Growing Annual Artichokes in Canada
I grew some annual artichokes last summer AND THEY WERE GOOD!
My daughter gave me a few seeds of annual artichokes last Spring. I put them in 4 inch pots and stuck them in the pool area. It is covered in plastic and stays above freezing in spring and fall. It can warm up if it is sunny.
We had moved recently and I did not have time to fuss very much with garden experiments. So the artichoke seeds got planted, watered occasionally and forgotten. They often take a long time to come up so don't give up on them, they can be slow.
I live half a mile north of Lake Erie in the Niagara Peninsula, Canada. It is in zone 6.
The seeds almost all came up eventually. They were slow to germinate and did not all come up at once. Maybe it was too cold at first. Eventually I got 6 plants out of 8 seeds. I think next season I will try to start them inside with some bottom heat.
At first they grew slowly. It was quite cold at night and the plants definitely got chilled.
Link to annual artichoke seeds: Artichoke Imperial Star D2120A (Green) 25 Organic Seeds by David's Garden Seeds
This chilling for a couple of weeks was a good thing, I found out later, and probably the key to success.
Apparently chilling the hardened seedlings tricks them into believing that they have had a nice cold winter and are ready to flower and go to seed. An artichoke is just an unopened flower.
Normally artichokes flower on their second summer, the annual ones just think it's their second summer because they were cold for a couple of weeks.
After the chance of frost had passed I planted my baby artichokes in the raised beds I had just set up.
The soil in these parts is very heavy clay, but Shisler Brothers were more than happy to deliver 12 cubic yards of their garden soil which I moved with my wheelbarrow it seemed for miles. Some of it ended up in the raised beds and the garden plants were very happy. It turned out to be light airy soil with rather a lot of sand and I had to water often.
I did not have any compost yet since I had just moved in so I fertilized using Miracle Grow water soluble fertilizer. Next time I will not need this since I have a good amount of compost almost ready for the garden.
The branches are there to stop the cats from excavating the seedlings out. They love to go in the warm soft soil and just dig for the fun of it. The branches work quite well.
The artichokes were not fast growers at first but when the weather warmed up they took off and I soon realized that I had planted them much too close. They could easily fill 3 to 4 feet across if they had the space.
I mulched as much as I could and the plants kept growing. Towards the end of July I noticed my first bud.
I was very excited since I did not really expect much to happen.
The bud grew over the next few weeks and by the mid July I had several other buds forming and starting to shoot up.
Eventually I picked and ate the first bud. He got steamed and served with butter. Sweety and I ate a half each. The stem was quite edible for a few inches under the artichoke as well. It tasted delicious. Often plants developed to grow fast outside their weather zone suffer from lack of taste. I think being fresh more than made up for any reduced flavour of these annual artichokes. He tasted better than any store bought 'choke I had eaten.
I eventually got about a dozen artichokes from the 6 plants I set out. One plant died from being eaten by a mouse, and 2 others plants did not produce any artichokes. So the producing plants made about 4 artichokes each.
I think starting the plants earlier and not crowding them so much would improve the crop.
We also had a very cool summer so a warm loving plant might do better with warmer weather.
There was quite a lot of variation in the shape of the artichokes. Some were rounder and some pointier.
I let one plant flower to see what the artichoke flower looked like. It is quite lovely in its way. The bees like it too.
This flower is opening at the end of September. The garden has slowed down quite a lot but I got a really good second crop of beans and a late crop of beets.
The flower opened and was quite wonderful and spectacular. I could imagine making a bouquet of sunflowers and artichokes. Both are large showy blooms.
The flower did not have time to go to seed before the nights got too cold but it lasted for several weeks.
For a first experiment I think the artichokes were a great success and I will grow them again. They need some space to spread out but they did not seem to attract any particular pest.
I grew artichokes a second season with great success.
I also tried growing its cousin, the Cardoon. It looks very similar but instead of eating the heads you eat the stems. Read about the cardoon growing here
Cardoons are giant thisle related to artichokes
Instead of eating the flower, the stems and sometimes roots are eaten.
This information is for general knowledge.