Garden Q&A: Artichokes a chance worth taking
Q: I am curious about artichokes. I would like to grow them this year, and I understand from a gardening friend that this is possible, albeit difficult. Do you think it is worth the effort? If so, how do I go about doing it?
A: Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) do best where temperatures are consistent year-round because the plants are susceptible to freezing. Though some varieties will grow in our climate if afforded extra winter protection, artichokes do best where there is a long growing season with warm days and cool nights. Still, I think it's worth it if you want to give this interesting plant a try.
Begin by selecting a variety most suited to our climate. Artichokes are tender perennials that take at least 110 days to mature and often don't produce any “chokes” until their second season (though sometimes they will produce the first). This growth cycle makes it necessary to see them safely through one or more winters.
The edible portion is the flower bud, which is harvested when it is still tightly closed and well before any flower color is showing. If grown properly, many secondary buds will develop and lead to subsequent harvests. “Green Globe” and “Imperial Star” have slightly shorter maturation times and are good varieties to grow in Western Pennsylvania. Start the seeds indoors under lights six to eight weeks before our last expected spring frost.
When the seedlings are ready to move outdoors, select a spot in the veggie patch that receives full sun and is as protected as possible since the plants will remain there all winter long. Mature artichoke plants can reach 5 feet across and have beautiful, spiny foliage, so give them plenty of room. Amend the soil with compost, and fertilize with a liquid, organic fertilizer every few weeks through the summer.
Come September, it's time to get serious about seeing them safely through the winter. Protect the roots from freezing temperatures with a deep, heavy layer of straw mulch that covers the entire plant. You can enclose the straw in a ring of chicken wire fencing to keep it in place. Come spring, gradually remove the mulch over the course of two weeks, and the plant should begin to regrow from the roots.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Pirates can’t waste McCutchen’s prime
- East Huntingdon man dies following police chase
- Giants, Bumgarner shut out Pirates in wild-card game
- Steelers pressing to create opportunities to get to quarterback
- Pirates’ Martin calls crowd chant ‘petty special’
- Consol Energy cutting retiree health benefits, phasing out pension
- Hong Kong police warn protesters not to charge buildings
- Woman dies in fall at McConnells Mill State Park
- Highmark to increase premiums, limit access to health care in new plans
- Steelers notebook: Mitchell aware of need to reduce penalties
- Bumgarner quiets Blackout crowd with 4-hit shutout