How to Grow Artichokes (Cynara scolymus)

From seeds: Easy, but requires a little more time then growing from plants.
From young plants: Very easy - suitable for beginners.

Why grow Artichokes?
Artichokes are quite a delicacy as far as vegetables are concerned. Steam or boiled and served whole, they make a great starter or special addition to a main meal, served with lemon butter or hollandaise sauce to dip the petals in.

Not only are artichokes a spectacular vegetable to eat, but they look amazing growing in the garden too, with giant silvery foliage and big purple flower on tall stems (these develop from the artichoke buds if left unharvested). You’ll need to grow them in an open space without too many growing restrictions because they grow to anything between 1m and 1.5m tall, the size of the foliage causes them to spread up to 1m wide too.

The best thing about these perennial plants is that they’re fully winter hardy and re-grow every year, meaning you’ll get a crop of artichokes year after year.

Our top Artichokes: Green Globe, Violet Globe

Where to grow Artichokes
Artichokes prefer a sunny but sheltered position. Planted in a border or in a large container on the patio against as wall or fence is ideal. They benefit from being planted in well-mulched soil and grow more prolifically when fed. We recommend our 100% natural concentrated farmyard manure to dig into the soil around the base of the plant, or before planting.

How to grow artichokes from seeds

When to sow
Sow indoors: February – March (to plant out in June)
Sow outdoors: April

Harvest time
If sown indoors: August – September (from June – September the next year)
If sown outdoors: June – September the next year.

Sowing indoors
Sow indoors into a seed tray or modules from late winter. Once the seeds have germinated, prick them out into 9cm pots with compost so that you have one good seedling per pot. Alternatively you can sow 2 - 3 seeds directly into 9cm pots to avoid having to prick them out, but you may end up with more variable results.

Keep under cover until late April before starting gradually hardening them off, ready to plant outside in late May to early June.

Plant outside in a sunny position that’s sheltered from wind, remember that these plants will eventually take up quite a lot of space. You will need to plant them about 90cm apart from each other.

Sowing outdoors
Artichokes can be sown directly outdoors into the desired growing site, this is best done in April. To get them off to a better start it’s worth covering the newly sown seed with a cloche (or plastic bottle) to get it to germinate. Artichokes sown outdoors in April won’t crop until the following year. Sow a few seeds at a time in spacings of about 40 – 50cm, and when they start to grow, remove the weaker-looking seedlings, just leaving the biggest and best seedlings to grow in their position.

How to grow artichokes from plants

When to plant: May
Harvest time:
September - October

The easiest and often most successful way of growing artichokes is buy young plants rather than growing from seed, as it saves the fiddly, time-consuming work. When you order young artichoke plants they arrive in late May so that you can plant them out in your garden straight away.

Dig the soil with mulch or our Organic Extra farmyard manure and position each plant with about 90cm between them. Use a dibber or pencil to push each plug plant from the cell tray and plant in an adequately-sized hole, so that the root ball of the plant is completely buried, then water them in. You’ll be able to enjoy your first harvest in the same year!

Further growing information

As your plants grow they may be come slightly top heavy, especially if it rains a lot. If they start to look like they’re going to fall over, it’s a good idea to tie them to a stake or cane, to keep them standing and most importantly, to keep the flower buds off the ground.

Artichoke plants benefit from a liquid feed in summer, which will really make them flourish. Our Bio-Gro Black Gold natural seaweed foliar feed is perfect for this.

In autumn the plants will die back – the leaves and stem will turn brown. This doesn’t mean the plant is dead because new growth will develop at the base of the plant. When this happens, cut all the old growth down to 6 – 12 inches. To be on the safe side, you should protect the young growth from severe cold weather either with horticultural fleece, or by laying some of the plants’ own leaves over the top of it.

Artichoke plants are most productive for the first four years and afterwards tend to slow down. To make sure you have a continuous harvest every year, it’s well worth digging the young offshoots that grow from the edges of the plant clump and re-planting them as new plants. You do this by cutting the new parts of the clump away from the older growth with a sharp spade. This can be done every autumn, once you’ve cut the foliage back.

In the first season a single head on the primary stem in produced towards the end of the season. In following years these heads are produced earlier than in the first year, and there may be more of them. Either cut in tight bud stage, or delay until just starting to open. Waiting until they’re slightly open usually gives them time to develop a better colour and flavour. Cut with about 15cm of stalk.

Artichokes don’t store for very long. Should you need to harvest your artichokes before they start to flower, but you’re not eating them straight away, they should keep for about a week in the fridge.

Health benefits
Although the heart is usually the most popular part of an artichoke, the petals are shown to provide the strongest benefits. Artichokes contain some of the most powerful antioxidants of any vegetable, and have very positive effects on the liver. They’re also high in fibre and are believed to lower cholesterol.

Artichoke pests and diseases
Artichokes are such substantial plants they aren’t really affected by many pests and diseases. Slugs can damage young leaves in the spring, which can stunt the growth, but luckily there are many ways of preventing slug damage. One of the best is Eraza Slug & Snail Pellets; these can be scattered around the base of the plants. For a more environmentally friendly method, you can lay beer traps for slugs to deter them away from your plants.

For best results
Feed with Bio-Gro Black Gold natural fertiliser

You may also need
Eraza Slug & Snail Killer – the best performing slug pellet on the market!