they grew their first set of “true leaves” with the organic fish fertilizer – did I do this too soon?

When the seed starting mix would appear to be dry on top I would fill the tray they are sitting in and let them all drink until soil was moist all the way to the top. They seemed pretty happy until I fertilized so I really think I killed them with what I thought was kindness. What are your thoughts?

More How-To Questions Related to Cultivating Globe Artichokes

Other questions I have are: When should I transplant the babies?  What size pot would you suggest, 1 gal, 5 gal, wine barrel? This one’s crazy but; to fool Mother Nature, can I put the babies in the fridge over night? If so, at what age do I do this? Do I pull them back out for daytime sun and grow lights?

What soil to-compost-to mulch ratio do you recommend when it’s time for transplant? Would sand and small rocks be good additives to the soil as well? Do the “flowers” do well cut and in an arrangement? They sound gorgeous and I’d like to enjoy them in the house rather that leaving them in the greenhouse all alone and lonely.

Any information would be much appreciated and thank you for your time. I didn’t know anyone who has grown chokes and was very relieved to find you on the Internet.

Home Remedies for the Compulsive Artichoke Grower

You’re welcome Michelle, I’ll try to address your questions and then leave it open for others to chime in with their own recommendations in the comment section below. Not sure if your artichoke seedlings are damping-off, but it does sound like you may be over watering. Blue mold doesn’t sound good and I haven’t seen that before!

The fish fertilizer is okay as long as you are using a very dilute solution. I like to bottom water too but maybe you should switch to watering from the top to see if that makes things easier in this situation. Don’t transplant your artichoke seedlings before they are big enough to comfortably handle and have at least a few large true leaves.

Artichoke plants can grow to enormous sizes so I would recommend a large container, especially if your goal is to have a flowering and fruiting plant. Don’t even think about a one gallon, and the artichoke probably wouldn’t feel comfortable in a five gallon container either. The half barrel would be plenty large enough and something slightly smaller would probably work out too.

I’m a bit skeptical about the refrigerator idea but you can give it a try when the plants are young and see how they take to the six hours a day of your chill treatment. You would definitely want to take them out and provide light during the day.

I think that artichoke flowers could make a great cut flower, but I haven’t tried that myself. Here’s hoping that your artichokes do well and that you can let us know about that refrigerator experiment and how well the cut artichoke flowers hold up as a centerpiece!

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  • I’ve never grown artichokes before. How interesting!

  • Mary

    I too am from Calif and LOVE artichokes. I’m going to try and grow one here in Kentucky. Saw some small plants at WalMart. I love eating them and growing them for the flowers. I made an arrangement out of the flowers at a flower show once and got 2nd place.

  • Ida Williams

    I’m interested in growing artichokes in containers, so thanks for the info. What I really want to know is, just when do the artichokes produce blossoms? And, how do they bloom, do they open up by themselves, how old to they have to be???? Can they be grown in water, like sweet potatoes? I’ve looked at so many websites but no one has answered these questions. You are my only hope! Thank you so much.

  • I’ve got a bunch around 4 ft. tall that are loving our monsoon! Looking forward to flowers now that I’ve read “Mary’s” comment above! I need to find out if you cut them back and just how much. Wasn’t looking forward to building a frame for cover if I don’t need to. Heavy snows in NE AZ MTNS.

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