This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
This vegetable, though seldom or never met with in the gardens of cottagers, is one that is very much esteemed at the tables of the wealthy. It is supposed to be a native of the countries which surround the Mediterranean, and of the islands of that sea. Most likely it is a maritime plant, for it is one that thrives well in soils in which there is alkaline matter; and it is said that it thrives amazingly in the Orkney Islands, where it receives liberal doses of sea-weed. We have frequently observed that it grew with unusual vigour in rather peaty soils, or where it has received liberal dressings of decayed vegetable matter, such as leaf-mould. Generally speaking, the Artichoke is to be met with in some out-of-the-way corner of our gardens not very well exposed to sun and air. It is, however, a mistake to plant it in such situations, as it is a plant which usually yields most productively on a warm open exposure, and does best in a warm season. It has been represented by some as perfectly hardy.
This, however, does not coincide with our own experience; and on consulting an old author, we find it stated that "once in the seventeenth century, and again in 1739, the Globe Artichoke was all but totally destroyed in Britain, and a fresh stock had to be imported from the Continent, where it is much more generally esteemed than in this country".
The cultivation of this vegetable is exceedingly simple; at the same time some considerable care and attention is required to keep up a succession fit for table from June to November. In making a new plantation, a piece of good open dry soil should be chosen, and liberally manured with decayed leaves or thoroughly-decomposed vegetable-mould: trenching to the depth of 2 or 2 1/2 feet is desirable, and then another dressing of manure dug into the surface. As soon as the old stools have grown from 8 to 9 inches, which is generally from the middle of April to the middle of May, according to the season, is the time to plant. The old stools should have the soil turned back all round them, so as to enable the operator to select the strongest offsets round the stool, and to remove them with a portion of their thick perennial roots and some of the young fibres also. These offsets are then planted in triplets at a yard apart, the soil pressed firmly about them, and well watered immediately they are planted, and kept watered, should the weather be dry, till they get a good hold of the soil. If this be performed in April with good strong suckers, they produce globes in August. It is a good plan thus to plant a few rows every spring, and do away with as many of the old stools.
It keeps up a succession of good healthy stools and of globes. Old plants will, it is true, continue to be productive for many years; but, after a certain time, the globes are not so fine. When old or established plants begin to grow, they should be regularly looked over, and the weakest growths or offsets removed entirely; for, if left to grow up a thicket, no more globes will be produced, and those that are produced are weakened by the crowd of foliage. Six or eight suckers to a stool are quite sufficient.
To keep up the succession in September and October, a few rows should be planted a month later than recommended above; and if removed carefully with good roots, shaded with a few boughs, and well watered, they soon begin to grow, and yield globes at a time when they remain longer in good condition, and are most esteemed when other second-course vegetables are getting scarce. In some cases we have attained this end by merely lifting a few rows late in May with balls, cutting away some of the roots, without dividing the stools, and replanting them. This checks the growth and retards them.
As soon as the globes are cut the stems should be cut away, and the leaves removed as they decay. To protect them from severe frost, a thick mulching of stable-litter, or leaves covered with litter, is sufficient. In laying it on, place it close up round the hearts of the plants. In spring this dressing can be dug into the ground about the roots when all danger of severe frost is past.