Growing Artichokes

The flavours of these vegetables are acquired tastes and are not every garden-er’s choice. Jerusalem and Chinese artichokes are easy enough to grow and yield a good crop, taking up little space, but the globe artichoke is rather wasteful of space and it does require a little extra skill to grow it well.

Chinese artichokes (Stachys affinis) Chinese artichokes

The tuberous roots, which are knobbly, are eaten as a root vegetable during the winter. The tubers should be planted 4 inches deep in any ordinary soil, that has been well prepared, in spring, spacing them 9 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. No further cultivation is required except occasional hoeing. The tubers are lifted as they are required but in severe weather cover the ground to prevent it from freezing to hard. Plants grow 1-1 ½ – feet tall.

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus).

The tubers of Jerusalem artichokes are very similar to Chinese artichokes but they are larger and more irregular in shape (those of the French variety `Fusean’ are larger and less irregular as well as being more palatable). The tubers are planted in February, or earlier if the ground is workable. Space the tubers about 18 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart, in ground that has been well dug and manured. They will grow in any odd, rough corner of the garden, but they appreciate a well-cultivated site.

These artichokes grow to about 5 feet in height and look very like the sunflowers to which they are related; they make an excellent screen for an old shed, manure heap, compost heap or other unsightly part of the garden. The top growth should be cut down in the autumn, leaving the tubers in the ground. These are then lifted as they are required or they may be lifted and stored in some dry soil or peat in a shed. If they are left out of the ground for long they will shrivel.

During the summer the ground between them should be hoed occasionally but they do not need any further attention. Tubers for planting the following year can be selected from those lifted in the late winter and replanted almost immediately.

Artichokes, Jerusalem. Much like a perennial sunflower, and belongs to the same family. One important difference is that it has tuberous edible roots not unlike those of the potato. Soil is not a matter of first importance. Heaviest crops are obtained by thorough autumn or winter digging and application of manure or vegetable compost at 1 cwt. to 12 sq. yd. Position in sun or partial shade. Plant in February with spade or trowel, 15 in. apart in rows 21 ft. apart. Holes should be 6 in. deep. No subsequent cultivation required except periodic hoeing. Draw a little soil towards the stems when hoeing. Tubers are ready between November and March and may be dug as required or lifted at once and stored in sacks or clamp like potatoes. A proportion of the tubers may be set aside for replanting, but no sprouting is required.

Artichokes, Globe. Highly ornamental plants grown for their flower heads, which are eaten before they open, when the fleshy scales are regarded as a delicacy. Plants can be raised from seed sown in a frame in March or outdoors in April, but this is not recommended. The best method is to detach offsets early in April, selecting from the best plants. These are replanted in well dug, fairly rich soil and open position. Space 3 ft. apart each way. Mulch with manure in May. Cut off all flower stems the first season. Cropping is most profitable in the second and third years, after which beds should be remade. Remove dead leaves in October and cover crowns with bracken or straw until March. Cut heads regularly as soon as they are plump and the scales fleshy.

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