Continuing yesterday’s theme of Jerusalem‡, I’m explaining a bit more about the (re-) sowing/planting of Jerusalem Artichokes. And yes, you’ll discover the relevance of those feet!
For sowing/replanting of Jerusalem artichokes, I start by clearing the plot of any perennial weeds : this is very important, because it’s impossible to remove them from amongst the growing artichokes – certainly not without pulling up artichokes as well.
Next I fork in well-rotted compost at a rate of 1 barrow-full per 4ft-square. We have two plots, each 8ft x 4ft, each being harvested alternate years, and this – despite a cool climate and short season – provides us with a lot of tubers for just the two of us. That’s important for us, because we aim for self-sufficiency in most foods ; but for most households two 4ft-square plots will be enough (and for warmer climates and longer seasons, one plot harvested each year).
The next step is to compact the composted soil. This is important, because the tubers are small and grow at shallow depth, and yet have to support a tall flower stem. The best technique for firming the soil is to shuffle up and down the plot, in straight tracks that are parallel and very close : ideally the shuffle is done pressing down at the heels. This is the technique used by gardeners in the walled gardens of Victorian England : it looks weird, but it works, is best practice, and it has historical provenance!
Next step is to rake the bed even and loosen the top surface to 30mm or so deep.
The seed tubers are broadcast (scattered) roughly evenly. Next, for each tuber, use a dibber to make a hole in the soil deep enough to accommodate the tuber – with the neck maximum 15mm below the surface. It’s imporant to plant the tubers the correct way up : if there are still hairy roots on the tuber, these grow out and downwards ; but otherwise the neck is usually elongated.
Lastly, close over all the tubers by raking very lightly with the flat top of the rake head (ie, with the head upside down). Don’t use the rake the other way – the teeth will pull out most of the tubers! I like then to lightly tamp down the whole surface, with the head of the rake flat on the soil. I close over each tuber with the loosened soil of the surface – by brushing the soil with the hand.
That’s it. You won’t need to do anything with this bed until you harvest the tubers – other than watering well if dry conditions persist a long time.
Preferred conditions : Jerusalem Artichokes, (like Sunflowers – in USA, Jerusalem Artichokes are known as Sunchokes!) prefer a sunny warm spot, against a south-facing wall may be ideal. The soil should be firm and well-drained, with a lot of organic matter – a loam is ideal. Clays are not ideal, unless worked well with compost and sand. Always compost the ground well before planting. If you let them grow over two summers, as we do, then do not add compost in the second winter – as a mulch : doing so will result in most of the tubers failing to re-grow in the second year, and those that do will not yield well.
‡ Readers in USA and some others may not make the connection between Jerusalem and And did those feet … The key is William Blake