This is the time of year when there are some awful jobs to do and one is digging out dahlias burned by frosts.
We have all experienced the first frosts of the season and although I was hoping, here at Waterlooville, they had not killed the dahlias, they have. The stems, leaves and flowers are all brown.
Some varieties of dahlia 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. However, don’t despair – we can save them.
Cut the stems down to just four inches above the soil level. Cut up the old stems into short pieces and compost them.
Dig out the tubers and wash off all the soil. Do this on a nice day. Now tie a label to the stem. If you don’t remember the name, put the height and colour on the label.
Leave the tubers in the sun for a day and 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 any signs of rings of brown, downy mildew on the stems, puff on some sulphur powder. This will stop the fungus spreading.
It is a good idea to keep the tubers upside down for a few days just in case there is sap in the stems you cut down.
The tubers are best kept in deep trays. There are some used for gathering mushrooms and these can often be found at the market – just ask the stallholder if you can have some.
Keep the tubers in a frost-free place all winter and 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. Marvellous, we are off to another great summer and dahlias are one of the best flowers for displays from early July right up until the autumn frosts.
As you know I often write about dahlias and am very pleased they have regained their popularity.
I enjoyed seeing so many of you growing them when I judged The News Bloomin’ Marvellous competition earlier this year.
Why not plan to enter your garden next year?
It’s always great to meet you.
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP
Keep an eye out for rats and mice especially if you store potatoes, onions and root crops in an allotment shed.
The best plan is to keep rat bait in a nailed-down plastic saucer and keep 20 pellets in that saucer.
When the bait is gone, you have vermin; when it remains, you know you haven’t.