Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back at the Ranch: Artichoke

artichoke bud © Tyler Storey The third artichoke of the season. Numbers one and two were but the remembrance of lunch past before I thought to take a picture of them.

Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) thrive in the Desert Garden with minimal care. The plants are large, forming a silver-green fountain perhaps three by three feet, so do give them plenty of room, but they're also a highly decorative addition to the landscape, so no need to tuck them back into an inobtrusive corner. You may need to experiment with the best location for artichokes in your garden; I've found they do well with some light dappled or afternoon shade.

Because they're a perennial vegetable, living and producing year after year, plant them in an area of well-prepared soil where they can remain undisturbed by annual gardening activities; try planting plants in early Autumn to give them a head start. Water them well during their growth season, about once a week; less if the soil stays moist longer. Mulch them well and you'll find they need surprisingly little irrigation; they're a member of the thistle family, and thistles are tough.

Harvest the buds when the scales are still tight, cutting with a sharp knife about an inch below the bud base. Steamed and served with melted butter is a classic presentation. If you have Summer Savory growing in your herb bed, throw a few sprigs into the melting butter; it has a fresh tart flavor that perfectly complements home-grown artichokes.


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