Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dahlias: To Store or Not to Store?

With the first frosts of this Winter making themselves known the question of whether or not to lift tender perennials, especially those that are tuberous, raises its head and this annual dilemma looms large at the forefront of my mind.

In many areas of the country lifting is not so much of an option as it is an essential part of garden maintenance.  In my part of the world, however, you could probably get away with a deep mulch of organic matter and a large dollop of hope.  Last winter, of course, was the exception to this otherwise carefree approach and the lingering seed of doubt that was sown begs the question - to store or not to store?
If you follow my blog you will have read about my pound shop cutting garden.  The Dahlias were definitely the stars of the show and as such I want to make sure that I can repeat this next year, despite their somewhat low cost.  Lifting and storing the tubers will be nothing more than a 10-20 minute job but the task itself will allow me to save what I currently have and increase my stock next year if I choose to take cuttings.

To lift your Dahlias, simply wait for the first frosts to blacken the leaves, cut down all top growth to around 15cm (6 inches) and lift the tubers carefully with a fork.  The cut foliage can then be added to the compost bin.  Remove all loose soil and fine roots from the tubers and place them upside down, with the stems facing downwards, in a wooden box or plastic tray (the kind you find at fruit and vegetable markets).  Leave the tubers to dry for around 3 weeks in a frost free place and then place the tubers the right way up and cover them with vermiculite, coir or dry compost.  Store the tubers in a cool space, free of frost, and make regular checks for rot.  It’s as simple as that.  When Spring returns, simply place the tubers in trays of good compost, in a sunny position and give them some water that will initiate the tubers to sprout.
This is pretty much what I’ll be doing this weekend along with planting the majority of my Alliums and possibly making pickled red cabbage ready for giving as gifts at Christmas.

In other news, the chickens are still producing one measly egg a day, despite a recent worming and improved diet, I have taken delivery of next years seeds from the fantastic Seed Parade, and I have been nominated in the Horticultural Channel TV Awards 2011 under the category of the best gardening/allotment blog of 2011.  Thank you to those of you who nominated me and if you wish to vote for me you can do so here.  Good luck to everyone else who’s been nominated in my category and all the others too.


  1. Ryan, wonderful blog this morning! I have issues over wintering dahlias but it is a necessity here in my area. I will follow your advice and see how they store. A note on the chickens....they need a full 12-14 hrs of daylight to keep them laying. I solve this problem in the winter months by putting a white light bulb in the coop on a timer. It comes on at about 4am and turns off at 8am. That is the time that the sunlight is generally shining thru their windows. Hope that helps you out with egg production!!

  2. I shant be lifting my dahlias this year as they have been rubbish, and I shant be buying from that supplier again. Instead I am going to let them get on with it and see what happens and grow some new ones from seed.

    In the past I have lifted ones I was particularly fond of but last winter when it was very very cold the mice moved into the garage and ate the tubers!! Hopefully the arrival of our cat will stop that happening again

  3. Thank you Missel! Let me know how you get on with your Dahlias.

    Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately I don't have an electricity supply where I keep the girls but I'll keep that in mind. Is it true that chickens have a finite amount of eggs they can lay anyway?

  4. Hi Helen,

    Such a shame about your Dahlias. Maybe you should try the poundshop too? I know you love your seeds so can't wait to see what you come up with. Maybe we should do a plant swop?!


  5. I wish I'd lifted mine last year. I only had two varieties (first time growing) but lost them both through the harsh snowy winter. It didn't even occur to me that I'd need to protect them having been inspired by amazing show year after year on a 94 year olds plot. His did come up again so perhaps being well established tubers made a difference?

  6. Brilliant, I love informative posts, and this was something I was about to tackle, as Zone 4 is a nasty, nasty place. Thanks a bunch for the tips!

  7. My chickens (15 girls and 6 boys) are only producing 3 or 4 eggs a day.... not enough to sell. Just fed them dinosaur birthday cake [not bake 'specially I may add!]

    I really want dahlias in the garden next yr and have sown 2 trays in propogators indoors. Their tiny green heads are just emerging.

    I dream I'm Sarah Raven..... I'm soooo not! sob!


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