An interesting question was raised by a gardener looking for tips regarding growing globe artichokes in the home garden:
“I want to grow artichokes this year up here in the Boston area. I have ordered the seeds and am wondering when to start them, when to transplant, and if I will get any edible buds this season. Isn’t there a way to “fool” Mother Nature into thinking this is the second season?” – David P
Globe Artichokes in the Home Garden
You won’t run across too many home gardeners cultivating globe artichokes in their gardens, but I love the challenge as well as the ornamental features that growing artichokes provides to the backyard veggie garden.
I’ve even been known to grow this exotic looking plant just to let them flower; which spoils the opportunity to harvest edible chokes, but produces an ornamental display of extremely large and colorful flowers to admire instead!
And it’s not just the flowers that are eye-catching, the leaves of the artichoke plant are attractive as well with their large rosettes of long serrated foliage that grow on plants reaching over four feet tall and just as wide in diameter.
Start Those Seeds: Indoors and Early
To answer the first part of David’s question; you want to get the seeds started very early, and February isn’t too soon for Northern growers to get the seeds potted up, germinated, and growing indoors under a set of fluorescent lights. Actually a late January start would probably be even better.
Artichoke plants aren’t difficult to germinate or to grow from seed but the tricky part is nurturing the plants to the stage that they will produce buds during a single season in cold weather growing regions.
Globe Artichokes are more of a semi-perennial type of plant that typically grows leafy foliage during its first season and fruits in the seasons subsequent to that initial year… the problem for the backyard grower is that the artichoke plant won’t survive outdoors in gardens that experience cold winters, making it unlikely that they will perennialize or ever bear fruit.
Sometimes it’s OK to Fool Mother Nature
That’s where the “fooling Mother Nature” part comes into play. It is possible to grow globe artichokes as an annual, but most varieties will require a chilling period (known as vernalization) during the spring where the plants are exposed to cool temperatures below fifty degrees for a minimum number of hours.
You can provide this chilling experience by exposing your artichoke seedlings to outdoor temperatures during the months of March and early April, but don’t leave them outside when weather conditions are expected to drop close to, or below freezing, and don’t transplant them out into the garden too soon.
Some artichoke seeds are described as “annual” varieties that will produce buds during the first season but I would still try to expose these annual artichoke varieties to a vernalizing period of cooler spring temperatures. If you’ve experienced poor results with Globe or French Artichokes in your garden try this trick and see if the results are any better.
Cultivating and Enjoying Annual Artichokes
Three or four weeks of vernalization during March or April should be sufficient to fool the artichoke plant into believing that that it has lived through a winter season and encourage the plant to bud and produce at least a small harvest of those delicious chokes that same year.
Artichokes also struggle in growing regions that experience hot summers so you may want to experiment with shade cloth or wait and hope for the plants to revive as temperatures cool down towards summers end. Other than that just keep the artichoke plants fertilized, weeded, and watered…
And hopefully you’ll be faced with the same question and dilemma that I was… Do you harvest and eat the tender young artichokes? Or do you allow the chokes to fully mature and blossom into an unusual flower so that you can enjoy the beautiful sight?
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