Growing artichokes

For the past 3 years, I have been growing artichokes. Yes, artichokes, here in the Inland Northwest! I didn't even realize you could grow them here until I bought a couple seedlings on a whim at a Leavenworth, Wash., nursery.

Lo and behold, they grew beautifully and what's even better is that they rewarded my efforts with several artichokes. And they were probably the most delicious artichokes I've ever had in my life!

The next two springs, I started my own from seed and had even better results. However, I was fearing that perhaps the two I'd bought in Leavenworth were two years old and maybe that's why they produced.

Well, it turns out my fears were unwarranted because the plants grew well and produced even more artichokes. On top of that, the 2012/2013 winter was quite mild for our region. As a result, the artichokes we grew during the summer of 2012 actually overwintered (we had cut the plants down to the ground in the fall) and came back in the spring of 2013. That was amazing!

This winter has been a weird one for us: lots of crazy temperature extremes, very little precipitation for the first half of it and lots of temperatures in the single digits and teens, as well as a few below-zero days. I would be very shocked to see any life in the old plants from last fall.

Anyway, I'm telling you all of this because artichokes are a really cool crop to grow in  your garden. Not only do they produce delicious buds for us to eat but they also look fabulous all season long. They have gray-green leaves that are deeply-notched and the buds are so eye-catching. The plants grow about 3 feet tall and will need to be spaced 2 feet apart since they are pretty stocky.

This afternoon, I started this year's crop from seed indoors. I'm growing 'Green Globe Improved' and 'Imperial Star'. I'm starting them this early because the seedlings take a while to get going. I want them to get
off to a great start before it's time to plant them outdoors, which won't be until mid-May or so.

Once the seedlings have two to four leaves, I'll transplant them into quart-sized empty yogurt containers and eventually move them outside into my little unheated greenhouse. Since we'll still get frosts until early to mid-May, I'll cover the seedlings with a floating row cover in the greenhouse, just to give them a little extra protection. There's no point letting them get frosted after all the babying I'll be doing up to that point, right?

The really neat thing that has happened as a result of my writing about growing artichokes the last 3 years is that I'm hearing nursery owners say that a lot of folks are inquiring about artichoke seedlings and purchasing them. That's so cool! Maybe I can start an artichoke revolution right here in Spokane!

If you're growing artichokes this year, I'd love to hear from you. Either write a comment on this blog post or drop me an email at inthegarden@live.com.