Artichokes have never been high on my list of vegetables to grow here in Montana. Because they prefer a much longer growing season, the effort to grow them to maturity has often outweighed the novelty of enjoying them out of my garden. In fact, California's Monterey region grows almost 100% of the U.S. grown artichokes in this country. In addition, the plant itself takes up a lot of room, real estate I'm often unwilling to give up for a plant that may yield very little.
However, last year, when there were three small artichoke seedlings left over from a client, I decided to throw them in my garden to see what would happen. Lo and behold, they produced, and I had finally found one vegetable that my niece was willing to eat (likely because it was slathered with butter).
Despite their challenges, artichokes are a fun vegetable to grow and have in your garden. The globe artichoke is actually a variety of thistle. Essentially, you're growing a giant thistle that pops out these beautiful edible flowerheads that later transform into gorgeous purple flowers if they aren't harvested.
In our climate, it is best to plant artichokes as seedlings but often you'll still get only two or three flowerheads by the end of the season. But, in my short video below, I show you what happens when your artichoke plant overwinters and gets a jumpstart on the growing season. I didn't think artichokes could survive our harsh winters but now that I know it's possible, I think I will be intentional about mulching them well at the end of the season to see if they will come back again next Spring. So check out the video and let me know if you'd had success with growing artichokes!
This past May, Broken Ground partnered with Blunderbuss for an Edible Backyard Blitz - an afternoon makeover of a yard into an ecological and edible garden.
I first heard the term backyard blitz or permablitz when I visited Australia back in 2006. I had traveled to that part of the world, first to take a Permaculture Design Course in New Zealand, and then to work on organic and permaculture farms both in New Zealand and Australia. On that trip, I met Dan Palmer. At the time, Dan hadn't yet founded his company, Very Edible Gardens, in Melbourne, but he had co-founded the permablitz movement.
Permablitz is a contraction of the words permaculture and blitz. According to the Permablitz Melbourne website, it typically involves a day in which a group of people come together to "create or add to edible gardens, share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living, build community, and have fun." Since then, the permablitz movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, transforming lawns into edible ecosystems, one yard at a time.
Together with Blunderbuss, we decided to host our own version of a blitz here in Bozeman. Blunderbuss is a house dedicated to creating a work environment for artists, makers, entrepreneurs, activists, and project-goers. Adding more perennial food into their backyard, which already had a couple of raised beds, seemed like a natural next step in this experiment in community living.
Over the course of the morning, I gave a brief lecture about permaculture and the concept of ecological gardens and then we got to work transforming the yard. We planted a plum tree, a currant and gooseberry shrub, honeyberries, and installed another annual bed for squash to be trellised up along the fence. The 'herb layer' of the mini food forest was planted later and will continue to be built out next Spring.
So check out the short video along with the photos to get a sense of the day and the steps involved in creating an edible ecosystem. Thanks to Tate Chamberlin from Blunderbuss for hosting the event, Ben Johnson for taking photos and Jusup Sandoval for the great video! Special thanks to all of those who participated!