Why Grow IT?
Globe artichokes are no relation to Jerusalem artichokes -- in fact, they couldn't be more different. Whereas Jerusalem artichokes will grow in any soil, and produce enormous yields of knobbly tubers underground, globe artichokes are grown for the dense hearts that are inside flowerheads, which grow on top of a massive thistle-like plant.
Growing from seed is possible, but many GIYers use more reliable "offsets", which are the sideshoots from an established plant. They will need a very fertile soil in a sunny, sheltered position. To grow from seed, sow seeds in module trays indoors in March -- plant them on in to larger 10cm pots and plant out in June after hardening off. Space them at least one metre apart. Cover the plants with fleece if there is a risk of frost. Offsets are planted about 5cm deep. Trim the leaves to 13cm after planting.
Keep plants weed free and water well. In the first year remove the flowerhead as soon as it appears -- this will give you a better crop the next year (sounds great in theory, but not so hot if you are an instant gratification kind of person). To prepare plants for the winter, remove any dead stems and dying foliage. Fork over the soil around the plants and then put a thick layer of well rotted manure or compost around them. Give them a high potash liquid feed in the spring.
Harvest the largest, top globe first when it turns fat and soft and just before the scales start to open out. Then harvest the other heads as they mature. You will get about a dozen of them between June and August. Globe artichokes will produce globes every year for three to four years and then they start to produce progressively less. At this stage, it's worth propagating new plants by cutting offsets from old ones.
GIY recommended varieties
Violetto di Chioggia, Green Globe.
Globe artichokes are relatively problem free apart from the usual suspects -- snails, slugs, aphids etc.
* Make sure you water the plants well in the summer -- if they don't have enough H2O you will end up with disappointingly small globes.
* Globe artichokes make a beautiful, edible addition to the flower border
Watch GIY tutorials on growing vegetables at www.giyireland.com/videos.