Overwintering Dahlias and Release the Lasagna!

I recently heard that Dahlia bulbs can be overwintered and planted again in the spring.  This came as good news to me as I’ve always treated dahlias as annuals.  I love them, so every summer I buy new plants and put them in the ground.  Saving the bulbs or tubers seems fairly easy and will save money that I can spend on some other new flowers for the garden!

The red and pale yellowish flowers are the Dahlias I am going to try to save.

There are a couple of different ways that I’ve read about to save the tubers, some more complicated than others. My life is a little hectic at the moment, so I’m going to choose the least complicated method I can find.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Dig bulbs or tubers up after frost has blackened foliage. Carefully remove as much soil as you can.
  2. Cut the leaves off, leaving a stem about an inch or two long. Leaves and stems are not needed, as the plants are going to be dormant and not making any growth through the winter.
  3. You can either carefully wash the soil off the tubers or bulbs, or just let it dry and work it off by hand later.
  4. Leave bulbs or tubers exposed to air in a frost-free place for a couple of weeks. Any remaining stem should be dry before going into storage, otherwise rot could develop.
  5. Store in vermiculite or dry peat (available at garden centers) in paper bags or cardboard boxes in a cool, frost-free place at 40 to 50°F (5-10°C).
  6. Dahlia tubers are prone to drying up somewhat, and these should be stored in slightly moistened peat moss. Check them through the winter, and if they’ve shriveled, moisten the peat moss. Some authorities suggest plumping shriveled dahlia bulbs up in a bucket of water overnight. If you do this, let them dry thoroughly before you put them back into storage.
So right now I am up to step 4- the bulbs are sitting in the mud room and will probably stay there for a couple of weeks until I get the vermiculite- or until my parents arrive for Thanksgiving and in a fit of cleaning I toss them in the basement.
When I read about lasagna gardening it sounded like a neat, earth-friendly and easy way to maintain a healthy garden and keep the weeds down. From my basic understanding of it, you pull out all the old dead plants and the weeds and  cover the ground with cardboard.  Then you put lots of dry leaves on top of the cardboard, and finally a thick layer of mulch. Then in the spring the under layers will have decomposed and you can just plant directly without tilling the soil.  Sounds easy enough.  I have been saving cardboard and being surrounded by tall trees we have no shortage of leaves. What I am short of right now though, is time.  With this big dormer addition project going on, bedding down the flower garden, raking, and Ulka’s birthday present to make, not to mention staying on top of homeschool and everything else, I had to let something go.  A very good friend of mine, Patti, taught me a valuable lesson that I think of in times like this.  When she feels overwhelmed and has too much on her t0-do list, she “releases” projects- and just like that, they’re gone! I love this idea and need to do it more often. So, lasagna gardening, I release you. Maybe next year we will revisit the idea, but for now I am off the hook. Thank you Patti!
I did cut down all the dead mums today. When the mums are done I know that winter is almost here. They are beautiful fall blooming mums and they help get be through that summer-fall transition.
 I started out with a pair of pruning shears and the task was a little overwhelming, so I went to the garage/ tool and bike shed to see what I could find that might make my work easier.  This is what I found:
I don’t know what it is, but it is heavy and sharp and made quick work of all those mums!

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