Having you been planning on growing artichoke but stalling the decision because of limited garden space? If you have an affirmative answer then you are at the right place. Today we are going to enlighten you about growing artichokes in containers. So, read on to know more about growing this vegetable, rich in dietary fibre and loads of other nutrients.
What Are Artichokes? (Is it a Vegetable?)
Artichokes fall under the Asteraceae family of plants. These big thistles have edible flower buds and need to be harvested prior to flowering. Spiny green bracts surround the actual flower while its base is both tender and flavourful. This vegetable plant can attain a width of 3-4 inches and height of 4-6 feet. They are accompanied with arched branches and 20-30-inch-long green leaves.
Varieties of Artichokes That You Can Grow In Container/Pots
- Elongated and tapered artichokes like ‘Violetta’.
- Globe artichokes having a long and round shape. These are extremely common and can be easily found in supermarkets. Usually the globe varieties attain a size of 10-13 cm. Some popular examples are Imperial Star, Green Globe and Tempo.
Growing Artichokes In Containers – How to Grow
- Perennial artichokes are purchased as starts whereas the annual varieties are started from seeds in indoor setups.
- You can initiate growing annual seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last frost-free date of your region.
- These seeds will have to be planted in 4-5-inch-wide pots as they offer adequate room for growth.
- The seedlings will have to be positioned in a sunny spot which receives a minimum 10 hours of sunlight daily. You can also supplement it with artificial lighting as per requirement.
- You can lightly fertilize the seedlings every now and then.
- Once the plants harden adequately you can transplant them outside in larger containers.
Artichokes thrive best in the dry and warm climates of Mediterranean regions. Although it can be grown in tropical and subtropical parts of the world as a perennial, excess heat might lead to premature flowering. Artichokes can bear subtle shade although that affects the quality of flower buds. If you reside in a tropical region, then you can move the plants to a shade during afternoon.
Choosing A Container Or Pot To Grow Artichokes
- The best containers for growing artichokes are the 38-inch-wide and 24-inch-deep ones as the plant roots tend to expand a lot. During growing season, the plant can produce between 30-50 artichokes. You can also opt for a wine barrel if you are not very keen on purchasing a container from the store.
- Even while using a large container, you should earmark each against growing one plant. The container should also be able to hold between 2 to 3 gallons of soil for better plant growth.
- The draining system of your chosen container needs to be good. Improper draining is infamous for causing root rot in young plants. Ideally, they should have between 2-3 draining holes.
- Artichokes require nitrogen-rich, sandy and well-drained soil. The plant roots shouldn’t face any problem in accessing the nutrients. It should also retain both nutrients and moisture while draining off excess water without causing any water logging.
- While using gardening soil you should opt for the fertile and organic varieties. Their pH level should range between 6 to 6.8. You can also mix the soil with aged manure and natural compost prior to planting the seeds. Doing this helps in increasing the nutrient meter of the soil. You can also enrich it with yucca extract to enhance the moisture retention capabilities of the soil.
- You can swap gardening soil with high-quality commercial potting ones for better results.
- If you are planning on growing artichokes in containers, then you can mix all-purpose mild granular fertilizer with the soil prior to pouring in the same inside the container.
How to Plant Artichokes In Containers?
Artichokes can be grown from both the seeds and offset with equally appealing yield visible in both the methods.
If you are proceeding from seeds, then you need to opt for high quality ones from a reputed vendor. The seeds shall have to be soaked overnight in warm water as this adds inertia to the germination process.
- Next you will have to pour in some potting soil into the seed trays and sow the seeds about ½ to 1/4th inch deep. Mid-January is considered to be the ideal time for sowing the artichoke seeds.
- These trays can be placed indoors under glowing lights. Usually it will take between 10-14 days for the artichoke plant to germinate.
- The plant will have to be transferred to an indoor heating mat after its seeds sprout a pair of leaves. Now you will have to ensure a temperature between 10 to 20 degree Celsius.
- You will have to transplant them to suitable containers once the plant reaches a height of 3 to 4 inches. However, you need to be extremely cautious while transplanting as young artichokes are extremely sensitive.
- The seedlings shall have to be hardened for about 1 to 2 weeks before moving the container outdoors and placing them under direct sunlight.
If you are growing artichokes from offsets in containers, then you will first have to place a fine layer of gravel. This helps in covering the draining holes so that dripping of soil and water logging can be avoided at all cost.
- Next you need to fill potting soil rich in organic fertilizers and compost into the container. 2 inch of space will have to be left in between the rim of the container and soil surface.
- Now you can dig a 2-3-inch hole at the centre of the container where the baby plant shall be placed. The roots of the plant should remain submerged inside the soil while its leaves pop outside the soil level.
- The artichoke plant will now have to be watered deeply until water drips out from its draining holes.
While growing artichokes in containers, it is advisable to grow from root divisions as thar leads to better results. But if you are growing it from the offset then you need to ensure they have a height of minimum 10 inches as smaller offsets might not survive. Extremely tall offsets are also very difficult to manage.
Watering Artichoke Plants
Artichokes require a lot of water for thriving well and producing tender flower buds. You will need to add in more water to artichoke plants growing in pots as the potting soil dries out faster than normal garden soil.
- You can increase the water retention of soil by applying a thick layer of mulch as warm soil leads to quick flowering.
- About 1 to 2 inches of watering is required on a weekly basis. Water is necessary during budding stage as inadequate watering is infamous for making the buds dry and fibrous.
- While maintaining the watering requirement of soil, you should also take care of its drainage as artichokes so not fare well in soil which drains poorly. In such cases, you need to amend your soil or place the plants in raised beds.
- The artichoke plants should be watered once a week. You can water them daily during peak summer months. Water intervals can be reduced during winter.
You should always check the moisture level of soil prior to watering as both over and under watering impairs the taste of the bud.
How to Take Care of Artichoke Plants?
About 1/10 pound of nitrogen needs to be applied per plant at the onset of cultivation season.
Alternatively, you can apply one pound of fertilizer containing 10% nitrogen along with 1/3rdpound of ammonium nitrate and ½ pound of ammonium sulphate. Applying nitrogen monthly during harvest season can also benefit the plants immensely.
- In case if you are growing perennial artichokes in pots, then you will have to prepare the same to overwinter. This can be done by cutting down the plants to a height of one foot and covering its stem using straw or similar mulch.
- You will have to keep the plant covered throughout winter and remove the mulch during spring, a few weeks before the last frost date of your locality.
How Long Does It Take For An Artichoke To Grow?
Usually it takes between 110-150 days for the artichoke plants to attain maturity if you plant from seeds. The plant reaches maturity within 100 days while growing the same from divisions.
In most cases, the plant does not flower before the second year of growth. You can cut 1-2 inches of the plant off the ground once the harvest is over to try for a second harvest. If things go accordingly, then new sprouts will appear at the base of the plant.
How to Cut Back Artichoke Plants?
Artichokes tend to grow as thick as giant thistles. Cutting them back is not same as pruning an old bush and for doing this you need to follow the steps mentioned below:
- Harvest its pinecone-like buds appearing on its lateral branches and elongated stems once the top buds attain a diameter of 2 to 4 inches. Next you will have to slice off the bud using pruning shears while leaving just 1.5 inches of stem.
- After harvesting all of its buds you need to make 45-degree angle cuts on the individual stems down to the ground.
- Old bearing stalks will now have to be removed via stumping. You can use a stalk knife for cutting out the stalk just below ground level once new bud-bearing stalks appear. Around three to four weeks’ time should be allowed between stumping so that new shoot development gets encouraged.
- You can completely cut back the artichoke plant once its buds have been harvested at the beginning of autumn or end of summer. If you are unsure about when to cut the plant back, you can wait for the yellowing of leaves as that serves as an indicator to proceed with this action.
- It is advisable to use pruning shears for cutting down spent stalks to the ground. Either compost leaves or straw can be used for mulching the plant. It will have to be uncovered during early spring as it boosts up the development of fresh bud-bearing shoots.
Artichoke Plant Harvesting (When to tell that Artichoke is Ripe)
The harvesting period of artichoke plants depend on the climatic conditions and the type of artichoke you are growing. Ideally, they should be harvested at the onset of the second year.
For doing this, you will have to pick the tender buds once they attain the size of an apple. The stem has to be cut from two inch below the buds for harvesting. You can refrigerate the artichokes for a week are preserve the buds by making pickles, cooking or canning.
Pests and Diseases
- Artichokes are mostly plagued by plume moths and aphids. You can deal with them via water spray or by using organic pesticides. You should also provide the plants with adequate air circulation space to keep pests at bay.
- Slugs can attack your plant in damp weather conditions. They mostly feed on the young tender leaves.
- Crown rot is a popular disease which might affect your artichoke plant during peak winter months. You can circumvent the same by refraining from mulching until the soil temperatures reach sub 10 degrees temperature. Mulching needs to be removed once the weather starts warming.
- Both the plant leaves and flower bracts can be damaged by Botrytis and Gray Mold which turn them grey or brown. On noticing signs of this disease, you need to remove the affected leaves immediately. Next you can either apply neem oil or a fungicide which is meant for edible plants.
Advantages of Growing Artichokes In Containers/Pots
Artichokes serve as rich sources of protein, fibres, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, niacin, zinc and potassium. They have a low-calorie count which can help you in weight loss while reducing the level of LDL cholesterol.
While this versatile vegetable can be grown in a variety of environments, it thrives best if you can provide sandy, loamy or well-drained soil. If your garden soil is different from the growing requirements, then you can opt for growing artichokes in containers. It can also serve you well if you do not have adequate space in the garden but are still keen on growing the vegetable.