I love to eat artichokes. Growing up in California as I did, artichokes were plentiful and good. Here in the east, they are expensive, hard to get, and generally of mediocre quality.
This is the third year I've tried to grow artichokes. I start the seeds (enough for 4 plants) in late January/early February and carefully tend the seedlings, which grow well initially. Then comes the tricky part...trying to fool them into thinking they've already gone through a winter. By March or so the weather is usually still frosty, but not bitter-cold, so I put them outside and keep them there unless it looks like it will drop below 25 degrees F., in which case I bring them back inside. This goes on for 6 weeks or so. This will be mid to late April. Then I transplant them to the desired location and wait.
In the first year I placed them along the fence where I have some perennials. I augmented the soil a little bit, and they grew well. But they never produced the edible flowers I so craved. I tried to overwinter them by putting tomato cages around them and filling with shredded leaves, but it did not work.
In the second year I transplanted them in the same place, augmented the soil even more, but they never prospered there.
In the third year (current year) I was out of the original seeds ("Violetto" from Territorial) so I bought "Imperial Star" from Fedco (much cheaper). I transplanted them in the "row crops" part of the fenced garden, where I grow corn and winter squash. I really augmented the soil with composted manure and organic fertilzer I mix myself. They looked good. They were watered automatically. But the plants started disappearing one-by-one; once it happened right before my astonished eyes. Voles were tunneling under them and just dragging them down to Hades. Three were gone before I started sprinkling "MoleMax" in hopes of chasing the voles away. I found 3 more plants (also Imperial Star) in a local garden center and tried again. No luck. Only one plant survived. I planted squash in the vacated hills. The remaining plant (I don't remember now if it was store-bought or the one I grew) struggled along for awhile, not really putting on robust growth. I wrote it off in my mind.
So it was with great surprise that The Kitchen Goddess, who was working in the garden, made me close my eyes and led me to the plant. Lo and behold, a 'choke!
I've never been so happy! I hope it gets bigger! When we pick it it will really spice up my "Harvest Monday" post that week! Question now--how are we going to share it? We both love artichokes.
Fedco says "most plants will bear more than one, producing in the cooler fall weather that they prefer to summer's full heat." They can "tolerate light frosts." Who knows, maybe it will give us one or two more beauties.
So I was all set to give up on artichokes, now I'm inspired to try them again.