The most elegant and statuesque of kitchen garden plants, globe artichokes wouldn’t look out of place in an ornamental border. The huge flower buds are a delicious treat, expensive to buy, yet very easy to grow.
How to Grow
Globe artichokes prefer a sheltered, sunny location in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil that has been enriched with well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost. They are most commonly planted as young plants, bare root from fall to spring or as container-grown plants at any time if well watered afterward. If you want several plants, sow seed under cover into pots in late winter or early spring. Harden the seedlings off, and plant them out in early summer, 3 feet apart with 3–4 feet between rows. Water well and regularly during dry spells, and feed using a balanced general fertilizer in the spring. To help new plants establish, remove any flowers produced the first year. In later years the buds can be thinned to produce larger heads. When harvesting, timing is crucial; using shears, cut the flower buds when they reach golf-ball size but before the scales start to open. Cut heads last a few days but are best used quickly. Harvest too late, and the heads are inedible.
Remove dead material when the plants die back in the fall, and if you live in a frost-prone area, protect the crown with a layer of straw over the winter. Plants should be replaced every three years. Take offsets (young shoots) in the spring from your existing plants and grow those.
Varieties of Globe Artichokes to Try
If growing globe artichokes in smaller gardens, choose varieties with colored heads (C), and plant in mixed borders. Varieties to try include: ‘Concerto’ F1 (C), ‘Green Globe Improved', ‘Gros Vert de Laon’, ‘Purple Globe’ (C), ‘Romanesco’ (C) and ‘Violetta di Chioggia’ (C).
Jerusalem Artichokes: A Common Misconception
Despite both being called “artichokes,” globe and Jerusalem artichokes are not related. Globe artichokes are grown for their flower heads, while the Jerusalem type is a root crop, producing fleshy tubers in the fall that are eaten like potatoes and have a nutty flavor.
Related to the sunflower, Jerusalem artichokes are hardy perennials and grow well even in poor sites. They grow to over 6 feet tall and can be used as a windbreak, although they will cast shade. The plants spread quickly and can be invasive if not harvested in fall. Lift the tubers when the foliage dies back. Replant some tubers to grow on, and harvest the rest. Use them fresh.
Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases
Black bean aphids attack the stems and leaves, sucking sap, distorting growth, and weakening the plants. Treat severe infestations with a suitable insecticide. Petal blight is a common amongst artichokes, especially in wet seasons. The disease causes flower heads to turn brown, then shrivel and develop fluffy mold. There are no chemical controls. Remove infected heads, avoid planting in shady sites and keep plants healthy.