A dozen dahlia lovers showed up to lend their time and talents at “The Big Dig” hosted by Sunset View Farm in Andover Twp. on Nov. 5.
It was a balmy Saturday; very unusual for this time of year, but perfect for harvesting dahlia tubers. The excited volunteers traded an afternoon of labor and laughter for lessons in digging, washing, and dividing these popular blooms, as well as some tubers of their own to take home for next year’s gardens.
Sunset View Farm’s two flower stands (one on Pierce Road, and the other under the old Oak tree on the corner of Lawrence and Pierce in Andover) are a fast-spreading local secret, especially in the late summer and fall, the height of Dahlia season. The Grinthal family, friends, and several dedicated community gardeners planted 6,000 of these showstopping blooms this year.
Dahlias are the most popular flower in the world, with legions of fans who often refer to themselves as “dahlia addicts” due to their ever-growing collections of these beauties.
Most of the volunteers who came to help harvest dahlias at Sunset View Farm on Saturday were local, from Fredon, Sparta, and other surrounding towns, but some came from as far as Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard!
The crew dug up the potato-like dahlia tubers with pitchforks, then gently washing them with garden hoses, and finally learning the tricky process of dividing the tuber clumps. Finding the tiny germinating eyes on the clumps, cutting the tubers apart properly, and safely storing the individually divided tubers over the winter is what most gardeners find challenging about the process.
“I learned a lot today. It was good to demystify the process, and I feel confident I can do it for myself now,” said Fala Freeman, one of the volunteers.
Andy and Linda Grinthal (who both grew up in Bergen County but have lived in Sussex County for more than 30 years) are famous for their farm-themed events, including Zinnia Madness in the spring, an annual Soupfest and Pumpkin Pick in October, and now, the Big Dig for Dahlias. Volunteers enjoyed homemade french fries and baked goods as well as playing with the chickens and tractor rides during breaks from their labors.
The Grinthal family is already looking forward to offering even more dahlias in many new varieties to their loyal flower stand customers next year. They plan to expand to 9,000 dahlias (up from 6,000 this year) along with thousands of zinnias, celosia, sunflowers, and many other blooms.
“We’re grateful we get to do this for the community,” said Linda Grinthal. “I think one of our flower stand customers captured the spirit of this little business best. She left a note in the cashbox one day that just said, ‘Thank you for what you do. Your flowers bring me joy!’”