How To Care Of The Dahlia Tubers

Although winter weather does not permit gardening outdoors in December, the Northern gardener does have a few opportunities to actively practice his hobby. For example, it is during this month (December) that he can clean and store the tender summer flowering bulbs and tubers until they can be used again for the garden next year.

The dahlias that were dug after hard frosts ended their season’s growth need a little attention now. Tubers that have a great deal of soil clinging to them because they were dug when the ground was very moist or because they were growing in a very heavy soil which tends to stick to the roots, should be cleaned by gently rubbing away the dried earth or washing it off.

Some dahlia growers object greatly to the washing method, but others practice it regularly. If they are cleaned with water they should he allowed to dry off before packing them for the winter.

For years, vermiculite has become a favored packing material for dahlia tubers and the bulbs, roots and tubers of other plant materials that have to be dug and stored for the winter. Dahlia tubers must be handled with great care so that the individual tubers do not break off at the main stalk without possessing a part of the latter and the growth “eyes” that will produce a new plant next year.

Contrary to recommendations often made, the tubers do not have to be stored upside down. There really is no advantage to this but there is a possibility of injury in handling. Storage temperature is very important; it should be a reasonably steady 40 to 50 degrees. Deep wooden boxes or bins make good storage containers and sand, sawdust, sandy soil, horticultural peat (processed peat), pulverized peat from a local source (and of course the previously mentioned vermiculite) are good material in which to bury the tubers for the winter.

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