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Gardening: Artichoke, husk tomato in March planting plan

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 14, 2018, 5:12 p.m.

Artichokes can be grown successfully as annual vegetable crops in Inland Northwest gardens. (SUSAN MULVIHILL SPECIAL TO THE S / Special to The Spokesman-Review)
Artichokes can be grown successfully as annual vegetable crops in Inland Northwest gardens. (SUSAN MULVIHILL SPECIAL TO THE S / Special to The Spokesman-Review)

My desk is covered with seed packets at the moment. Our recent spate of warm weather got me fired up to order my seeds for the spring.

The choices weren’t easy, and I spent several evenings in my chair putting sticky notes on catalog pages marking varieties I wanted to consider. At least the cat got some lap time in the process.

After winnowing the list down, I ordered some old standbys and several varieties I wanted to experiment with. Here are a few of them and why I chose them.

I love artichokes. At least once a spring we make a whole meal out of them smothered in lemon butter. So, I am trying Green Globe Improved.

Artichokes are reliably hardy to USDA Zone 7, so they are considered an annual in our area.

I will start them indoors in late March and plant them outdoors at the end of May after the frost danger has passed. Part way through the process I will set them out in the garage for two weeks in below-50 degrees to make them think they are going through winter. This will stimulate flowering, albeit not until later in the summer.

Artichokes need rich deep soil and plenty of water, so I’ll spend some time adding compost to the soil and making sure the sprinklers are working. I will probably plant some at home and in my community garden box to see which produces better. My community garden box is usually about two weeks ahead of my home garden.

I have grown many of the short-season tomatoes produced by Jim Baggett of Oregon State University, such as Oregon Spring and Siletz but not Legend. It is a medium-large tomato with few seeds that will grow to about 3 feet and not require staking which makes it perfect for smaller gardens. This tomato ripens fruit about 68 days from transplant which means I might get tomatoes by mid-July.

I’ll start them indoors in late March and set them out under a floating row cover in mid-May. I’ll leave the floating row cover on the plants until they start flowering and then remove it for the insects to pollinate the flowers. The cover, which is porous to water and sunlight, will hold in heat so they grow faster in our cooler June weather.

Lastly, I’m trying ground cherries or husk tomatoes. This tomatillo relative produces a 1-inch sweet fruit that is used in jams and eaten raw.

Like tomatoes, I will start them in late March and cover them with a row cover in mid-May when I put them out in the garden.

The plants should start producing about 70 days after transplant. The fruits are held in a husk similar to tomatillos and are ripe when the yellow fruit drops to the ground. This means the plants will need to be mulched with a clean, fine-textured mulch to catch the fruit and keep it dry until you harvest it.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.