Growing artichokes in your garden

This is the 4th season I've grown artichokes in my veggie garden. I've written about this in the past, both on this blog and in my columns. It seems like folks are catching onto the fact that you can actually grow artichokes here in the Northwest, and in other short-season climates around the country.

The two varieties I've had the best success with are 'Green Globe' and 'Imperial Star'. The seeds are quite easy to find, both at local garden centers and online. It's a little more challenging to find artichoke seedlings at local nurseries, although I have seen them at Green's Greenhouse in Cheney and Secret Garden Greenhouse in Spokane Valley.

Obviously, it's too late in the season to grow your own artichokes but I wanted to give you some growing information so you'll be ready to hit the ground running next year! Before I get started, though, I wanted to clarify that in short-season climates like ours, you have to grow artichokes as an annual. That means planting them in the spring, letting them grow and produce during the summer, and then letting them die once the hard frosts hit. Folks who live in milder climates get to grow them as perennials (lucky ducks).

I start my plants from seed indoors, usually around the first of March. Once the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, I transplant them into larger containers. Since I am lucky enough to have a small, unheated greenhouse, I move the seedlings out there and keep the pots covered with a layer of floating row cover for extra frost protection.

I feed the seedlings with a weak solution of fish fertilizer about every 2 weeks, to help them grow strong so they'll be ready to move out to the garden by mid-May. When the time comes to transplant them, I'll place hoops over their bed and cover the plants with a layer of floating row cover for another couple of weeks. It's amazing how this simple step will get them off to such a good start.

At that point, I remove the cover and let them do their thing. It seems like I always forget how the plants take a few weeks to really hit their stride but that's what they do.

I just took the above photo yesterday afternoon and, as you can see, this particular plant has 2 young artichokes developing on it. Hooray! Those are the first 2 of the season for us so that gives you an idea of when they'll start producing.

We've got 6 plants in a raised bed and will probably end up with at least 20 full-sized artichokes from them. And let me tell you, they're delicious! We either boil them in water or quickly cook them in the microwave, and then dip the leaves -- and eventually the "choke" -- into either mayonnaise or melted butter. Mm-mmm!

So if you like artichokes, and you'd like to surprise your family members and neighbors by growing something a little out of the ordinary, give artichokes a try in your 2015 garden. I think you'll be delighted with the results.