This is one of my most favourite times of year. The garden is full of potential even though it could be buried in snow.
I think about all the plants in the ground waiting to spring forth with new growth. I also think ahead to all of the things that I will plant throughout the growing season.
I look forward to January because I get to plant my very first seeds of the new year. And it's one of my favourites!
I. Love. Artichokes. I love eating them. I love looking at them. And I love the veritable cloud of bees they attract to my garden. If you've never grown artichoke, then 2022 is your year to start!
The Dirt on Growing Artichokes
Most people would probably think it sounds strange to talk about planting seeds in January. For me, it marks the first seeds of the year that I will plant. Artichokes are a bit more challenging to grow than directly sown veggies like radishes. Artichokes are a perennial vegetables, which means that, with proper care, you can have multiple seasons of artichoke heads from one plant. It's worth the extra effort!
Here's the scoop on artichokes so that you can determine if it is the right fit for your garden:
Difficulty level: intermediate to difficult. Artichokes need to be started from seeds indoors in January to ensure that they will be well established by fall/winter. It will also ensure that you give the plant enough time to form edible-sized flower heads the first year (though you might not get many). Artichokes also need a little extra TLC through the winter in colder planting zones; you'll need to heavily mulch them to insulate the root system from freezing temperatures.
Size: 4 to 6 feet tall! Artichokes can grow to be towering plants. You'll need to give them plenty of space. Don't expect to plant one in a small to medium raised bed, unless you're not planning on growing anything else! I've even tried growing artichokes in large containers without much success.
How to Grow: Artichoke seeds are fairly large and can be planted in individual cells or expanding coir seed pellets (no peat moss, please!). Keep them moist but not soggy until germinated, upsizing the pot as needed for the rapidly growing seedling. If you see the roots sneaking out the bottom, it's time to plant them in something bigger. Transplant the seedlings outside in warmer weather (around early June).
Features: Giant blooms! If you allow the artichoke buds to bloom, you will wonder how you ever lived without them in your garden. The electric purple flowers are huge. Not surprisingly, they are pollinator magnets! I often will see three or more bees sharing a flower at the same time. They look like little clownfish swimming in a purple sea anemone. It is such a happy sight. Lastly, they are a perennial producer of a fairly large crop of vegetables. Mine usually produce so many buds that I eventually let some them bloom because I can't keep up.
Cultivars/Varieties: I have grown two different varieties in the Pacific Northwest (zone 7b/8a). Both have started and transplanted equally as well. Here is my personal experience in growing them:
Green Globe. This cultivar is a heavy producer of large, round heads. They have excellent flavour. They are more resistant to aphids than Imperial Star. I also found that it bounces back after winter much better than Imperial Star. I am very happy with Green Globe and will continue to grow it in the future.
Imperial Star. This variety did not produce as many oblong buds the first season as promised. I also found it hard to keep the aphids at bay, which would damage the plant and hamper the growth. I would not choose this variety in the future.
After only seven days, my Green Globe artichoke seeds have already germinated! I used coir seed pellets and kept them damp in a sunny window. I did not use bottom heat or a grow light. I am hoping that I will get first year buds on these artichokes.
My kids are already excited about having more artichokes in the garden! We love them both as food and flowers.
I hope you will love them too! Let me know in the comments below your experience in growing artichokes.