Going through much to get little

Tad Dorgan* coined this quote: “Life is like artichokes; you have got to go through so much to get so little”. It may be true that you have to work through a lot of leaves to get to the heart of the artichoke, but sucking the little bit of flesh off the artichoke leaves and then eating the heart has become a family tradition at Homeland – we just love a fresh artichoke! Like with most other things at Homeland, the growing of artichokes also has a little story behind it.

Initially we planted 4 artichokes at the far southern ends of our vegetable boxes, as a bit of crop diversification, so they won’t throw shade on the other vegetables and as an answer to the question “well, where else should we plant them?” The artichokes grew well, bore good “fruit” (technically it’s a flower that you eat before it actually flowers) and life was good at Homeland. Well, in reference to artichokes it was.

However, over the years, said artichokes expanded, as they do. They started bursting out of the seams of the vegetable boxes. Their only open route of expansion was to encroach further into the vegetable boxes.

Artichokes overcrowded

Overcrowded artichokes

As we made our journey to self-sustainability, we also started realising that efficient space utilisation is important, and that we don’t have so much “vegetable real estate” as we initially thought. Every inch in the vegetable boxes have started becoming important. Independent from this, I was doing some research on companion planting for citrus, and found out that artichoke is a good companion plant for citrus.  So, we came to the conclusion that said artichokes had to be relocated from the vegetable boxes in the south end of the property to the citrus orchard on the north end of the property. And so yet another project was born…

When the artichokes went into a dormant stage after bearing well, I built single layer 1.2m x1.2m raised boxes at strategic places amongst the young citrus trees. Markus helped me so we angled all the boxes “artistically” at different angles as to make an interesting and less regulated pattern. We uprooted and split the artichokes and transplanted them into the new boxes, irrigated and mulched them. We left two in the vegetable boxes as a safeguard, just in case the transplant fails.

Artichoke after transplant

Transplanted artichoke

Happy to report that the transplanted artichokes have all shown good growth and one even had a fruit before the coldest snaps of winter hit us.

Artichoke flowering after transplant

First bud after the transplant

Now with the spring sun on them, they are bearing like crazy – we have had 14 artichokes in the last 2 weeks! All the sucked leaves go into the compost, of course.

Artichokes now bearing abundantly!

Needless to say, the “safeguards” were also removed from the vegetable beds to make space for more crop vegetables now that the transplant has proven a success.

Lessons learnt

  • Artichokes expand – quite substantially!
  • Again, hindsight is 20/20 vision. If we knew what we know now, the artichokes would have been planted in the citrus orchard from the beginning. But, we didn’t even envisage the citrus orchard when we initially planted the artichokes. Neither did we know much about companion planting. Maybe a permaculture-style site-plan is what we should have done, as we are doing now for Dreamland – but way back then our objectives were so different. Fortunately the artichokes handled the transplant well.

* Thomas Aloysius Dorgan is a journalist, sports writer and cartoonist who lived from 1877 to 1929.  He was one of “at least 11 children”. When he was 13 years old, he lost the last three fingers of his right hand in an accident with a factory machine. He took up drawing for therapy. A year later at the age of 14 he joined the art staff of the San Francisco Bulletin. He is credited for phrases such as “for crying out loud” and many other American slang terms.

About martin@muchmoremulch.blog (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

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