Artichoke catches the eye in the garden with its large, soft, fern‐shaped leaves that reach 4’ tall and then cascade. They are a tender perennial. It’s the flower heads that we enjoy eating and they are just as ornamental as the foliage.
Artichokes are Mediterranean plants that thrive in full, hot sun. They need a minimum of six hours of direct sun a day at the peak of summer. A rich, well‐drained soil is ideal.
In the Portland area, seeds can be started indoors February through April (two months before the average last frost date), and directly outdoors starting in May. Transplant starts in late spring when the ground has warmed up and there is no chance of frost.
Give plants 3’ spacing and full sun. A site protected from winter winds and extreme cold is best. Amend soil with 2” of compost and/or manure before planting. Add an organic transplanting fertilizer to the bottom of the hole. Once planted, top‐dress with good mulch, making sure not to smother the crown.
Artichokes like moist soil, but never soggy. When watering, drench the root area completely.
Frequency of watering varies with every situation. In the heat of summer it may need a thorough drink once a week. Watering frequency will decrease during cooler weather and as plants become established.
Artichokes are very drought tolerant once established after the first year. Water a second year plant thoroughly in the hottest summer months. A third year plant should be fine without additional water.
In containers, artichokes will need regular watering weekly before the soil pulls away form the sides of the container. Artichokes in containers will need regular water for life because they will have a restricted root system.
Artichokes benefit from an annual feeding in the spring, side‐dress with kelp meal or any other all purpose granular fertilizer. A 1” layer of composted manure also works.
Newly planted artichokes begin to produce edible heads early to mid summer. Established plants can start flowering in late spring. Harvest before the outer “petals” have begun to open, cut buds with 1” of stem along with it. Store in refrigerator; lasts up to a week or more.
Cut artichoke foliage to the ground in late fall. Artichokes in containers need protection at temperatures around 25°F or colder. In the ground a thick layer of straw will help insulate the root mass for the winter.
The key for survival in the ground is great drainage and temperatures above 20°F.