Was out planting artichoke seedlings today. I found 13 growing with my strawberries and near my artichokes. All blown from seed heads by the wind and no planting done by me. 5 of them went into the food forest with the appletrees, comfrey and pomegranates, perhaps the making of a guild there? A couple replaced artichokes that had been ravaged to death by my goats when they got out in the spring and the rest I planted in a garden next to the house. With all these artichokes and the all ready mentioned ravishment by the goats I got to thinking.
How much feed could you get from say a 10 x 10 planting of artichokes? You've got the flowers you can eat yourself but what about harvesting the leaves and stalks for the goats?
I like this idea because; 1) artichokes are easy to grow. All these new ones I planted costed me nothing and I didn't even have to sow the seed to begin with. A little dedicated effort I could easily grow many many artichokes from the seed heads freely available to me. They also don't need water once established. I do water mine but only when its really hot but I've had seasons where I forgot about them completely and they still grew just find with no care, no water and no fertilizer.
2) I live in California in a zone 7 area that gets cold enough to snow but stays warm enough to grow oranges. In this climate artichokes do just fine all winter and infact they put on most of their growth during the cold months when not much else wants to grow. Making them that much more useful as animal feed since everything else has gone dormant.
3) My goats love them! Geese too. I regularly throw garden trimmings into the paddock where its a mad dash between geese, guineas and goats to get at the garden treats. The most coveted of all is the artichoke leaves. The geese will even wedge their heads thru the fence to get at the leaves if they are growing within reach. The goats will pull the plants right out of the ground and eat every bit of them that they can manage to get at.
Only two questions are holding me back. 1) How much can I produce? I'm using the 10 x 10 plot as a test bed since it will give me easy numbers. For example if I grow a 10 x 10 bed of tree kale I can supposedly harvest 300lbs of leaves a year from that plot. I wonder how artichokes compare? Does anyone have figures for other fodder/feed crops that I could compare artichokes to?
2) What is the nutritional value of artichoke leaves? Its almost a wasted effort if all I am doing is filling my goats with cellulose without any caloric or nutritional benefits.
Thoughts? Ideas? Advice? Has anyone done this already?
The close relative of the artichoke, Cardoon, has apparently been used as fodder.
'Capable of growing in most soil conditions, self-seeding prolifically, long-lived and able to withstand drought, the cardoon was used as food, as an herbal medicine and as fodder for livestock.
In fact, the plant can be used in its entirety. "The leaves make a wonderful compost with a high nitrogen content," says Katarina Eriksson, head gardener of the perennial gardens at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino. "In some places, like Russia, they use it as a fuel. The dried stalks are used for kindling. The dried flowers can be used as a rennet for making cheese."'
Little update. Progress is coming faster than I had anticipated. Turns out artichokes are really really easy to grow. So easy infact that I found 32 seedlings growing below the established artichokes and with my strawberries, I dug them up and potted them. All transplanted easily with no losses. I also divided up an older plant and placed the divisions in my food forest. So I've now got about 40 artichokes growing. I also much to my surprise found 12 more new sprouts this morning, that brings us up to 52. I had planned to save seed and start artichoke seedlings next year but it would seem the artichokes had this idea before me.
Transplants easily, is cold hardy in my zone (seems to prefer the winter infact), copes just as well with heat, needs little water once established, nutritious and produces abundant fodder. I think I've got a winner here. Plus I get all the artichokes I can eat without feeling bad about wasting space on such a limited food item.
I started some artichokes and cardoon from seed and both are doing very well. I'll probably protect them over the winter while they're little, but once mature and in the ground, they should be hardy in my zone.
I expect they won't be thrilled with our hot summers, but we'll see.....
It gets into the 110+ degree level out here and mind did well, they droop from time to time but quickly bounce back. Mulch helps but they are surpisingly hardy plants in the heat, surprisingly cold hardy too. I've been thinking about how I am going to place all my chokes and I think I've come up with a good method.
I'm planting a lot of hedge/fedge. I'm bordering my land with hedges of edibles for myself and my animals. I am also planting low hedges on the east and west sides of my paddocks. So far I've been planning to plant siberian pea shrub, dwarf mimosa and sea buckthorn for these low hedges, maybe also some goji. All these are nitrogen fixers and will produce a lot of extra food for my animals. I think coupling these with artichoke will balance out really well. I also may add tree kale. Should look really nice and feed me and my critters lots of good stuff. Maybe I'll throw in some nettle too.
I've really taken the no monocrops policy to heart!