Artichokes in Fort Collins

ion_source_guyJanuary 4, 2011

Artichokes in Fort Collins

Well, Late this fall, I finally got around to visiting the new public garden in Fort Collins, called "The Gardens on Spring Creek".

see:

http://www.fcgov.com/horticulture/

It's lovely. It's only a few years old, but I think they're off to a great start, with a community garden, a modest green house and office space, a perennials and sculpture garden with babbling brook and Koi pond, a children's garden, huge outdoor kitchen, vegetable garden, and a big rock garden which has rocks but no plants yet.

The big Dawn Redwood out front is interesting since I didn't know those would survive here in the Fort, but the thing that really caught my attention was the row of Big healthy artichokes in the vegetable garden. I knew these were a perennial, but I had no idea that they could be grown in Fort Collins. I love artichokes, so I'm excited about trying to grow some. They look pretty appealing too. It's sort of a knee high dark green bushy thing with foliage kind of resembling a poppy or thistle, but more attractive. I might even be able to get away with putting a few of these in the front yard at the back of the flowers near the fence.

Does anyone know details about how to grow them here, and what's necessary for them to survive the winter? Or do you just grow them from seed or starts here like an annual? What varieties might work best here? Do any of the local nurseries sell plants?

I searched RMG but did not find many posts in the past on this subject.

Thanks

Bruce

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david52 Zone 6

Pretty soon here, you want to find some seeds for 'Imperial Star' artichoke. Plant Feb/Mar, 70-80%ish germination, and let them get as large as they can. They're frost tolerant, and, I think, need some frost for future flowering, so set them out early and cover if its going to get down in the low 20's.

They love to grow in rich soil full of decomposing organic matter. They're aphid magnets and need a regular hosing off with some sort of soap. The first year, you'll pick 3 or 4 per plant, which hardly seems worth it. but....

Overwintering requires a couple of wheel barrows of grass clippings / leaves dumped on top so there is a foot thick layer all over it. When they come up the 2nd year, expect about 25 - 50 artichokes per plant, because by then you've realized the small ones are a whole lot better than the big ones.

I did this for 4 years with 10 plants. I actually got tired of eating artichokes - I'd eat a dozen small ones for lunch - and the next day, there were 50 that had to be eaten, and then reconfigured the garden and haven't done it again.

Anyway, its fun to try.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 5:38PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

david52 great Info.. Especially when you said "and the next day, there were 50 that had to be eaten"

Sounds like a high value replacement for zuchinnie!!!!

How long does it take to go from the small size to the normal size??? Do you need to thin the small ones to get normal size ones?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 7:59PM
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Dan Staley

Having lived in...ahem...Gullyvornia... for many years, one develops a refined taste for the artie. Love them. I purchase pounds upon pounds per year. And I learned from an Italian how to appreciate them, and per David the smaller the better. Bigger ain't no better with arties.

Here, they are an annual unless either 1) potted and brought into the garage for the winter. You will be very happy if you do this. 2) David's technique can be done with plenty of space and clippings from the yard - you need a big garden for this. Arties are very large plants. But well worth it.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 8:43PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I've never grown artichokes, but at one of my son's friend's house, there is an artichoke plant that was there when they moved in, no special treatment given, and it returns each year. Not sure what kind it is, but given that they are only a few miles from us, it makes me think I should give it a try.

Bonnie

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 11:55AM
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ion_source_guy

David, thanks a bunch for the detailed advice. This sounds reasonably do-able. I wonder why more folks aren't growing them? Maybe it's harder than it sounds, or maybe it's just folks mind set about this California vegetable holding us all back.

I'm going to give it a try. I just need to figure out a couple different spots in my yard to try these big guys, and see where they like to be, and next fall plan to collect a few more garbage bags of leaves from the neighbors than I usually do.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it works out.

Bruce

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 1:56PM
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david52 Zone 6

There are one or two fanatics around here who go to great lengths grow artichokes at 7000 ft altitude in a desert, and they all dig 'em up and pot them and bring them inside. I figure retaining as much roots as possible. Thats probably the best way to do it.

Lower in altitude, down the canyons toward Utah, they're perennial.

The small ones, well you feel the base of the flower, and if it feels as if there is something there, you pick and eat it whole. None of this messing around with the choke part, or peeling off hard leaves. Olive oil, salt, and rapid stir fry.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 3:19PM
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david52 Zone 6

you do that picking small thing, every stalk you picked one from, two or three other little fellas show up.

For a big one, prune all the small ones off and wait another 3 weeks. It will be full of earwigs (

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 3:22PM
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