Growing Artichokes on the Sly

Artichokes also provide shade for lazy cats

It is possible to grow vegetables around the grounds of an apartment building, especially if the landlord is neglectful. Often the biggest challenge you’ll face is the gardeners, who will weedwack everything to lawn level. If you can negotiate with them, or somehow put a protective barrier between your plants and the whirling cord of death, you can grow stuff.

Take this lovely artichoke. It was a sprout off of one of our own plants, which we gave to a friend who lives in a courtyard apartment. She tucked the sprout near a wall, between some permanent shrubs. It flourished through our wet winter–she says she didn’t give it any care at all. Now it’s way too big to weedwack, and covered with fat artichokes. It’s also such a magnificent plant that it looks like it belongs there. She’s harvested over forty chokes so far–that’s a lot of good eating!

We realize artichokes don’t grow everywhere, but investigate perennial food-bearing plants that grow well in your area. Check out the book Perennial Vegetables for inspiration. Herbs, like chives, are an easy place to start. Alternatively, consider tucking some annuals here and there among the landscaping. Garlic is a good bet. It blends easily into flower beds and grows with little care. (Of course, you’ll want to take note of whether your landlord is spraying the landscape with pesticides.)

And homeowners can use these same tips to integrate edibles with their existing, ornamental landscapes without alarming their neighbors or the HOA.

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  1. 40 artichokes? *whimper* I try yearly to grow them here (Massachusetts, zone 5B) but the only times I’ve been successful have been when I’ve bought starts from a local farmer’s greenhouse. Here’s hoping!

  2. Beautiful! I’ve been thinking a lot about perennial herbs and edible berry shrubs, but I never thought about artichoke.

  3. thanks for the book recommendation! i’d like to grow more perennials. we’ll see how my artichokes fair, though i have enough space not to disguise them. they’re gorgeous things.

  4. I’ve been growing artichokes in my back and front yard here in LA for a couple years, but don’t know how to transplant them. What’s the process of taking a sprout from an existing artichoke plant to creating a completely new plant? Thanks!

  5. @Lisa: That’s strange! I wonder if you had too much nitrogen in your soil (were you fertilizing?). Sometimes when plants make a ton of lush foliage but don’t bear fruit (or don’t make nice big big roots, as with carrots, etc.), that is the case.

    @Anon: It sounds strange, but all you have to do is pull up one of those little baby sprouts (sort of pop it off the mother plant, if it’s attached–otherwise dig it out) and transplant it. Just bury the bottom a good way in the soil and water. It’s amazing that it is that simple, but it does work. For fun I’ve put sprouts in pots–that makes sort of a “bonsai” artichoke–a small plant that makes a couple of teeny tiny chokes.

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