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Overwintering Dahlias in Zone 5

November 30th, 2016

Dahlias are lovely, but they are higher maintenance than other things in our cold climate here in Maine. The tubers need to be dug in the fall and overwintered in cold storage. Fortunately they’re fairly forgiving, and with any luck, you’ll increase the number of tubers you have each year. Most dahlias are only hardy to zone 8, so you can overwinter then in the ground if you live in zone 8 or higher.
In the fall, after your first killing frost, cut the foliage to between 2-4 inches above the ground. Shake soil off tubers gently, I like to let them dry for a week or so in the basement before doing this. Inspect tubers removing any soft or rotten sections.
Once the tubers have dried sufficiently, pack them in a loose material.  I was thinking about using peat, then I remembered that I have an endless supply of white cedar shavings. The material just needs to be loose and dry, you don’t want moisture in this instance.
Move the tubers to a well-ventilated, frost-free spot, you’re looking for something 40-45 degrees. If you don’t have a spot that remains at this temperature, you can use a spot that gets between 35-50. In the spring, pull out your tubers and inspect them, separate into tubers to plant and replant.

Do you dig dahlias or any other plant in the spring?

A Day in Stockholm

November 28th, 2016

I’m finally getting back around to going through more of the photos from our trip to Sweden back in September. We drove to Stockholm after spending the night in the nature center at Lacko Slott (see those photos here and the gardens here and here). We arrived late in the evening, checked into the Motel L, ate a delicious dinner at Pipes, a pub right next door to the hotel. The next morning we were up early, called an Uber, and off to the old city we went.
It’s amazing to see this level of history, we have old stuff in Boston, but nothing compared to this! We did a walking tour that we found on-line, it came complete with historic descriptions of all the places we stopped.
The colors, the textures, the cafes, the food, the shops, it was all a very fascinating morning. After visiting the old city, we were off to one of my favorite things from our trip to Sweden, stay tuned for that and more from our trip.

Quote of the Day: Happy Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2016

“All of our guests enjoyed the running commentary on each dish – the history of the garden and seeds, how everything was harvested, the process of canning and preserving it all. It was different from most Thanksgivings I’d been a part of. It was less about stuffing ourselves to excess, and more about how miraculous it was that there was a full table of food in the first place. I couldn’t help but think that was supposed to be the point of the holiday all along. I also couldn’t help but think that my role as an advertiser contributed to the misperception of food as a commodity whose value was distinguished mainly by calorie count and serving size. Boasting about the size of one’s holiday turkey is really only genuine when one had something to do with feeding it.”

Josh Kilmer-Purcell (The Bucolic Plague)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Chiot’s Run!

Saving Time in Spring

November 23rd, 2016

In the fall, I always mulch my flowerbeds and garden areas heavily with compost (weed free) and/or chopped leaves and grass clippings. My first goal is to protect the soil throughout the winter. It insulates the soil/plants and helps them survive the winter better. The mulch also protects the soil and nutrients in the soil from being washed away. My favorite reason to mulch heavily in the fall – weed free gardens in the spring/summer!
In my perennial garden beds I use chopped leaves and grass clippings. In my edible garden areas I add a weed free compost I buy from Kinney Compost. I not only protects my soil in the edible garden areas, but it feeds the soil as well. In the areas I’ve added this compost for three years the health of the soil is noticeably better than in areas where I haven’t added it. My soil is extremely free draining, this layer of compost mulch helps my soil retain moisture in the summer and it adds valuable humus in order to make my soil have better structure.

What’s your favorite kind of mulch?

Harvesting Belgian Endive Roots

November 22nd, 2016

I’ve been waiting for the weather to turn cold so I could harvest my Belgian endive roots. These are ‘Totem’ variety, the seeds were sourced from Johnny’s Seeds. I’ve tried growing endive roots for forcing for many years and something has always eaten the tops, or the seed was washed away in a spring rainstorm, or something else happened to them. That never stopped my from sowing seed every year, hoping I’d end up with large roots to force chicons for winter eating. The cold weather finally hit and the leaves wilted a bit in the cold.
I became interested in doing this after reading Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest. He has a nice section on how to grow them and what to do with them in order to force them. Johnny’s also has a nice resource page on their website (which is not available right now because of their redesign, I’ll try to remember to post a link to it later). It’s pretty simple to force chicons. The first step is to cut the leaves off the plants leaving about an inch or two of stem, you want to be careful not to cut too close to the root so you don’t damage the crown. The chickens were super happy to gobble up all those leaves.
Then carefully dig the roots, they’re like parsnips or large carrots. You only need 6-8 inches of root, they’re much longer than that but can be quite difficult to dig up in their entirety. Some of my snapped neatly right at the perfect length when I was digging them.
There are several methods for treating the roots, I decided to follow the methods recommended by Johnny’s. I layered the roots into baskets, covered them with damp burlap, and put them in a cold room of my garage. They’ll stay there for 3 weeks or so, then I’ll start planting them in buckets of soilless potting mix.
When I want to start growing chicons, I’ll put the buckets on my seedling heating mat the basement. The top of the bucket will be covered with a black plastic pot in order to ensure darkness. They like warm soil and cool air temperatures for producing chicons. I figured the heating mat would warm the soil in the buckets but the ambient air in the basement is the perfect temperature for them. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my efforts. Here’s hoping I’m eating chicons in January!

Have you grown any new and interesting veg this year?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.