How to Grow Artichokes
Artichokes are best grown in areas with cool summer temperatures and mild winters. Commercially they are mainly grown in Northern California. In mild winter areas, artichokes can be grown as perennials and will live for up to 6 or more years. In colder areas, artichokes can be grown as annuals by starting indoors early in the season, giving the plants a "cold" spell, planting out in the garden in spring, and then harvesting the buds in the fall.
Starting from seeds
Growing artichokes from seeds is easy and fun to do. Plants usually require 2-3 months to reach transplantable size, so be sure to start them early enough to be ready to plant them in the garden 3-4 weeks before your last frost date.
Preparing the Soil
Artichokes prefer fertile, well draining soils in a sunny location. As with most plants, you should incorporate fertilizer and well composted, organic matter to enrich the soil as you prepare the area for planting.
Artichoke plants can get pretty big, so be sure to give them enough space in your garden. Allow for 5 feet between each plant.
Water & Fertilizer
Artichokes are heavy feeders and do well with 1-2 inches of water per week. Be sure to weed around the plants and mulch heavily to conserve water and reduce weeds. For good growth and development, apply a high nitrogen fertilizer every 4 weeks throughout the season.
Each stalk should produce 3-5 buds and a plant can produce several stalks. Harvest the flower buds when they are large (about the size of an apple) and fully formed, but before the leaves start to open. Cut off the flower buds along with about 3 inches of stem. Once harvested, artichokes can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week.
If you miss harvesting an artichoke before it's leaves start to open, you can leave it on the plant and allow it to flower. Artichokes have beautiful purple flowers!
Fall and Winter Plant Care
After a few frosts, cut the plants and leaves back and mulch heavily. Heavy mulching of dirt, leaves and straw will allow the plants to over-winter in warmer areas of the country. In colder areas, dig up the plants and store in moist sand or peat and place in a cold cellar. Replant in the spring.