In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2011
Regional Report

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Plastic produce storage bags make it easy to store dahlia tubers effectively.

Easy Storage for Dahlia Tubers

Dahlias have been one of my favorite summer flowering bulbs since childhood. This year was a fantastic year for them at the old farmstead where I spent my summers. As I reflect on how I grew my dahlias this past year, there is only one thing I would change -- grow the in an area where they can be viewed from the living room window.

I harvested the tuberous roots in late November while the ground was still workable, but before it started to freeze. Luckily, I have access to the old root cellar for storing them over the winter. It is important to keep them in a frost-free place, so a cool basement or crawl space will work, too.

Many gardeners make the mistake of digging the tubers and cutting them back too hard. I make sure that I leave at least four to six inches of the stem attached to the tuberous roots. Then, with a heavy-duty spading fork, I lifted the tubers out of the soil.

Once out of the ground, gently shake or loosen surplus soil from the tubers. I put mine in a plastic bucket for a week or so to allow them to cure or condition them before putting them away. You can store the tubers in boxes or trays of sawdust, dry sand, or peat moss.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to store tubers is in plastic produce bags. You do not have to add any packing material, which saves time and effort. These bags keep the tubers from severe dehydration.

Just be sure to find a frost-free area for storage, but one where it won't get too warm. Temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees F are generally ideal to keep the tubers dormant and prevent them from drying and shriveling up.

Mark the calendar once a month to check your dahlia tubers in storage. In this way you can make sure they are not rotting or shriveling. If you do find tubers that are going bad, dispose of them or cut off diseased parts if only a small portion of the tuber is affected. Tubers that are beginning to dry and shrivel can be soaked in a bucket of warm water for an hour or so to plump them up. Be sure to allow them to dry thoroughly before returning them to storage.

Dahlias are truly one of the most dramatic of summer flowering bulbs. Take the extra effort to harvest and store them over the winter. It will protect your investment for years to come.

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