Jerusalem Artichokes – and “Knock-on Gardening”

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I’m sure you’ve played “Knock-on Gardening” before. (No – it’s nothing to do with rugby!) It’s when one gardening task leads to another and so on. Or when you can’t start one job before you’ve done another one. Know that game? Well, that’s what I was playing yesterday. And it all started with Jerusalem artichokes!

For some time now, we’ve toyed with the idea of growing this vegetable in the Allotment. Mr. Chef has been beguiled by them, while watching ” Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers” and while scouring various cooking programmes and recipes. I liked the idea of growing more perennial veg. alongside our globe artichokes, and rhubarb. We bought some, tried them and liked them, so I started to do my research.

Not so straightforward though. A member of the sunflower family (Helianthus tuberosus), growing it is not without its problems. It can grow up to 10 feet tall, which may be useful if you want to create a division or barrier, but not in a small space where good light is limited. And if grown in the open ground, it can become invasive. Because it can regrow if any remnant is left in the ground and the roots can spread 18 inches in each direction, it is recommended to grow it in its own bed, or confine it with barriers. Nah!

I did read, though, that it was possible to grow them in containers. You would obviously need a large pot, but apparently, they had been grown successfully in 5 gallon containers. So what did we have to hand? I wasn’t keen to buy a whole load of 5 gal. pots – the cost of the compost alone, that would be needed to fill them, would make them an expensive crop. Well, we actually had one 5 gal. container left over from the days when we dabbled in brewing our own beer and wine-making. There was the old dustbin, pre recycling bins, which had hosted potatoes before. There was also a large yellow plastic trug about the same volume. So that’s three! We had already bought a pack of 5 tubers and we didn’t want to waste any so I thought our two defunct 3 gal. wine fermenting bins would probably do. So now to drill some holes in them.

Ah, but! The trug was full of gravel salvaged from my Mum’s front garden revamp, destined to top up the gravel path in our grass garden.

But it needs weeded first!

So first weeding,
then spreading the gravel over the surface,
gave me the empty trug….

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….and a spick and span gravel path, through the grass border.

So now, we have the containers all ready.

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Best to put them in position before filling them!

But where they are to be positioned is where a stack of bricks for the paths are waiting. They must be moved first!

No I won’t show you a stack of bricks, or a completed new brick path! What I will show you is a horrific discovery – look away now if you’re at all squeamish!

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They had to go!

So now the containers are in position waiting to be filled. That’s the nice part! Mind you, a coffee break half-way through, and a reading update, made me doubt my choice of containers. I read that pots of 18 inch diameter were recommended! The dustbin and trug passed, the beer bin was only about 14″, but was 5 gal. One of the wine barrels was replaced with a recycling crate, which was 12″ x 18″. That left one wine barrel which, although, technically too small, was worth a try!

I’m filling them with part top soil and part multipurpose compost. We chose the variety “Fuseau” to grow. It is a “dwarf” variety, only growing to 5-6 feet (!) and the tubers are smoother, less knobbly and easier to deal with.

So, let’s see what happens! Should be interesting to watch! I’m looking forward to tasting the crop.

There will be more episodes of “Knock-on Gardening”. The revamp of the Woodland border – once some of the lower, overhanging tree branches are removed. The reshuffle of the Scentec Shrub border – once the fence panels have been repaired.

What of your experiences of “Knock-on Gardening”? I’d love to hear about them!

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12 thoughts on “Jerusalem Artichokes – and “Knock-on Gardening”

  1. thebikinggardener

    I totally understand the concept of ‘knock on’ gardening! It needs meticulous planning sometimes to get even the simplest job done! Good luck with your artichokes. The only problem I can foresee – apart from lots of watering and feeding – is wind. And I don’t mean after consumption but the tall plants in light pots getting blown over. At least the ‘clean’ compost should result in nice tubers for the kitchen.

    Reply
    1. thelonggardenpath Post author

      I had read that wind could be a problem! 😉 The pots are positioned in a sheltered part of the garden, against a low wall and hopefully, the weight of the topsoil along with the crocks in the bottom, should do the trick. I may even add some broken bricks to weigh them down further. Fingers crossed!

      Reply
  2. Hand Picked Garden Tours

    I love reading your gardening blog. Just thought I’d relate my experience with J.A’s As like you and Mr Chef we love them (in moderation, don’t recommend making soup with them!). I planted 5 tubers in row on my Allotment a few years ago and by the 2nd year we had a good crop of tubors about the size of smallish potatoes. I made the mistake of leaving some in the ground for next year and now 5 years on I have a patch approx 15ft sq completely taken over with a dense mat of J A’s. It’s difficult to dig up as the roots are matted together and any tubors are just the size of marbles. This winter I resorted to covering the whole patch with Black plastic in the hope of getting rid of them, but I notice they are still coming up under the plastic. I think I may have to resort to chemical sprays to truly get rid of them before I get letters from the neighbouring allotment holders about growing such an invasive plant. I was warned some years ago by a very dear old aunt who told me that even the peelings would grow.

    I hope you have success with your pots – I’ll be interested to hear how you get on.

    Rachel

    Reply
  3. thelonggardenpath Post author

    Thank you, Rachel. So pleased you enjoy my posts!
    That’s definitely a warning tale! Thank goodness I read up, and decided against planting them in the ground. I could say goodbye to my rhubarb and globe artichokes! They should be safe in the containers – what the crop will be like remains to be seen. At least the pots can be emptied to start afresh, if necessary.

    Reply
  4. casa mariposa

    I’ve had zillions of projects that couldn’t be started until I finished 10 others first. Right now I need to repair the grass paths that my dogs have dug holes and trenches through but I can’t do that until I expand a bed up front and salvage the grass the use in the repair work. But I need to clear the area and purchase some fencing to keep the dogs away until the grass becomes rooted in. Good luck with your tubers. :o)

    Reply
  5. Cathy

    Yes, I think we all do it! Good luck with the Jerusalem artichokes – like others I have grown them before but decided against continuing as they did not meet with general approval! They have lovely flowers though! Were the shells occupied? It wasn’t clear from the picture…

    Reply
  6. thelonggardenpath Post author

    We did enjoy them when we tried them (a nice, simple recipe with sausage and onion) so we are looking forward to the crop.
    I’m afraid the shells were occupied! A few swift stamps of the boot dispatched them all to mollusc heaven (it’s very lush and green there! 😉 ) but left a nasty, slimy mess on the path to be disposed of. Yuck!

    Reply

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