Question: Do you cut back globe artichokes? I’m trying to learn which vegetables will be more productive with pruning. -Beth S.
Answer: Yes, artichoke plants need to be pruned several times during each growing season. Cutting back the artichokes, which grow as thick giant thistles, is a bit different from trimming back your standard plant or bush. Artichoke plant’s pinecone-shaped buds grow on the plant’s extended stems and lateral branches. They are ready for harvesting when the top bud reaches about two to four inches in diameter. At this point, use a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears to cut the bud off of the stem, leaving about 1.5 inches of stem. If you wait to harvest the buds until they open, you have waited too long. After harvesting all of the buds, cut the individual stems down to the ground, making cuts at a 45-degree angle.
When new bud-bearing stalks begin to appear, cut old bearing stalks out just below ground level using a stalk knife. Three or four weeks after cutting out the old stalks, new shoots should start to develop. When you notice yellowing leaves, it is time to harvest your artichokes and cut back the whole plant. Cut back the artichoke plant completely right after harvesting its buds at the end of summer or beginning of fall. Cut each spent stalk all the way down to the ground using pruning shears. Mulch the plant with organic mulch, preferably with leaves, straw, or compost, uncovering it in the early part of spring, which should stimulate the development of new shoots.