Dahlias forum: Digging & Storing Dahlias, 2018

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Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan (Zone 5b)

Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Dec 4, 2018 11:01 PM CST
I am interested in knowing how dahlia growers are stashing their dahlias for the winter... please share

So, I will start.

I am in zone 5 and my first hard frost was in mid October. After the first hard frost, I cut all dahlias to the ground and haul away the remains. I take care not to remove plant markers. Duh.

then I wait for about 2 weeks: the theory behind this is the tubers will develop those all important eyes to help you when you are dividing the clump. I cannot back up this theory, but I do it anyway.

After 2 weeks (give or take a week or 2 or 3), I dig them up and wash them off with the hose. This year the ground was quite wet, so washing was a bitch. If it is not so wet, most of the dirt shakes off before washing. I wash on my grass. I try to pick a spot that the dog has dug up looking for and finding moles.

After the bath, I take the tuber mass to the greenhouse for surgery. Some clumps are more easy than others as far as dividing. Sometimes I use this info to decide whether to cull.

after dividing and washing again, I let the tubers dry for about 6 hours.

then after my nap, I use an industrial permanent marker to ID the tubers as I wrap then in plastic.

I store them in a small room (aka cellar) in the basement for the duration of the winter. It's chilly down there so I wait until late May to check them out.

Thumb of 2018-12-05/frankrichards16/29c205

Name: Melissa
Omaha, NE (Zone 5b)
Dahlias Cat Lover Region: Nebraska Annuals
Dec 4, 2018 11:59 PM CST
I am in zone 5B. My season abruptly ended in mid October with a surprise 3 inch Sunday snow. Still pissed at Mother Nature about that...

The snow melted and temps returned to the 60s within a few days. I cut down the entire dahlia garden (I grow about 205ish plants) the following weekend, and started digging. This fall was sopping wet, and the clumps were a hot mess express to get out of the ground and wash off. My routine is to dig about 10-15 plants and toss them on my lawn with their tags next to them. I hose them off, find something to waste about 30 minutes of my time with (so they can begin to dry), and then I divide and throw them in labeled paper bags. I try to repeat the cycle as many times as I can until the sun goes down. The paper bags go into my unfinished basement for 1-2 days to continue drying, then I dip the cut ends in cinnamon before storing. It took me about 3 weekends to get them all out of the ground and indoors. I prefer to do all this outside when it is not lose circulation in my hands freezing cold, which is why I get started right away once I've cut them down.

As for storing, the majority of mine are wrapped in plastic wrap. The huge tubers and the ones that I know overwinter easily are stored in plastic shoeboxes filled with vermiculite. The dahlias have their own little dahlia closet in my basement. Smiling I usually check on them every couple of weeks throughout their slumber season.

**Once half of them are dug and divided, I allow myself to start shopping for new dahlias for next year. Tis the season!

[Last edited by Melissamaeday - Dec 5, 2018 12:23 AM (+)]
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Name: Dan
NE Ohio (Zone 6a)
Dec 5, 2018 8:26 PM CST
I try to wait for a frost before digging, although I've read that isn't necessary. Sometimes I cut the stalks a week or so before digging the clumps. Other times, I don't bother until I'm ready to dig. I never worry about waiting a week to help make the eyes pop out and easier to see because I don't look for eyes when I divide anyway. I save every plump tuber (or as many as I feel I'll need) and don't worry about seeing eyes/sprouts till spring. Over the years, I've found that around 75% of my "blind" tubers will eventually eye up.

After digging, I have labels with variety name already written out row by row that I cinch up around each clump. They're washed and spread out in boxes to dry overnight. I usually start dividing the next day, unless I feel an overpowering urge to be in one of my deer stands or watch a football game. I try to spread out the process so some are drying while I'm dividing others that were washed/dried the previous day.

It seems the fine tip Sharpies tend to tear the tuber skin, especially if it hasn't dried enough. I use the Sharpies made for writing on laundry tags. After dividing and labeling each tuber, I give them another day to dry.

After hearing about and personally seeing the higher storage survival rate of saran wrapped tubers, I now use that method for 90% or more of mine. Before wrapping, the tubers are dusted, using cinnamon or copper dust as a fungicide instead of garden sulphur (yuck!). After wrapping, and labeling, they're stored in a corner of the attic by a vent where the temp gets down to low 50's. In the past, I stored in zip lock bags with vermiculite. But during the really cold, dry winters, the humidity would get so low that I'd sometimes lose 30% or more due to shriveling. After storing, it's time for one of those naps Frank mentioned.

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