The Georgia Artichoke Sub Zero Survival Chronicles
I never expected that my task of keeping the artichokes alive throughout the harsher than average winter here would include any “sub zero” temperature readings. In fact, I rather hoped that I would never personally experience temperatures below zero (F) again in my lifetime regardless of where I happened to be at the time.
Artichokes are mildy hardy to frosts and light freezes; these two plants have been through several nights in the 15-25 degree range with just a layer of row cover and greenhouse plastic covering them. They were mulched up in early January when lows went below 10 and for the most part did OK. But last week, the National Weather Service’s official recorded the low in my county was -1.
One. Below. Zero. (sigh…) Had the this come from any other source I would have been skeptical of the actual reading, but this was as “official” as it gets here, so -1 it is.
Even though I had put additional efforts ahead of time into protecting mrs cohutt’s artichoke plants, I was not optimistic that I would find anything other than gooey dead foliage when I removed the layers protecting them. So after things thawed a bit last weekend, I carefully removed all the layers protecting both plants, trimmed away the damaged leaves and assessed their condition after being covered for two weeks.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the the plant in the hoop house in pretty good condition; it had a good deal of foliage damage to the larger older leaves that reached further from the base of the plant. Obviously I wasn’t able to protect these as well as the interior stalks and leaves and it showed. I left one of the larger damaged leaves for the record; you can see the darker stalk base coming off the left crown as the greyish damaged leaf drapes over the right crown.
In a closer shot you can see the darker bases of the damaged leaves I removed as well as the smaller lighter color of the healthy new growth. (The large brown stump of the original crown planted spring 2012 is between them.)
Likewise, I was happy to find that the front plant also survived deep within its multilayer “haystack” of leaves, row cover & plastic. From a size perspective, this plant has always been less impressive than the sheltered plant in the back, although this winter they are closer in size than in prior seasons. The size differential is probably due to both the green house warmth and the better soil conditions provided the back plant. However, this smaller plant has begun to really multiply via several new shoots. This is good news, as these new “crowns” can be transplanted for propagation (the main plant will reach its peak then start declining after about 4 seasons) and of course more crowns means more artichokes.
A close up of the base of the front “plant” shows it is actually comprised of around 10 or 12 crowns or shoots (I’m not sure what the actual term for these is, but you get the idea.) In the front there are a couple of new shoots, one of which I believe emerged while the whole thing was buried. I almost pulled it up by accident when removing the leaf mulch as I expected the plant to be completely dormant while in its “bunker”.
I know better than to declare victory at this point; it is still the first week of February and the weather pattern seems to be stuck on “cold” this year. Still, I am optimistic that these two plants are still with us at this point and putting out abundant new growth.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…..