Prepping Dahlias for Winter

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

This is depressing I know, but I have to start now. I am taking in the pots which are saturated to get the tubers started to drying and also the dirt. I need the dirt to fill in the holes I have to dig in prep for peonies coming next month. I thought I would post my new re-purposing idea for my sunbeds for spring growing. Also a picture of Neon Splendor I took indoors. Still fighting with a camera that cannot hope to capture the variance in the bloom colors. This one is listed as orange, but as you can see, it is many colors that give it a wonderful depth.

I got some 1/4 heavy mesh 24"x8'. the racks are about 23"w and 4' long. I cut a length then wired it to the frames. I had hoped the tubers wouldn't make the wire sag. Ha. so I have to take up a little slack and get a little more airflow beneath the tubers. Figuring I have 60 to dry, it will probably take both racks with 5 shelves each to do it. Back to Lowe's for more wire mesh. I am only taking off the dirt I can dig out. Figured I could knock off more dirt when it dried, then wash and redry. I have nursery pens to write on each tuber what it is but for now I write it on popsicle sticks and just stick it between the tubers on each plant.

Of the plants I have 31 unique (only one of each) and 9 of which I have multiples, 5 of which are new for me this year. Heaven only knows what I'll end up with if I decide to split them this fall which I usually do. I bought fungicide to "shake and bake' the tubers after they are dry and before wrapping them in saran. Then in a box on a far lower shelving in the garage that should maintain at about 50degrees.

BTW, someone sent me the asters pictured and I love them. I have not had good luck with asters but I am praying these come back next year. They are about 18" tall and the flowers are about 1" across. Anyone have any idea what they are called?

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(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Well, I got up this morning to snow falling fairly heavily and the two baby moose sleeping by my deck in the front yard. Of course they snacked before falling asleep. I took a couple of close ups. They are pretty fearless and not aggressive so I could get fairly close. The snow will melt in a few hours after it stops falling.

SOUTH HAMILTON, MA

Can we see the baby moose pictures????

Looks like a great setup for the tubers.

I don't know my asters from my elbows ;0)

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Sure. I will start up my desktop and put them here.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Here they are. Must have posted them on another thread.

As you can see I am a terrible photographer. I was also pretty excited. one picture shows them at opposite sides of the lawn. One eating the roses at the mail box and the other eating apples from the neighbors tree.

This message was edited Oct 8, 2012 2:25 PM

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Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

I will take the baby moose. They are so cute - you can have the snow.

Is 9/29 early or normal for snow to start falling in Anchorage?

SOUTH HAMILTON, MA

What a beautiful garden! Why do we (in the lower 48) assume b/c it's Alaska, you must have a forest for a yard?

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Well, some do have forests in their yards. I certainly did in Fairbanks. I lived just out of town back then. 9/29 is way early for permanent snow. It is 46F here now but D says it is turning now and we will see snow in the next few weeks. I am almost ready for it. Just a few more days is all I need. We will shred up my rakings and spread on the garden this weekend come snow or no. Then fertilize my lilies and I am done.

Those cute little moose have feet that can destroy a tuber in one misstep. Much less pull up stuff.

Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

Quote from Oberon46 :
Those cute little moose have feet that can destroy a tuber in one misstep. Much less pull up stuff.


Why do I think they can do a lot more damage than just that?

Melissa - I was thinking forests too.

Mary - When do you typically bring in your dahlias? I am generally digging mine up in November.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Oh yes. They destroy decorative trees, tearing off branches, stripping bark off.

I guess I am a woos. I have mine all tucked in for their winter nap now. You just can't bank on the weather and our weather was crappy. Even snowed one day thought it didn't stay. I pulled them in to dry over a few days in the misting to downright rain. Then worked with them in the garage with trips outside to wash off dirt. Now that this is all done, the weather is lovely today. A crisp 46F with blue skies. I do love fall when it is like this. I guess I could have waited, but it has been steady downpours with temps down to 32F.

I made up for taking them up a bit early but being super careful in bedding them down. 1-2 days drying (after cutting and dividing); dipping in a 10:1 mix of water and bleach; a day to dry from that; then a shake and bake mixture of perlite and a fungicide; Then into the bags of 2/5 potting soil, 2/5 peat moss, 1/5 perlite. I believe that I made a combination of every trick I have read about, although some are mutually exclusive, for instance, what to put them in to over winter. Oh, they are in either gallon or quart bags left open (shaken not stirred lol). I will inspect them every three weeks (Dan does it every two weeks!). Completely dumps each bag. I would say I have about 80 bags.

Since I don't have to dig them up, the peonies are still safe from the cutting knife. Pretty much everything is cut to the ground now. Even though I think the campanula says to leave the foliage on. Keep forgetting in my wacking frenzy. Oh, and I leave about 2" on the bearded iris. I will go take come pictures then you can compare

This message was edited Oct 10, 2012 11:27 AM

Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

Hmmmm...... I have a couple of empty guest rooms in the house and garden beds that could use a good cleaning up! ^_^

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

LOL. Would love to do it for you but alas I am needed here. But I will root for you in your efforts.

SOUTH HAMILTON, MA

We're going to have our first frost Sat. AM- SO "THEY" SAY- the weather forecasters haven't been exactly accurate these days. It has been pouring all week- they didn't predict that. Even with temps at night in the 40s, my dahlias look great!!! Some of the cultivars who put on a 8+ blossom-all-at-once show in late August are starting a repeat performance. Monet Glory, Camano Sitka, Keith H. & Blue Boy all were favorites of mine in Aug. and I hope those tons 'o buds get to bloom b/f they get cut down by Jack Frost. Interesting; some cultivars produce 1-4 blossoms consiistantly all season, some have "flushes"- or is this my imagination? I'm going to ask some of the growers. If I'm going to try for another blue ribbon, it helps to have a lot that blossom steadily.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Well, getting in my dahlias early paid off. It was a hard frost last night and is dropping from 32F to 30F this morning. Ground is frozen down a few inches. It would have been awful trying to get up much less prep all those tubers now. Just trying to get frozen soil off and washing them outside would have been awful. It would have taken me a week or better all the while the ground freezing more and more. I am cutting down my peonies and the last errant plants. the yard looks so desolate. I will be glad when it is covered in snow.

SOUTH HAMILTON, MA

That's why I LOVE SNOW!!!

It's like starting over with a fresh sheet of paper- we can draw flowers in our imaginations- flowers with no bugs, no weeds, and all blooming perfectly...
Plus I love to ski!!!

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I agree. I don't ski but I love to take my dog for long walks.

Fort Worth, TX

When should I, in North Texas, dig my dahlias up?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Let a frost blacken them, then dig two weeks later.

You do get frost, don't you?

Fort Worth, TX

yes we get real frost, but they got drowning rain a couple of days ago...

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Dahlias do not like soggy soil. You might want to ask others in your area who grow dahlias and see what they do. How do the dahlias look now? If they're spry and happy then I guess the earth drained well enough for them to survive the rains.

Fort Worth, TX

Well part of mine got a dry frost, and part were still green when I dug them up yesterday, and carefull packed them in potting soil in individual fish bags. We shall see. If I can find just the right dahlia spot I might repeat the experiment, but where they were this year is not good dahlia territory. The room for tall plants is too shady and wet, the dry and sunny enough puts them out in the wind with no support, and they almost got too wet. I have 5 tubers with at least one tuber, one being only the long skinny tuber, and one with a pair of round ones and 3 skinny ones but alas I cut the round ones with the shovel. I dusted them all with cinnamon for a preventative fungus treatment. (works on aloe)

Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

Mine are sitting in a tub under the bed in the spare room. I need to do something with them. They should be dry enough by now for me to pack them up and put them away for the winter. Hubs got rid of my box with my vermiculite that I had used the previous year to store them.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

This is the week for boxes, Carolyn! Supermarkets are very busy and those Butterball turkeys must come in nice, clean, big boxes for your dahlias.

Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

Good point, Arlene. I need to pick up some vermiculite as well.

Today I lifted all my pot dahlias - as soon as they are dried they will need to be put away as well. Looks like I need to take a trip to Lowes.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Lowe's! Lead us not into temptation!

Athens, PA(Zone 5b)

Quote from pirl :
Lowe's! Lead us not into temptation!


Wow, is that ever an understatement!

Mentor, OH

I had a hard time finding the coarse vermiculite this year. The garden centers I went to only had the seed starting vermiculite which has a lot of soil mixed in. I finally found the coarse type at Lowes. A one and a half cubic foot bag was $15.00-something.

As I was dividing my dahlia tubers, I came across this "what-you-may-call-it" which was growing from the bottom of one big tuber. It went over, under, around and through other tubers in the clump and connected to another big tuber on the other side. I've never seen anything like this before. I couldn't see it serving any purpose so I cut it off.

I've grown this Trelyn Rhiannon dahlia for the past three years. It always has huge tubers but has only produced four new tubers in three years. It seems like many of the ones I really like are very poor tuber makers. I'm hoping this one survives the winter.

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

If it had been the stem then I'd have thought it must have hit a rock and turned. Maybe the same thing happened when your "thing" hit something in the soil.

My Raz Ma Taz and Mingus Toni were skimpy on any tubers while others were 2' wide. I'll face the joy of planting those monsters next year. That sounds so far away!

Fort Worth, TX

2 ft wide tubers? Is there a diagram on what a dahlia bulb should look like? Because mine range from 2 round "potatoes" with 3 elongated "sweet potatoes" about 5 inches long, to just a "sweet potato" small, and nothing else...

I don't think I did this right

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I'm the worst at demonstrating but here's a photo of La Luna, thanks to Mary, and it shows what our aim is when reducing the size of a clump. I'll be a failure at this forever!

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Fort Worth, TX

how tall is that tuber?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I didn't measure but size doesn't matter! It just has to have a eye attached at the collar where it joins the stem. Tubers 3" long provide big lush plants.

Mentor, OH

It's a little hard to believe the size of the plants the little peanut-sized tubers can produce, even though I've seen it happen many times. Also hard to believe the size of some of the clumps of tubers when digging in the Fall. Many times I have underestimated the potential growth of them and even though I start digging well away from the stalk, I have cut many tubers in half. The small tubers always seem to catch up to the bigger ones very quickly.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Even seed grown dahlias end up with big lush tubers.

So are you having mashed tubers with the turkey, Dan? Or will it be venison?

Fort Worth, TX

hahaha. ok, My big lush dahlias were anything but. I think I have research to do, including how to identify an "eye"

Mentor, OH

It's beginning to look like the venison will have to wait until I hit the next one with my car. lol I'm in a bad slump. After taking between 70-80 deer with my bow, I thought this was supposed to get easier. NOT!!

The size of some of those tubers I cut into and ruined almost had me thinking about that recipe for dahlia bread. Again, .... NOT!! lol Anyone for dahlia turkey stuffing?

Mentor, OH

Gypsi, the eyes are not always visible at digging time. The ones in the photo that I've circled were some of the exceptions. The majority of my tubers showed no eyes at all. I still cut off the healthy looking ones with a piece of the collar and in the Spring most have always sprouted. Even the eyes that are visible now will often disappear during storage only to re-appear in the Spring when exposed to light and warmth. I cringe when I see instructions on the internet advising to throw away tubers that don't show eyes. There's plenty of time to throw them away later if they don't sprout. Give 'em a chance!

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(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I have a bunch of tubers with, not only eyes, but growth. Now if I could just keep them healthy. Yours, Dan, are amazing. So back to vermiculite, forget the fungicide. All it did was coat the tubers and hold in moisture and rot. I checked them today and there was still moisture in the bags so opened them all up to dry.

Did I mention I was trying to trade salmon for bear. Not sure if it will go. I wanted ribs not burgher. Yuk. Bear burgher.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Gypsi and I are the ones who need "eye" training. I've been growing dahlias for years and still can't spot them so I save the entire clump and that takes more time and more space. At least, with Dan's help, I've learned I can do without the ones that dangle and aren't attached to the collar in any way.

It sounds like your car is better at getting the deer than the bow and arrow!

I'll take a pass on the dahlia stuffing and the bear burgher while I enjoy the Prime Ribs and Smitty may get the bones.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Same you you Arlene and all DG's present and those not.

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