Life Cycle – Artichoke

I’ve had off and on luck growing artichokes. Some years lovely large leaves form but no flower stalk, other years a stalk appears so late in the year it doesn’t have time to form a bud, let alone flower, before a hard frost kills it all. Some years rabbits think they’ve been planted strictly for their enjoyment – and dinner. This year I had a three pronged approach to growing this flower. (yes, I know, artichokes are a vegetable, people eat the flower bud – I eat artichokes all the time – but since I only grow a few every year, I let the buds develop into beautiful, thistle-like flowers.) My strategy:

  • Start seeds early, but not too early – February 28 this year – to give them a head start, using a variety that requires a short growing season. I chose Colorado Star.
  • Harden them off early, to provide a period of vernaliztion – exposing the plant to cold temperatures to induce the flowering process. I put my young plants on the back porch in early May, where they experienced a few weeks of near-freezing temperatures but were protected from late frosts
  • Use multiple methods to protect them from varmints – I surrounded two plants with chicken wire, and planted two others in a raised bed and covered them with bird netting while they were still growing

I’m happy to say three of my plants sent up flowers stalks mid summer, producing numerous flowers that a variety of bees soon discovered. Bumble bees, in particular, loved burrowing their way through the long purple anemone-like inflorescence. The flowers and plant seemed to die starting in mid September. But recently I noticed a nice surprise…

August 22
September 3
October 5 – dead stalk, but new side shoots have appeared. With a lot of mulch and winter protection they may survive the winter…

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