Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Outdoor gardening season winds down

More from Alaska

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Outdoor Life names Kodiak 4th best for sportsmen

What's better, bagging a giant king salmon or a kokanee, the landlocked red salmon that rarely exceeds 14 inches? A Kodiak brown bear more than 1,000 pounds or a chukar, a small game bird in the pheasant family? Outdoor Life magazine, apparently, prefers modest species gathered in pleasant weather.

I too, am feeling the coolness in the morning and can't help but notice the geese flying out, ducks and cranes too. The moose are back in the yard, calfs trying to figure out the strange behavior of their mother and bulls wandering about recklessly. These are the signs of "The End" as far as outdoor gardening is concerned and it isn't just because the moose are hungry.

You better start thinking about the things you want to keep over. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, fuchsia, tuberous begonias, pelargoniums, dahlias, rhodochitin and gladioli. You can also add mini roses and certain annuals in your gardens like fibrous begonias, impatiens and coleus.

For starters, I make sure that tuberous begonias, pelargoniums and fuchsia and any annuals I want to keep don't get hit by a frost. They could probably take a light one, but why risk it? This means you should get them all taken care of before the first frost hits. Forgetting the annuals for a moment, there are two methods of winter care for these.

The first, and by far the easiest, is storage at one of our fine local nurseries. You take the baskets in, a nice person takes them from your car and that is that until next spring. All you do is pay. However, you had better hurry up. If you want to have yours wintered over by a professional, space is filling up fast. Call around now. Right now.

Or, you can store them at home. With fuchsias, leave them in their containers, clipping them back to about six to eight inches. Then water and put them into a dark, cool, 40 degree-ish spot for the winter, perhaps a crawl space or a barely heated garage for the winter. While on the subject of fuchsia, there is a third method to keep them over: Growing them in a cool room with some light. With decent, or artificial light, they will continue to bloom.

Tuberous begonias should be brought inside where they can dry out over a two-week period. Cut off the dead plant. Then you can store the tubers in a dark, cool spot, right in their present containers or gently dig them up and put them in a cardboard box filled with sawdust. Do not wash them.

The pelargoniums will grow all winter, provided they are kept cool and given at least a few hours of light a day. They should even flower after the new year. Or you can dig them up, shake off loose soil and place them, upside-down, in paper grocery bags. You can put several in a bag. Twist the bags closed and hang them in a cool, but above freezing, spot during the winter. Most should go dormant and green up again next spring.

Rhodochitin can be kept going all winter too. They won't flower, however. Or you can store them as you would fuchsia; no pruning, however. They will go dormant and just need a drop or two of water every month or so. By all means, collect seeds from the pods which develop this time of year.

Dahlias and glads are a bit more hardy and can take a few frosts. If yours have finished flowering, you can dig them up now. Dig out away from the plant a bit and be careful not to damage the clump of tubers. Leave the plants attached, bring into a dry, cool room and let the tops die all the way back before you cut off all but a few inches of the stem. Then store the tubers in paper bags or in boxes filled with sawdust. They are pretty much like potatoes. You can divide clumps next spring.

The glad corm will be all shriveled up when you dig up the plants, but a new corm will be underneath it. Dig carefully, shake off loose soil and store the corm and plant in paper bags in a cool, dry spot until next spring. Then you can clean things up.

Fibrous begonias, mini roses and any annuals can be dug up this weekend and put into pots for use indoors this winter. There are lots of things you have in your gardens that will do just fine indoors. Just make sure you isolate them for a couple weeks to get any hitchhiking critters.

Finally, and this is as important as anything you do when you carry things over for the winter, make sure to label everything. You may think you will remember what you have put away, but 9 months of winter can do lots of things to your memory, so label if only to be safe.

Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at or by calling 274-5297 during "The Garden Party" radio show from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KBYR AM-700.

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