Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Artichokes can be produced from seeds or from vegetative means such as division, root cuttings or  micropropagation. 

There are hundreds of varieties of artichoke to choose from. You can still buy a few of the old historic varieties such as 'Violetta di Chioggia', and 'Gros Vert de Laon'. The edible flower is produced from the second year onwards, although some varieties of artichoke can be grown from seed as annuals.

Artichokes are relatively simple to grow from seed, although they will not grow genetically true to the parent plants.  Sowing a few extra seeds will allow you to weed out any rogue plants. 

Start sowing from late February. You can start the seed on a warm, well lit windowsill, greenhouse or conservatory. Fill 9 cm pots with John Innes seed and cutting mix and add some grit to help with the drainage.  Plant two seeds in each pot and cover gently with soil and water well.  Remember to water as necessary, ensuring that the compost is neither waterlogged nor allowed to dry out.

The artichoke seeds will germinate within 2-3 weeks.   Remove the weaker seedling from the pot after two weeks.  Begin to harden off the seedlings outside for several weeks before positioning them in their final position. Plant out when the risk of frost have passed, when the plants are 20-25 cm high with two sets of leaves and thick stems. Select a sunny sheltered position at 1 metre spacing in an rich, deep, free draining soil.

Artichokes require good soil, regular watering and feeding.  Ensure the plants do not dry out in hot weather. Feed the plants once a week with a good quality liquid plant fertiliser. In the autumn cut back the stems and cover the crown with a thick mulch to protect from frost.  Add a layer of well rotted manure to the plants in the spring.

In the first year remove any flower heads as they form as the plants need to put all their energy into growth. During the second year you can harvest the artichokes.  Select the main terminal (top) bud first, then the side buds. 

The season for harvesting artichokes is the spring, but this can continue into the summer and mid-autumn. Cut the buds 3-5 cm from the stem.  Artichokes have good keeping qualities, remaining fresh for several weeks.

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