We had our first frost two nights ago and not just a light dusting either: the chooks’ water was frozen solid.L
ast year I nearly lost a globe artichoke plant in a very cold snap and I did lose its neighbouring cardoon. I’m not going to let it happen again.
The artichokes and cardoon take up half a raised bed in the vegetable garden which is quite a luxury but I think they’re such majestic plants that I couldn’t resist. They were very cheap from a garden centre. The bees love the cardoon – I keep finding them “bottoms up” in it.
You can eat cardoon leaves if you blanche them in boiling water but I’ve never tried them. I just love the giant thistle flowers. It’s the immature flower bud that you eat on the artichoke and I find them a bit of a faff to prepare: they discolour very quickly like apples do unless you constantly wipe them with lemon juice. Considering how much room the plants take up and how big the globes are there is very little edible flesh on them but having said all that they are a centrepiece of the vegetable garden!
I cut the stems down once they finished flowering but with the mild autumn there’s still leafy growth at the base. This will die down eventually if the frost doesn’t get it first and it’s not the leaves I’m worried about. Beneath the soil surface is the plant’s crown from which next year’s shoots will grow. If the artichoke’s crown gets frozen then the plant will die. They need to be insulated from the cold.
It was touch and go last year so this year I cut back some of the leaves and made a cylindrical cage with chicken wire and staked it into the ground. Then I packed in some straw left over from the strawberry bed around the base of the plants. I’ll keep an eye on them because the straw may get too damp which could encourage mould. Slugs and snails will also seek refuge in the straw but they don’t seem too keen on the leaves anyway.
They look neat and snug so I hope it will work!