Dahlia Saving Part 2

Here’s the second part of my tutorial on dahlia saving!

Once your tubers are all dug, washed and dried it’s time to divide and store them until planting time.

Some folks don’t divide until spring but I prefer (at least for now) to divide before I pack for storing. This saves space and then I can inventory now so I know how many I’ll have come planting time.

Follow these easy steps to divide and save your tubers!

The first step is to grab your tuber bunch and cut it in half. This will make the whole job more manageable. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! Once you make that first cut, it is a little easier so see each tuber individually.  I like to use a sharp knife or a pair of felco snips for cutting. You can try both to see which one works best for you.  Don’t worry if you destroy a few tubers in this process. You will still have plenty to work with.

The first step is to grab your tuber bunch and cut it in half. This will make the whole job more manageable. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! Once you make that first cut, it is a little easier so see each tuber individually.

I like to use a sharp knife or a pair of felco snips for cutting. You can try both to see which one works best for you.

Don’t worry if you destroy a few tubers in this process. You will still have plenty to work with.

Once you’ve broken down the tuber bunch it’s time to start dividing individual tubers.  Here’s the most important part: for each intact tuber body you need to have an intact “neck” (the place between the tuber body and the place where the “eye” has formed), and and eye. If you don’t have these components, your tuber will not sprout in the spring  If you’re not sure what a dahlia eye looks like I'm pointing one out here with my pencil. Eyes are either slightly green/yellow (like above) or a purple/red color (like below).

Once you’ve broken down the tuber bunch it’s time to start dividing individual tubers.

Here’s the most important part: for each intact tuber body you need to have an intact “neck” (the place between the tuber body and the place where the “eye” has formed), and and eye. If you don’t have these components, your tuber will not sprout in the spring

If you’re not sure what a dahlia eye looks like I'm pointing one out here with my pencil. Eyes are either slightly green/yellow (like above) or a purple/red color (like below).

This picture is showing the proper cut to give you the three key components: 1) tuber body, 2) intact neck and 3) eye.  Once my tubers are cut I dip the cut end in cinnamon (an anti-fungal to ward off mold and rot) and lightly sprinkle in cinnamon.

This picture is showing the proper cut to give you the three key components: 1) tuber body, 2) intact neck and 3) eye.

Once my tubers are cut I dip the cut end in cinnamon (an anti-fungal to ward off mold and rot) and lightly sprinkle in cinnamon.

To store my tubers for the winter I take a paper bag and put a layer of wood shavings, then a layer of tubers, then a layer of shavings, etc.  Make sure to label your varieties! I leave a plastic label in the bag AND label the paper bag.  All my bags then go in plastic totes with lids and get stored in my crawlspace (which is roughly 40-50 degrees).  Be sure to check your tubers monthly until planting time to make sure they are not drying out too much or rotting!

To store my tubers for the winter I take a paper bag and put a layer of wood shavings, then a layer of tubers, then a layer of shavings, etc.

Make sure to label your varieties! I leave a plastic label in the bag AND label the paper bag.

All my bags then go in plastic totes with lids and get stored in my crawlspace (which is roughly 40-50 degrees).

Be sure to check your tubers monthly until planting time to make sure they are not drying out too much or rotting!


I hope this helps you save all your gorgeous tubers for next year! Know that for each tuber you plant in the spring you will get 5-15 new tubers for next year. Soon you will be rich in dahlias. They make great gifts or you can trade your neighbors for fun new varieties.

Please post any questions below. I’m happy to problem solve with you.

Dahlia Saving Part 1

It’s time to dig and save your dahlias!

Each dahlia plant you have will produce 5-10 more tubers underground each year. This means soon you will be RICH in tubers.

I’m here to walk you through the how-to of dahlia saving. Follow the pictures below for the first few steps in saving your dahlia tubers:

Wait until after the first hard frost to dig your tubers. You’ll know when it time when the plants look completely dead! The stems will still have some green in them but the leaves will look awful. (Quite possibly the ugliest photo I’ll post on my blog!)

Wait until after the first hard frost to dig your tubers. You’ll know when it time when the plants look completely dead! The stems will still have some green in them but the leaves will look awful. (Quite possibly the ugliest photo I’ll post on my blog!)

Cut off the stems right above soil level and then gently pry up the tubers with a shovel or a pitch fork. The tubers are rather delicate, so pry gently! Use your hand to carefully dust off the biggest clumps of soil.

Cut off the stems right above soil level and then gently pry up the tubers with a shovel or a pitch fork. The tubers are rather delicate, so pry gently! Use your hand to carefully dust off the biggest clumps of soil.

Use a hose to spray the tuber clump clean! And look how many tubers I got on this baby!!! Looks like if they all save beautifully this one plant will give me about 15 tubers for next year :)

Use a hose to spray the tuber clump clean! And look how many tubers I got on this baby!!! Looks like if they all save beautifully this one plant will give me about 15 tubers for next year :)

Make sure you label your tubers so you know what you’re getting next year. Place them somewhere to dry for a 2-3 days. Mine are in my hoophouse, gently stacked in a bulb crate (I also hang mine). If drying in an out building or outside, don’t let them freeze.

Make sure you label your tubers so you know what you’re getting next year. Place them somewhere to dry for a 2-3 days. Mine are in my hoophouse, gently stacked in a bulb crate (I also hang mine). If drying in an out building or outside, don’t let them freeze.

What’s next?!

I’ll post “Dahlia Saving Part 2” next week when I divide and store my tubers for next spring. Stay tuned!

Your Local Wedding Flower Primer

All local Alaskan flowers in a large, lush, cascading bouquet.

All local Alaskan flowers in a large, lush, cascading bouquet.


As the summer winds to a close I’m reflecting on a very fun (but hot and smoky) wedding season.

For those of you looking to get married in 2020, I want to talk you through the how-tos and what-to-expect when using our local flowers for your wedding.

Sourcing

During the blooming months of summer (May through September) I source all my flowers for weddings and events from my garden and/or from my flower farming friends in the Matanuska/Susitna Valley.

My garden (Turnstone Farm) produces blooms from tulips to dahlias and a variety of smaller blooms and foliage. In addition, I love walking my local trails and alleys looking for foraging material.

Two of my other favorite farms are Brown Dog Farm and the Persistent Farmer. The former grows a huge variety of high quality blooms and foliage. The later is an expert in growing dahlias. Both are a very far trek from my home garden and studio but worth the drive when I need additional design material.

Design

My ideal wedding customer doesn’t necessarily need to have the local vision. But she/he must want something a little wild and edgy. Not because this is what you get with local, but because this is how I like to design! As the photo above represents, I like the bride to look like she’s holding a garden in her arms.

My happiest customers want a variety of floral textures and may have a color palate but aren’t in need of specific floral varieties.

Pricing

The photos of your wedding will last a lifetime! The flowers in your photos will forever represent your amazing day. Because of this, they are worth every penny.

Local flowers are not necessarily less expensive than the local wholesaler. Why?

  1. Farming in Alaska is more expensive than many places in the Lower 48. We have to ship supplies, seeds, equipment way farther than most farmers.

  2. I pay fair market value to the farmers I source my flowers from.

  3. I pay my employees a living wage.

Every penny you pay for local flowers, however, supports your local Alaskan economy! Thank you!!

How to Book a Wedding

Booking a wedding with the farm is easy! Head over to our “Flowers” page and scroll down to the “Weddings” section. There you will be prompted to fill out a quick contact form. We will get back to you ASAP so we can talk about your flower vision.

Other Things to Think About

When visioning for your special day, look at lots of online images. Hone your ideal wedding bouquet/arrangement/etc. to one final image. As you scroll through all the great pintrest photos, remember most of the images you see online don’t necessarily represent what’s in season locally. Know that we can produce a floral piece that represents your style while not always getting you every flower variety you request.

If wanting to DIY-it with our bulk flower buckets, look at photos and count the number of blooms/foliage stems in each piece. This will give you a good idea of how many buckets you need for your event.

Why Support Local Sustainable Floristry

What is the benefit of buying local, sustainably grown flowers? Keep reading to find out!

1) You support a local business! Purchasing from a local business keeps money in our community. Our business in turn supports other local businesses. So where does your dollar go when you purchase flowers from us? To local grocery stores, to employees that live in your neighborhood, to local banks, to our local garden stores and to other local farmers.

2) They’re freshest! Most flowers make a journey around the globe before landing on your dining room table. Since our flowers are cut right before you buy them, they will last longer in your vase without the need for chemical floral preservative.

3) Lower carbon footprint! Since we’re way up here in Alaska, most flowers in the grocery and at the flower wholesaler have traveled thousands of miles while being refrigerated. That’s a lot of energy just to bring you blooms! But our farm is RIGHT DOWN THE STREET! We can walk our flowers to the market!

4) No harmful chemicals! Most flowers you buy at the grocery have been pumped with floral preservative after harvest and doused with chemical herbicides and pesticides before harvest. Here at the farm we ONLY USE ORGANIC GROWING METHODS! This means we nurture our soil to avoid weed and pest problems. If we do have issues we only use products that fall under organic certification. After harvest we treat our blooms carefully by keeping them cool, giving them fresh water and selling them super fresh so we don’t need to use floral preservative.

5) Eco-friendly design! All our design is done foam free. Why does this matter? Floral foam is filled with nasty carcinogenic chemicals and never biodegrades. It simply breaks down in the landfill into micro-plastic compounds. What a disaster these are! Not to mention the chemicals released when handling this product. And since we don’t use a preservative in our flowers, after your event, you can compost them worry free!

6) This is my dream! By buying our product, you are supporting my dream of growing and designing flowers. Thanks SO MUCH!

I’d love a comment to let me know what YOUR DREAM is and how I can support you!

9 Great Shop-Local Mother's Day Gifts

Hoping to buy a mom something special, unique and LOCAL? Keep reading and I’ll highlight some ideas for gifts that I (and any other Anchorage mama) would LOVE to receive.

1) A massage from Nina or Helen at Open Space - for a mama who needs some great bodywork, Nina and Helen are experts.

2) Jewelry from Wolf + Rove - order online, it’s easy and fast. And her earrings are AMAZING!

3) Jewelry from Shovonne at Arctic Treasures - I just read about her in the Press and would love to support this local mama and Alaska Native artist.

4) Ice cream cone from Wild Scoops then a stroll on the Coastal Trail

5) Dinner at Jack Sprat- for a little more adventure, ride bikes on the Bird to Gird trail!

6) Dinner and an art film at Bear’s Tooth

7) Cinnamon rolls and coffee at Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop - it you haven’t checked out their new South Anchorage location, you must!

8) Our very own BOUQUET SUBSCRIPTION program from the farm! Buzz on over HERE to learn more.

9) A MARKET CARD from the farm so your mama can load up on her choice of flowers, herbs and greens all summer long. Did you say “Yes, please?” then learn more HERE!

Do you have more GREAT ideas? Share them below for all to read!

Seed Starting Part 3: Starting your seeds indoors

After a long winter there’s nothing more hopeful than pushing seeds into fresh potting mix.

For many years I have been starting my seeds indoors under lights before transitioning them to an outdoor unheated hoophouse.

I want to share with you how easy seed starting can be!

I’ll start by outlining what you’ll need to get started:

  • Pots and domes

  • Seeds

  • Potting mix or growing medium

  • Lights

  • Heat mats

  • Shelves

Now I’ll walk you through each of the above items in more detail…

Pots and Domes

I use 11x21 inch trays and fill them with soil blocks. Interested in soil blocking? Read more HERE!

You can also use 4 pack or 6 pack plastic containers. Or plant straight into 3-4” pots. You can find all these options at your local garden store.

So should you choose a larger pot or smaller pot? If you plant into larger containers you won’t have to worry about transplanting later when your plants are getting big. But if you’re growing a lot of plants you’ll get more plants in less space if you use the 4 or 6 packs.

Also invest in a few plastic domes! These will help keep the humidity perfect for seed germination.

Seeds

Read Part 1 of my series on seed starting HERE. It’s all about ordering seeds.

Potting Mix

There are a few products that I really like. If you’re in Anchorage, you can find them at Southside Garden Supply or Alaska Mill and Feed.

1) Pro-mix MP Mycorrhizae Organik. This is a great all-round potting mix and it’s organic! I’m using this for all my seed starting needs this year. It is also working great for soil blocking! Find this in cubes at Southside Garden Supply.

2) Fishy Peat or Alaska Earth - made in Alaska! I’ve had success with both products. They are not organic but are made with wholesome natural ingredients. Both can be found at Alaska Mill and Feed.

3) Fox Farm Light Warrior or Ocean Forest- this company has a variety of potting mixes and seed starting mixes. They use natural products and they work great! Southside Garden Supply and Alaska Mill and Feed carry these.

Note, that if you’re growing a lot of starts, buying a cube will be more cost effective than buying individual bags. Ask your local garden store if they offer these products in cubes!

Lights

To be honest, I tend to be opportunistic when it comes to lighting. I look for free stuff and cheap stuff. And what’s great is that they’ve all worked just fine. So here’s what I’ve used: LED shop lights from Costco, florescent shop lights as found in any hardware store, grow-specific LED lights. All these will do the job! I say buy whatever fits your budget best.

The most important steps when it comes to lighting is 1) to keep the lights just a few inches from the plant to prevent “leggyness” and 2) to give your plants 16 hours of light (an inexpensive outlet timer works great for making this happen).

Heat Mats and Thermostats

For the BEST germination, invest in a a seed starting heat mat AND thermostat made specifically for this. This will cost you around $70.00-$80.00 If you can’t afford this your first season, don’t sweat! But even soil heat at around 75-80 degrees will give you the best seedling germination.

Soil temperatures are roughly 10 degrees cooler that ambient room temperature, so often your soil may be cooler than you think without a heat heat mat.

Shelves

I use simple metal wire shelving so I can stack my seedlings. But get creative here! You’ll just need a place to hang the lights and a place underneath to set your trays.

NOW you’re READY TO PLANT!

1) Fill your pots with damp soil

2) Put 1-2 seeds on top. Your seed packet will give you a germination rate for each seed. If its less than 80% put 2 seeds in each pot.

3) Lightly cover with soil. Just barely cover as light aids the germination of most flower seeds. I like to cover just so there is a bit of soil contact on top of seed.

4) Cover with a plastic dome and place under lights and on heat mats.

Happy planting out there!

Seed Starting Part 2 (a 3 part series): Planning Your Dream Garden

I know it’s the middle of winter but believe it or not, it’s time to plan your dream garden!

To be honest, here on the farm this is a HUGE undertaking. Every year it gets a bit easier but I am always surprised by the time this takes.

As a home gardener your task is a little simpler but give yourself time and have fun!

I want to break down your garden planning job into a few smaller tasks. Next to each task I will have a description on how I do this and a link to an actual PDF sample of my planning tools.

1) Make a crop list. List all the crops you are going to grow!

How do you decide? I like to grow things I like to eat! Start there then browse through your seed catalogs and find a few other things you might like to try.

How do you choose varieties? Read about each variety carefully. For Alaska, shorter days to maturity is important especially with very long season crops (like tomatoes). Also try to read between the lines. What are the descriptions NOT saying. For example, I tried a short season cucumber advertised as a great variety for northern growing. Sure win right? Not quite. The flavor and texture was almost unpalatable. Our chickens feasted on those.

I make a simple spreadsheet with the following information on it: crop (i.e. broccoli), variety (Belstar), source (where I bought my seed), days to maturity or DTM (you’ll see this in the description online or on the back of the seed packet), weeks to maturity WTM (just divide your DTM by 7 - I like to do this cause it’s way easier to count back by weeks than for days to figure out when you need to plant), notes (YOU MUST TAKE NOTES THROUGHOUT THE SEASON ON EACH CROP).

CLICK HERE to see a sample of my planing spreadsheet! I have left on a few extra columns here in case you want to add these on yours too.

2) Draw your garden. Sit down and draw your garden!

I like using grid paper for this. Then each grid increment can be a 1 foot or 6 inch increment. OR you can just draw on plain paper and just mark off your actual garden dimensions.

Pencil in where you want each of your chosen crops to grow. Remember to think about taller plants (or plants that need to be trellised) - place these on the north side of your garden so they don’t shade smaller crops. Crops that stay in the ground the whole summer (like broccoli or potatoes) can be further away from your paths than crops you might harvest more often (like salad greens).

This helps you plan where things go and how much you can fit in your area. This also becomes a record (keep your dated drawings) so you can rotate where you grow each crop in subsequent years.

3) Make a planting calendar

CLICK HERE to see a sample of my planting calendar. I plan by week. Week 1 is the first week of the year - using week numbers (and not just dates) is helpful in order to use past planting calendars to plan for future planting dates since actual dates may fall into different weeks each year.

In order to make sure I’m seeding things when I need to I usually start by planning when I want to harvest each crop.

For example, if I need all my broccoli harvested by September 1st, I’ll count back its weeks to maturity (days to maturity x 7). If broccoli has 66 days to maturity (or 9.5 weeks to maturity) I will make sure my plants are planted in the ground by the end of June. Note that since broccoli is usually started indoors, I need to add additional time for germination (maybe a week) and indoor growth (a few weeks). So I would start my seeds the first week of June.

Remember you don’t want ALL your beans or broccoli or whatever to be ready at once, so stagger your plantings. Each plant is different but Johnnys and High Mowing, two of my favorite seed saving companies, are usually good at suggesting how far to stagger your plantings in order to get a steady supply of crops all summer.

CLICK HERE to read my previous blog all about ordering seeds.

A note on days to maturity (DTM): DTM is a best guess the seed company can give based on when the plant goes in the ground. Crops usually direct seeded (salad mix, peas, beans, carrots, etc) have a DTM from date sown. Crops usually transplanted (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.) have a DTM from the time you plant them in the ground. I know this is a bit confusing so remember to use DTM as a guide but not as a written-in-stone rule.

So there you go! Now you’re ready to get started planting.

Stay tuned for my next post on actually starting your own seeds!

Seed Starting Part 1 (a 3 part series): 4 Great Sources for Ordering Garden Seeds

I’m putting together a 3 part series on seed starting for all you home gardeners out there!

This first one will give you a look at my favorite places to buy seeds for my home garden and commercial cut flower, salad mix and herb garden.

The second one will cover how to plan your dream garden (STAY TUNED).

The third will walk you through how to start your seeds indoors (STAY TUNED).

So here’s a quick breakdown of where I order my seeds.

I prefer to order all my seeds online. The variety is endless and it’s easy to source organic and heirloom or open pollinated varieties if that’s what you’re looking for.

1) Johnnys Selected Seeds. Johnny’s is a comprehensive seed company out of Maine. They carry almost everything you would want to grow AND have tons of growing guides and resources. They carry organic, heirloom, open pollinated and conventional seeds.

I usually order the bulk of my seeds from Johnny’s as the quality and webpage functionality is outstanding.

They offer free shipping for orders over $200.00.

2) High Mowing. This is a company that sells exclusively organic seed out of Vermont. I love this company because I know everything is organic and extremely high quality. Most of my salad greens seeds come from High Mowing.

They offer free shipping on orders over $10.00! This is a screaming deal.

3) Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. A company out of California that sells heirloom and old fashioned varieties. Their prices are VERY reasonable. Their print catalog is also SUPER fun to look through.

I usually only order some rare and unusual veggies or flowers that I can’t find anywhere else. Even though I don;t order much from them each year, what I have ordered has had great germination and good quality. And their packets of seeds usually have way more seeds than other seed companies.

4) Foundroot. I will admit that I haven’t ordered from these guys yet. BUT they are an Alaskan company that I would like to support. They have hand picked varieties that do great in Alaska and cater to home gardeners - which means their packet quantities won’t overwhelm you.

Their webpage and buying options are a bit clunky but I hope to stay tuned as their business grows.

So there it is! Page through some of these online catalogs or request a print catalog. Curl up in your cozy chair and dream about your spring garden.

Oh, and when do I do this?? I start putting together my seed orders in January. If I have any last minute purchases, I’ll do another order in February or March. Don’t wait too long as specific seed varieties do sell out! And, before you know it, you’ll be starting your seeds.

Stay tuned for the next Seed Starting Series on Planning Your Dream Garden!

Do you need holiday gift ideas?! Here are 5 Favorite Books from my Gardening Library

Looking for that special gift for a gardening friend?! Or need an addition to YOUR gardening library? I’ve got you covered this season.

While I know it can be overwhelming to sift through ALL those gardening books (there are so many), when you come across a winner it can be SO valuable in helping your skills grow.

Here you can see a handful of my favorite books that are currently on my farm/garden library shelf.

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10 Must-grows! My absolute favorite varieties from the 2018 flower cutting garden

The end of the growing season is a good time to reflect on what went well and what needs improvement for next year. There is simply nothing that compares to learning things from experience, sometimes the lessons are hard and other times they are joyous.

I’m going to focus on the latter and share with you my ABSOLUTE FAVORITES from my 2018 cutting garden. These flowers stunned me every time I entered the garden with their productivity, abundance and beauty!

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