Thursday, March 21, 2013

Episode 9: Wherein Organigirl Splits An Artichoke Plant Satisfactorily

Who loves artichokes? Me! Oh boy do I love artichokes. They're delicious, fun to eat, and full of the good-for-you kinds of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber our mothers would be proud to see us eating. If your grandmothers are into fiber as much as mine are, they would be particularly proud.

If you happen to live in an area where you can grow artichokes as perennials, consider yourself lucky. While artichokes can be grown in many parts of the US as annuals, there are few places where they thrive throughout the year (typically zone 8 or warmer). Should you by chance live in one of those areas, buying yourself an artichoke plant can be a great investment. If not, you might want to consider moving - unless you hate artichokes...or just don't want to move. Up to you. No pressure.

As an artichoke plant grows, it will eventually begin to develop side shoots that look almost like separate plants, but are connected to the original artichoke plant at its main stem. By separating the side shoots from the main plant, you can then get new plants which are clones of the original and will have all of the characteristics of the original plant (so make sure your artichoke plant is a good one).

Here’s an artichoke plant that I have growing in my garden:

If you look underneath the leaves, you can see the main stem of the plant:

The leaves of the original plant will grow out the top of the main stem, but the leaves of the new shoots will appear to grow out of the ground and the base of the stem.

The leaves at the bottom left of the photo are the new shoot. You can see
the large main shoot of the original plant at the top of the photo. 
To separate one of the shoots from the main stem, gently bend the leaves of the shoot away from the main stem and then push a shovel straight down into the soil between the shoot leaves and the main stem of the artichoke plant. You can also use a serrated knife to separate the shoot if needed.

Continue pushing the shovel into the ground around the shoot, leaving a few inches of space in between the shovel and the shoot wherever possible. The goal is to leave as many roots of the shoot intact as possible. When you’ve finished cutting into the ground with your shovel, use your shovel to gently lift the shoot out of the ground with as much soil around its roots as possible.

Ideally I should have had more soil around the shoot I was transplanting in these pictures, but in my excitement at the prospect of a new, free artichoke plant, I didn’t dig down quite as deep as I should have. The new plant lived, so I’ve forgiven myself and moved on.

Plant your newly separated shoot into a hole amended with plenty of compost. Be sure to mix the compost into some of the existing soil so that your new artichoke plant will get plenty of consistent, rather than sporadic, nutrition. Be sure that the part of the new shoot that was above the ground before you separated it from its parent plant is still above ground when the shoot is planted at it’s new location in your garden.  

Water the plant well, and be sure to water it daily for the next few days until it’s settled. Then water it every couple of days to keep it thriving. If you separate your plants periodically, you’ll eventually have artichoke plants coming out of your ears. Wouldn’t that be something?

Sorry about the shadow - it goes where I go.
Are you able to grow artichokes in your garden as perennials? If so, have you successfully transplanted shoots from your plants and lived to tell the tale? Share your triumphs in the comments below!

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