Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Jerusalem Artichokes (page 2 of 3)

by Lucy Beckstead

Planting a Sunroot Plot

It's crucial to choose the location for your sunroots wisely, for the plants spread with abandon. Any little tuber left in the ground will sprout the following season. My plants have even pushed up and broken the edges of my asphalt driveway. Metal edging or boards buried at least six inches in the ground will curb the wandering rhizomes. Alternatively, you could try to harvest all the tubers every year (no mean feat!), then replant next season.

For large, high-quality tubers that are easy to harvest and clean, give plants a sunny site and loose soil of medium fertility. If your soil is heavy clay, add lots of decomposed plant material to loosen it. Plant whole tubers, or cut them into pieces, leaving one "eye" in each section. Plant them at least a foot apart and about four to six inches deep.

To harvest a crop the first season, plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring up North. In the South, you can plant into the early summer. Gardeners anywhere can plant in fall for a crop the following year. Some mail-order companies ship only in early spring, others ship in fall, and in some cases you can specify your preference.

Lightly cultivate and mulch the plot when plants are young to save water and keep the weeds down. Once established, the sunroots will rapidly outgrow most weeds. Sunroots are drought tolerant. In my arid Rocky Mountain climate, I receive only 15 inches of rainfall a year. The sunroots needed thorough irrigation when I first planted them. Now I water only occasionally throug the summer. In the Northeast and Midwest, mulched sunroots seldom need supplemental water. Diseases and insects aren't a problem with sunroots. In the winter, slugs and voles may feed on them, but usually don't do serious damage.

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