08 April 2010

more artichokes in our future!

There is an unruly (OK, more than one) corner in our backyard. We've sort of conquered the left/north side, putting in a bluestone patio and new kitchen garden. It's time to turn our gaze just slightly to the right, to the side I try to ignore. To the wild, messy, weedy patch you see below.

Careful, it's not pretty.

It's, obviously, being used for old furniture, dead plants and extra pots. Oh, and it's where I'm "keeping" all my weeds.

artichoke patch - before

(Wow, look who's getting more comfortable with full disclosure!)

What to do here? What to do. It's time to start digging, amending the soil and putting something in there. Time to give that part of the yard a purpose. Sitting area? Cafe table and chairs? Hammock?

Just to set the scene: that cute little brown stick to the right is one of our new plant babies: a wee Hauer Pippin apple tree. Its buds just "broke" (apple-speak for active bud growth) and it will soon begin its journey toward becoming a beautiful tree with, what I'm told, will be a slight weeping habit. Did I mention it's a locally-developed variety? The Hauer Pippin is from Aptos (south of Santa Cruz) and dates back to the 1890s. Can't wait.

Anyway, as for the rest of that space back there. I was recently on a walk with Jacky through our hood. Some of the houses around here have really cool yards--not all, as this is still a somewhat "transitional" neighborhood. Meaning, some yards are super sorted out--beautiful even-- but some yards are neglected and overrun with my nemesis, the local invasive blackberry bramble. But some are really interesting. Mostly I can just see front yards (something we are without), and some are filled with mature fruit trees, grape vines, japanese maples, and my current non-edible fave, the ravishing echium.

Back to the walk: we were a couple of blocks away and spied this house's back yard (this is a block where the houses are accessed by two streets--the front door's on one street and the back door/driveway is on the other side of the block. I love our neighborhood, I really do.). Anyway, check this out:

Beautiful, frond-y artichokes.

I love eating artichokes, as you know. I've always wanted to grow my own. I asked another kitchen gardener who's been around the block a couple of times--my mother-in-law. She's grown lots of stuff, and my impression is that she grew some artichokes back in the 70s or 80s. You know, that hippy, grow-your-own scene. She and her kids made homemade fruit leather, for goodness sake. Awesome.

So, when I asked the MIL about growing them she said it was tough to find the space to make it worthwhile. Yep, artichokes get like 6' high wide by 4' tall, with probably just a few chokes. I certainly I am not about to devote any of my precious raised beds to such a monster. But, I've recently fallen for how they LOOK. I mean, how awesome and dramatic is the photo above? I like everything about their yard, but it's the artichoke plants that make me stop the stroller, stare. And sometimes engage the stroller brake and snap some crappy iPhone photos.

Some time after admiring my neighbor's yard--and cooking quite a few artichoke dishes--it dawned on me the other day that perhaps a beautiful, dramatic, hopefully edible, "grove" of artichokes is just the ticket for the back of our yard. You know, back in that messy corner. Once they're big mature plants, Jacky can play hide-and-seek.

The plan is to start tomorrow, clearing that space. Beats my usual Friday morning date with the elliptical. (Actually, shhh, I love that machine.) I'll dig and dig, then amend the soil for better drainage, perhaps even see what the PH is. I've never tested soil before. Eventually, perhaps next weekend, I'll put in some wee artichoke babies, procured from the local garden shop. I called and they have the 'Green Globe' variety and "something kind of purple-y" -- works for me. I've also read up a little on companion plants for artichokes. Some say sunflowers, which I already have seeds for. Some say asparagus. Oh, I wish. Someday soon.

I know some of you have vegetable gardens... any artichoke-growing tips for me before I embark?


  1. oooh! i'm so jealous!!!! love that you're going to grow artichokes!

  2. I cannot give any tips, as I've never grown them - but I have a feeling you'll do just fine. :) We just visited friends in LA that were growing them and they were definitely much larger than I realized!


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