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As cold temperatures approach, ready your Interior Alaska garden

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Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011 12:35 am | Updated: 1:24 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Here is an end of season to-do list for any Interior gardener:

Gather up any geraniums, tuberous begonias and fuchsias you want to over-winter. This can be done after a very light frost, but better to be done before the plants have had any frost exposure.

Cut back the fuchsias so they are about five inches tall, remove any remaining stems and leaves and store in a cool dark place that stays about 40 degrees. Water enough so that the soil stays just barely moist.

Geraniums can be pulled out of the soil and hung upside down in a plastic bag with some holes punched into it, or a brown paper bag. Like fuchsias, they should be stored where it is cool but they won’t freeze.

Tuberous begonias need to be lifted out of the ground, any soil hanging on gently brushed off and the entire plant brought inside to dry. The stems and leaves will die off naturally; only then should they be removed. The remaining tubers should be stored in a box of sawdust, cat litter or vermiculite, and put in a dark, cool (40 degrees or so) place until spring.

Alternately, fuchsias, begonias and geraniums can be cut back less drastically and treated as houseplants for the winter. With supplemental light they may bloom for much of the indoor season.

Dahlias can withstand a frost before being brought indoors. Slice off the flower and stem and gently dig up the huge clumps of tubers. Leave the clumps intact and put each one on a table or a garage floor for a few days until the dirt dries out and can easily be brushed off. Then put each clump in a box, burying it in sand, vermiculite or sawdust. You can put more than one set in a box, but don’t let them touch each other. Line the boxes with about eight pages of newsprint and then cover the filled box with more newsprint. This keeps the moisture in so the tubers don’t dry out. Set the box in a place where the temperature will stay between 40 and 45 degrees.

Gladioli are a bit hardier and can take a few frosts. Slice off all but a few inches of the stems, bring the corms into a dry, cool room and let them dry out for a few hours. Then store them in paper bags or in boxes filled with sawdust. (My reading tells me that Fairbanks glad corms are usually puny because our season is so short, so if you end up with nothing don’t think you did something wrong.)

Fibrous begonias and mini roses can be dug up this weekend and put into pots to spend the winter indoors.

You can cut back and pot up chives, basil and sage to bring into the house. Unless they are under artificial lights they will eventually peter out and die, but I’ve had windowsill herbs last until November.

Gather up your garden garbage, such as cabbage remains, and put them in your compost heap. If you don’t do compost, grind them up and spread them out in the garden so they decompose during the winter and spring.

Cut back your perennials, apply bone meal to them (at the rate of six cups per 100 square feet), and then mulch them with chopped up straw or dead leaves. This should help them get through the inevitable freeze and thaw cycles of the winter.

And here is a tip that may save you the most money: Turn off your outdoor spigots.

Linden Staciokas has gardened in the Interior for more than two decades. Send gardening questions to her at dorking@acsalaska.net.

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