By Janel Martin, of 4Js Earthworks and a graduate student in Agricultural Sciences at UNH.
Would you like to offer your CSA customers additional choices? Perhaps you want to set yourself apart at the farmer’s market by offering a desirable high-end food product. Have you ever considered globe artichokes? Yes, they can be grown in New England as a perennial crop with the use of low tunnels. Janel Martin and Joan Jackson of 4J’s Earthworks in Rochester, NH conducted an experiment with a farmer grant from Northeast SARE to investigate wintering over globe artichokes using low tunnels and chopped straw mulch.
Complete details of the project can be found on the SARE website. This is the direct link to the report. Here is the brief run-down of what they discovered. The best varieties overall were Imperial Star, Green Globe and Opera due to high germination rate, yield and surviving New Hampshire winters. They found a dramatic difference between the growing areas at their farm, and the plot located highest on the farm performed the best, and in the future that location will be expanded to grow more plants.
Some of the highlights of using globe artichokes as a perennial crop were that once they are established in the bed, they need very little in the way of inputs. The plants have very long taproots so no supplemental water was needed after the plants were established. In the second year, weed pressure was reduced due to the chopped straw left from wintering was spread around the ground in the planting bed, this did a great job of suppressing the weeds.
The results from the project are promising, and Janel and Joan believe with a few adjustments that this system can be a viable option for a farm looking to diversify their crop. Changes for next year include more rodent control, pulling mulch away from the base of plants earlier in the spring upon uncovering, and intermixing annual and perennial globe artichokes to have a longer harvest window. The project also increased the sales of globe artichoke seedlings from their retail garden center since they were able to show customers the living proof that the plants could survive.
Editor’s Note: Do you have an idea that you’d like to test? Think about getting a SARE farmer grant! They are due in the fall, and offer up to $15,000 to help defray the costs of labor and supplies to do practical on-farm research. Your local extension specialists can help you design a good project. More information can be found here!