When Is the Right Time to Dig Your Dahlia Tubers?
Wait till After Frost!
Saving dahlia tubers allows you to get flowers like this every year
Dahlias need to be dug in the fall if you want to have
viable tubers to use next summer. Leave them in the ground, and they will
freeze solid and die – wasting the money you spent on them this year. They are
easy enough to winter over. Here’s what you need to do:
In the fall it’s imperative to wait until the tops of the dahlias have been totally killed by frost. If you dig them up too early, you’ll probably have poor luck the next year. Let the tops turn black and mushy, but don’t let the ground freeze around them.
Wash off tubers
Dig the clumps with a garden fork or shovel, but keep back from the clump so you don’t sever any roots. Just push your tool into the ground and tip it back to lift the clump of tubers. Rinse off with a hose, and allow to dry. Then you can divide each clump of tubers with a sharp knife or lopers.
Using lopers to separate tubers
In order to produce a new plant next year, each tuber you
plant must have at least one eye, which will be the growing point. The eyes are
not easily recognized by the uninitiated, but if you cut off the tops and separate
the tubers with some stem intact, they should have eyes. Don’t worry needlessly
about that part.
Why bother dividing the clumps? If you don’t, and plant the
entire clump of tubers in one place, 6 or more plants will start all in the
same hole, and will be fighting for nutrients and water. Divide them now.
The tubers need to be stored in a cool (40 to 50 degrees),
high-humidity location all winter, but must never be allowed to freeze. Perhaps
you can store them in your basement or in a spare bedroom in black garbage bags
that have been punctured several times with a knife until they are practically
Moisten cedar bedding and puncture bags many times to allow air circulation
Also in the bag you should include some lightly moistened cedar shavings, the kind sold for gerbil bedding. That keeps the tubers from drying out. If you have several varieties that are different colors or sizes, you can labels each tuber with a black “Sharpie” so you will know what is what, come spring.
Label your tubers - even if you have just a few kinds
Each plant produces enough tubers for several to many new
plants each year. By saving them all, you can have enough to give to all your
friends – and even your enemies!
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