When to plant outside: Cold Climate: Not recommended. Mountain Climates: Sow in the fall for harvest the following spring.
When to start inside: RECOMMENDED. Cold Climates: Add 12 weeks before your average frost date last spring. The ideal soil temperature for germination is 70°-80°F.
How to grow an Artichoke
The artichoke is one of the strangest plants you will ever have. It is a perennial herb from the thistle group. Scientifically, it belongs to the Asteraceae family, which includes all asters. Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. As an edible vegetable, the artichoke was first developed in Sicily, Italy, although it is mentioned in Greek and Roman literature as early as 77 AD. The Moors of North Africa are known to have cultivated the plant near Granada, Spain, around 800 AD and the artichoke was introduced to England in the mid-1500s, but it was not well received.
The Spanish brought the first artichokes to America when they introduced them to California in the 1600s. An early seed catalog, published in 1848, offers sunflower seeds for sale. The artichoke was not a popular vegetable in America until the 1920s when Andrew Molera, who owned land in the Salinas Valley in Monterey, California, decided to lease land he had previously cultivated for sugar beets to anyone a farmer who was happy to grow artichokes. His venture was extremely successful and by 1929, artichokes were the third largest cash crop in the Salinas Valley.
Soil and fertilization
They love – like most vegetables – rich, well-drained soil. If you see their outer leaves drooping, it will be due to waterlogging in winter or drying out in hot summers. Plenty of compost in the soil is important to prevent both as it helps with drainage in the winter and retains moisture in the summer. It is therefore essential that the soil is properly prepared at planting time for success in subsequent years.
The first buds appear in early spring and continue until the beginning of summer. Flower buds should be removed before they open and when the stem below the bud is still flexible. That is, they should be round in shape (that’s where they get their name!). To pick the buds use a sharp knife to cut the stem leaving a few centimeters of stem attached.
Every spring, mix organic compost or pure forest humus into your garden plot (see How to Prepare Garden Soil for Planting). Artichokes need quick-draining, sandy soil and cool temperatures to thrive. They need regular watering for a bountiful harvest, but if you like the look of the plant and don’t want to eat these plump tubers, they will survive on little water. Artichokes are susceptible to frost and do best when the temperature is constant throughout the year.
For best yields, sow artichoke seeds in the spring after danger of frost has passed, but before temperatures exceed 50°F. Ideally, the seeds or seedlings should remain in this range for about 2 weeks. This special treatment encourages plants to produce more buds. After this stage, its ideal temperature range is between 55 °F and 75 °F.