Artichokes find place in local gardens

Nina Hustus harvested about 20 artichokes off her plant this year. Photo courtesy of Nina Hustus.

Nina Hustus harvested about 20 artichokes off her plant this year. Photo courtesy of Nina Hustus.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn, peas, beans.

Chances are either you or someone you know grows these Southern staples.

But there are adventurous gardeners who enjoy attempting to grow produce that is more associated with sunny California than humid Louisiana.

I’m talking artichokes.

Nina Hustus just finished harvesting about 20 artichokes from a single plant in her backyard.

“I’ve always loved artichokes but never thought about planting them,” she said.

That changed about three years ago when she set out her first transplants. The first year, she got none. But the second and third year they produced.

Kay Lee planted artichokes at the St. Catherine’s Community Garden last year and harvested about 15 the first year and there’s about 10 on the plant now.

She’s not surprised they’ve done well. After all, they’re a thistle, she said.

She thinks she knows why artichokes aren’t commonly planted by local gardeners.

“I think it’s they’re not used to eating them, so they don’t think to plant them.”

Barbara Pledger tried growing artichokes from seeds for about four years.

“I could get them to come up, but could never get them past the seedling point and they would just die,” she said. “I finally had one grow for a complete summer and looking just beautiful. I went out the next day and it was just wilted. It never would come back.”

She thinks the problem may have been too much water. An article on artichoke production by Texas A&M System’s Agrilife Extension says they are susceptible to root rot, so she’s probably right.

Want to try growing them yourself?

Here are basic growing tips from the Texas A&M article:

  • Plant in fall into deep, loose soil. Plants get large (about 3 feet by 3 feet) and have an extensive root system so they need plenty of room.
  • Leave plenty of space between plants to avoid diseases.
  • Protect is temperatures will drop below 25 degrees. (Local gardeners have had good luck just leaving the dead foliage on plants as protection.)
  • Keep soil moist when plants are growing and producing, but avoid overwatering because wet soil can result in root rot.
  • After harvesting the artichokes, Remove stems to encourage new shoots.

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