The Q&A Archives: Artichokes That Don't Produce

Question: I've been growing artichokes for about 7 years. Each year we've had good harvests - last year's was the best, even our friends began to grow weary of our abundance! This year, our winter being our artichoke season is very different. None of the "pups" took, they started to grow, but suddenly quit. They just disappeared. Now, only one plant out of 8 appears to be alive, having two pups about 6 inches high. At this time of year, we should have plants waist high producing chokes out the wazoo. The plants are in a permanent bed which we mulch heavily with horse manure. We have started a living mulch of clover in the bed - we would like to supplant using the manure with the clover. Do you think we might have killed the plants with salts from the horse manure (urine in the manure?). Yes, it was fairly fresh (not composted) manure. These plants are on a drip system, although most of their recent water has been from our winter rains... We fretted that they might have gotten Roundup from overspray, but symptomatically, I don't think so - there was no crispy foilage that I would expect with that kind of dead plant. I just don't have a clue... Thank you for any help you might be able provide. David King Los Angeles, CA

Answer: I'm not sure what happened to your plants. It's doubtful, though possible, that the raw manure harmed the roots -- but horse manure does not tend to burn as severely as, for example, chicken or even cow manure. Though the parent plant will grow for several years, most growers renew their beds by planting shoots from the enlarging rootstock. I'm not sure if that is what you are describing when you mention the "pups". Did you cut down the main plant to allow the shoots to take over? Perhaps the best thing to do is contact your local Cooperative Extension office -- the fruit and vegetable specialist should have more direct experience dealing with your problem. I wish I could be of more help. The Extension office number is: 213/744-4854

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