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How to Grow Artichokes

An artichoke plant can grow up to 4 feet (122 centimeters) tall, can cover an area about six feet (183 centimeters) in diameter, and can survive for up to seven years. It thrives in cool weather but can be grown as a perennial if the weather is too cold for it to survive the winter [source: Savonen].

Here's how to grow artichokes.

  • Plant your artichokes in rich, loose, well-drained soil.
  • Plant them in a sunny area.
  • Plant artichoke seeds indoors in February or March. Grow them under lights for eight weeks. Move them outdoors after the last frost.
  • Plant your offshoots or divisions in May or June. Be sure to plant them six inches (15.2 centimeters) deep, with their tops above the ground.
  • Space the plants three to four feet (91.5 to 122 centimeters) apart with four to five feet (122 to 152 centimeters) between rows.
  • Water your artichokes regularly [Source: CAAB, Savonen].

Here's what you need to know about harvesting your artichokes:

  • Artichokes don't flower the first year after planting.
  • Artichokes flower in mid-summer, often sending up a second crop in fall.
  • Artichoke plants start with a few shoots and sprout more as they get older.
  • Artichoke buds are ready to be harvested when the terminal (top) bud is 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) in diameter and fairly compact. If you want to eat the artichokes, harvest them before they flower.
  • Artichoke buds should be cut with about 1 ½ inches (3.8 centimeters) of stem attached.
  • Artichoke plants should provide a healthy crop every year for four to seven years. After this, divide them up so the offshoots won't crowd the original plants [Source: CAAB, Savonen].

Once you've harvested your artichokes, you'll need to:

  • Cut the stalks down to the ground.
  • Mulch the area with compost or cover it with fertilizer.
  • Apply nitrogen fertilizer monthly to promote healthy growth.
  • Cover the plant's crown with its leaves during the winter, if you live in an area with cold winters. Cover the leaves with about a foot (30.5 centimeters) of loose mulch. Remove the mulch in spring, after the last frost.

New shoots will grow from the stump's base and develop their own stalks.