BRIAN KIDD: Planted in honour of the grandchildren
At this time of year I get a bit fed up with the weather. I particularly hate the wind, but I did venture into the garden to dig up the new dahlias we bought earlier in 2016.
They have been glorious for more than four months, but a couple of weeks ago Jack Frost nipped the foliage and the next day the gorgeous blooms were brown and the foliage completely black.
It seems such a shame because the dahlias brought the garden back to life during the autumn.
Unfortunately all the tubers have to be dug up and stored during the winter. What a horrid job, all that mud and rotting foliage. Still, we have to get on with it...
First of all, cut the stems down to about four inches. Put the stems into the compost heap after cutting them into small chunks.
The next job is to wash off the tubers (thick roots) with an old washing-up brush and water to remove all the old soil.
Now leave the tubers upside down for a few days to allow the moisture to leave the stems.
We now have to store them over the winter.
We need a place which is free from frost and where the temperature will remain above freezing all winter.
The tubers are best planted in boxes of dry peat or in the contents of the growing bags used for tomatoes. We use frail wooden boxes often found at the market.
During the winter, the tubers will remain in dry peat to keep them dormant and frost-free, but in early March, shoots will appear on the tops of the tubers. This is the time to take cuttings to get more plants.
Dahlia cuttings are easy to root in April. Simply cut off shoots three inches long with a little slice of the old tuber. Insert the cutting into sandy compost in a plant propagator and they will root in about three weeks.
You might not want to dig your dahlia tubers out of the ground. I understand this and suggest leaving them in the ground if they are a few years old because as they get older they become more hardy.
The tubers contain a kind of starch called inulin and inulin does not freeze, so fingers crossed the oldies will survive the winter.
We have decided to plant tulips and wallflowers called Golden Bedder where dahlias were growing and chose tulips named Red Riding Hood – deep red with dark variegated foliage.
We’ve planted them because Rebecca loved that story when she was little. David gets Pinocchio. In case you’re wondering, they are our grandchildren.
Another reason for growing these varieties is because they are only about a foot high and have exceptionally strong stems, great for countering the wind.
To bring you up to date, I dug more than 500 Golden Bedder wallflower plants from the allotment and despite regular hoeing, which I stopped four weeks ago, the plants were smothered with chickweed.
Thought I would mention this as you are not on your own when it comes to weeds!
Have a great week.
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP
If your borders look dull, cut off sprays of evergreen shrubs and poke them into the ground. This will look good for several weeks.