Propagation of Globe Artichokes
Once you have an established bed of globe artichokes, you can easily detach the rooted suckers, or offsets, from the base of the parent plant and grow them on as replacements. Ideally, to have a continual, uninterrupted supply, this should be done during the second cropping season of the existing bed. The young offsets will begin cropping in the second summer after detaching, in the season directly following the one in which the parent plants finished their productive life and were consigned to the bonfire orheap. Whenever you decide to propagate globe artichokes, remember that it takes fifteen to nineteen months from the time the offsets are detached until they begin cropping.
Offsets can be taken in mid- or late autumn, or else in mid-spring. If you live in a mild area, autumn is probably the best time, as the plants will be well settled in before late spring droughts. In cold or exposed areas, wait until the weather has warmed up in spring, or, alternatively, protect autumn-planted offsets with cloches, or pot them up in 10 cm (4”) pots and put them in a cold frame until they can be planted out in their permanent positions in mid-spring. The process of detaching the offsets from the parent plant is very simple. With a trowel, scrape away theuntil you can see where the offset is joined to the old plant. Then use a sharp knife to sever the offset, making sure there is a bit of the old stock attached, and plenty of fine roots. Offsets 25 cm (10”) high are the safest ones to select, as they are most likely to recover from the shock of transplanting without any ill effects.
Once they have been severed, they should be replanted as soon as possible.
When a plant has come to the end of its cropping life, and you intend to replace it with a young rooted cutting, it can be made to produce a single crop of blanched shoots, called ‘chards’ in autumn. These tender, succulent shoots are cooked like cardoons orbeet, and can be obtained for a minimum of effort.
In mid-summer, when flower head production has ceased, cut back the leaves to within 15 cm (6”) of the ground and cut the stems back to ground level. Water the plants weekly until the beginning of mid-autumn. What you are after is a quick crop of strong new leaves, because once blanching begins, no new growth is made. When the young leaves are 60 cm (2’) high, tie them firmly together with soft twine or raffia. Next, wrap brown paper around and over them, or cover them over with clean dry straw. Lastly, earth-up the whole lot with fine ashes or sifted soil, so that all light is excluded.
Blanching should be finished in five to six weeks. If you still have some fully blanched chards left in the garden when cold weather sets in, lift and store them in boxes filled with dry sand.