Why is my artichoke sprouting in September?

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R:

I have had some experience growing globe artichokes. As you know, this is not really the best climate for growing and over-wintering the plants as they are not winter-hardy in our zone. As a perennial plant, the fruiting stalk does die back and should be removed. However, I advise against thinning the plant in the summer. Those new shoots will help the plant survive the winter and yield stronger new growth in spring. Nor do I advise thinning the spring growth as the shock of transplanting will set back fruiting. You will undoubtedly find that by wintering over a fairly intact plant (minus the dead stalk) you will harvest more chokes in summer. You can wait to divide your plant until it grows quite large; perhaps leaving the plant grow 2 to 3 years before dividing it.

Mulch heavily or use multiple layers of row cover fabric suspended above the crown of the plants. Many gardeners in our area plant annual artichokes, such as 'Imperial Star' and 'Colorado Star' (purple variety). You might also be interested in cardoon, which is an artichoke relative. It can grow 3 to 4 feet tall. Its leaf stalks and the midrib are cooked much like celery (but never eaten raw) and taste similar to artichokes. it is far more hardy than the globe artichoke. Good harvesting whichever plant you grow!

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