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Articles about Vegetable Crops for the Garden

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Organic Gardening:


How to grow organic Jerusalem artichokes


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Jerusalem artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are close relatives of the sunflower

Jerusalem artichokes

Helianthus tuberosus

Family: Compositae (Group 4)

Very hardy perennial sunflowers grown for their tubers. Plants may grow to over 3m (10') tall.

The unrelated globe artichokes are dealt with on their own page, and brief cultivation information for Chinese or Japanese artichokes can be found in the vegetable cultivation table.

Site/soil

Jerusalem artichokes may be grown on any site, whether open or shaded, and a wide range of soils, including cold heavy soils. A useful crop for breaking in rough ground and heavy soil. The plants can be used as a screen or planted in rows 2-3 deep as windbreaks, but they will cast heavy shade.

Recommended cultivars

Fuseau (smooth tubers)
Dwarf Sunray (white skinned tubers)

Cultivation

Select tubers the size of a hen's egg or cut larger ones into two or three pieces, each with a bud. Plant February to May 10-15cm (4-6") deep, about 30cm by 1m (1'x3'). When plants are 30cm (1') high, earth up to increase stability.

In mid-summer, cut off any flowerheads, trim back to 1.5-2m (5-6') and give a weak liquid feed (seaweed fertiliser is better than comfrey liquid for this purpose) to encourage tuber growth. Stakes and ties may be necessary for extra support.

Water well in dry weather.

When leaves start to turn yellow in Autumn, cut back stalks to within 8cm (3") of the ground, leaving the cut stems lying over the stumps to protect from frost.

Harvest

Lift as required from November to May, or lift the whole crop and store in a clamp. Reserve a few tubers for replanting at the end of the season. Make sure every single tuber is dug up, however small, as Jerusalem Artichokes spread easily and can easily become invasive.

Pests and diseases

Sclerotinia rot Fluffy white mould at base of stems, black cystlike bodies inside rotten stems. Lift and burn affected plants immediately.

Slugs may eat tubers, leaving a hollow shell.

Other possible causes of tuber damage are soil-dwelling grubs or caterpillars.



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Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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