Sunday, January 22, 2012

Aphid Pest Control

Q: I'm a little worried about my artichoke plants as they were attacked by aphids. Can you give me any suggestions for my artichokes so I don't have a bad harvest this year?

A: There are many causes for aphids; such as ant population and thick plant growth. Aphids cluster under the artichoke leaves starting at the tip and often burrow into the cracks of the artichoke stems.

Fertilizing and Weather
Over fertilization in slow growth months also attract aphids. Aphids are often worse in the cool months and less severe in the summer months. Ants protect aphids from their natural enemies. So if you have a large population of aphids there is most likely a nest of ants close by. Trim back leaves that are severely infected and discard into a sealed plastic bag. Although they can cause leaf cure, aphids rarely kill plants and can simply be washed off with water. However, from my experience – washed aphids simply jump right back on valued plants. When there is a large number of aphids, they can be eliminated with insecticide soap. There are affordable organic insecticides available at any hardware nursery garden center.

Treat with Lady Bugs
The aphids’ natural enemies are lacewings, soldier beetles, mini-wasps, and ladybugs. Ladybugs EAT and devour aphids and can be purchased online and at Osh Hardware Store. They are very effective. When you receive your lady bugs, place them in a cool dark place – such as the refrigerator. Scatter 1/3rd around your artichoke plant. Repeat for the following three nights.

UC IPM (2011). How to Manage Pests. Pests in Gardens and Landscapes. Aphids. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved January 22, 2012 from

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Grow Patio Artichokes

Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Growing Artichokes in Small Spaces: This is an artichoke that I recently potted. By the end of the summer it should grow to about 4 feet tall. Artichoke plants can be grown in large containers on a patio or deck. In severe hot climates, a shade cloth with 30% or 40% shade may be necessary. In severe cold climates, the container can be placed in a shed for winter storeage.

The key to successful container growing is good drainage. This begins with a simple drainage rack below the container. I made mine with wood stakes. Bricks also work well.

The bigger the container the better. A large tree container or a 20 gallon Rubbermaid tub will also work.

To prevent the soil from coming out and bugs from creeping in, place a layer of weed block cloth at the bottom of the tub. This can be purchased at any nursery supply store or hardware garden nursery.

Plant your artichoke with a rich mix of potting soil, bagged (cured) steer manure, and decomposed granite (or river sand). It is best to use fresh soil every year to produce the best artichoke crop.

Remember that potted artichokes need full sun and light watering. However, potted artichokes need more water than ones potted in-ground because they dry out much faster. A weekly deep watering may be necessary in the summer months.

Artichokes are big feeders. Fertilize weekly with organic solutions during the growing season from spring until late summer. Rotate the types of fertilizer used, such as: diluted powdered milk, crushed egg shells, aquarium water, and cured steer manure.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grow Small Artichoke Varieties

Sweetheart Artichoke Co

Q: Do you sell artichoke plants that yield small globes?
I live in Napa, CA.

A: The artichokes I produce grow to about 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Globe size depends on sunshine and water. Too much water and little sunshine will produce smaller globes.

Store-Bought Artichokes
The artichokes found in the store are very large, because they are commercially grown with chemicals. Home grown organic artichokes will grow to about the size of a man’s fist. The Imperial Star is a smaller and narrower variety than the green globe. It is also known for being more hardy, producing the first year, and yielding a larger crop.

Artichoke Plants with Smaller Globes

Italian Purple Violetto: If allowed to grow large, the globes are not desirable for eating. Picked small this variety is very sweet. Narrow or oval variety. Grows dark purple the first year and then burgundy-green the following years.

Violet de Provence: Medium size with rich purple globes. This is a traditional Italian globe.

Violetta di Chioggia: An ancient Italian variety. Small purple globes. Often grown as a decorative plant and consumed for its leaves as medicinal tea.

Imperial Star: A hardy hybrid of the green globe. Produces more thorns on the leaves and less thorns on the globes. Smaller globe size than the traditional green globe. Known for yielding first year. Available now.

How to Grow Artichoke Plants

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BUY and Grow Artichoke Plants in All Climates
Sweetheart Artichoke Co is the site to see for buying artichokes and learning how to grow at home in any climate!

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