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Jun 26, 2009 04:09 PM

Pruning an artichoke

Any advice? We were finished with the first crop of the year as of a couple of weeks ago, and I know I need to prune if I want another crop in the fall (and I do!). How much should I take off? Any rules of thumb?

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  1. I'm afraid I don't know the answer BUT I did read somewhere recently that when you prune your artichokes, save any thick stems/leaf veins you cut off. If you peel off the tough outer skin, you can eat them like cardoons. It should taste like artichoke hearts. Yum!

    1. I only grew a couple of plants for about 3 years, so I'm no expert, but I don't think you prune artichokes the way you would a bush. Harvesting the flowers will encourage the growth of more flowers. It doesn't matter how much stem you cut off, but as gooseberry noted, they are quite tasty once you peel them. They make a nice artichoke soup (be sure to peel severely to get rid of the strings).

      At some point as winter approaches you will see the plants start to go dormant (leaves wilting, no new growth). That's when you cut everything off an inch or two above the soil surface. I'm not sure if this really has any effect other than making your garden look well maintained, but that's what they say to do.

      As a rule of thumb don't cut any leaves during the growing season.

      1. Hmm. My plants also have finished producing and are dying back on their own. The stalks and leaves are discolored and ugly so I was planning on cutting them down all the way to the ground. Since the leaves are growing out of the stalk, I don't see how you could just prune *some* of the plant. Usually, with fertilizer, some pretty, new leaves appear soon, but I've never had a second crop in the fall. Hope this helps.

        1. Thanks for the feedback. I pruned the most discolored of the leaves today, and that left one plant pretty bare, so I think I'm just going to cut it all the way back to the ground and see what happens. On the other plant (which is larger and gave us a massive crop of 'chokes this spring), I noticed that there are some new little shoots springing up around the roots of the plant. I'm going to keep an eye on them; maybe that's where I'll get my fall crop. If I do, that would certainly be an argument in favor of just cutting the whole plant back.

          Most of the leaves I took off didn't look too appetizing, and when I tried to peel the stems they seemed like nothing *but* strings, so I'm afraid I'm not going to get much, if anything, out of the leaves (except a lot of good compost).

          3 Replies
          1. re: jlafler

            Our artichokes got earwigs. The first one that was infested we cut off all the leaves and cut the stalk down to about 18 inches -- it now has new leaves growing up from the stalk. The second one is about to undergo the same treatment, hopefully with the same result (and no more earwigs!).

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              We had a gazillion earwigs, too, but I don't think they harm the artichokes; as far as I understand it, they like to live on artichoke plants because there are usually lots of aphids for them to eat, and the artichokes themselves are nice, cool, dark places to hide. I would often have 4 or 5 earwigs exit an artichoke as I was trimming it, but see no evidence that they had damaged the artichoke in any way.

              Earwigs are pests in other parts of the garden, and they are certainly creepy -- I would always jump when one scuttled out while I was trimming my choke. And I did take to doing the trimming outside to keep them out of the house.

              1. re: jlafler

                Well, something was eating the artichoke leaves! Anyway, to report further, we cut them both down to the ground and they're both sprouting. The leaves on the first one we cut down are alreadly about a foot high! The one we cut back later is just starting to re-sprout. More artichokes! Yeah!

          2. I just cut mine back to the ground and they grow up again, producing a second crop of smaller artichokes.