This is the time of year when there are some awful jobs to do and one of them is to dig out dahlias which have been burned by the frosts.
Quite a few areas have not had a frost yet, but here at Waterlooville we had a nasty one a week ago.
Although I was hoping the frost had not killed the dahlias, it has. The stems, leaves and flowers are all brown.
The frost damage brought back memories of my childhood.
My dad grew lots of dahlias and he always told me they would be killed off by frosts before bonfire night. He was right.
We always allowed the stems to dry and then used them on a bonfire to lighten the night sky in our garden. Wonderful memories. I had a lovely mum and dad.
Some varieties of dahlias seem to be hardier than others.
To explain, if you left dahlias in the ground last winter and they grew again last spring, these seem to be hardy.
But if you bought new varieties, they will have produced lovely tubers (swollen roots), but if left in the ground they may be frozen during the winter and won’t grow again next year.
But we can save them.
Cut down the stems to just four inches above the soil.
Cut up the old stems into short pieces and put them on the compost heap.
Dig out the tubers and wash off all the soil. Do this on a nice day.
Tie a label to the stem. If you can’t remember the name, put the height and colour on the label.
Leave the tubers in the sun for a day then put them into peat or the compost from a growing bag used for tomatoes.
Cover the tubers with two inches of compost.
If there are any signs of rings of brown, downy mildew on the stems, puff on some sulphur powder to stop the fungus spreading.
The tubers are best kept in deep trays – the type used for mushrooms.
These can often be found at the market – just ask the bloke if you can have some.
Keep the tubers in a frost-free place all winter and remember to keep the peat dry.
At the end of February, sprinkle water on to the peat and as long as the weather is warm, new shoots will appear.
Great, we are off to another wonderful summer and dahlias are one of the best flowers for displays from early July right up until the autumn frosts.
They were really good this summer and they provide ground cover all through summer.
Let’s hope they will be just as good as ever in the summer of 2016.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Even if you don’t have a garden, narcissus bulbs can be planted in pots right now.
Don’t think about forcing them. Instead pot them five in a 5in diameter pot.
Moisten the compost and leave them outside in the open.
They will flower early spring next year.