Time to dig and store your dahlias! If your dahlias have been hit by a killing frost, it is time to act! I attended another great workshop at the Garden Education Center of Greenwich given through the Greenwich Dahlia Society. I love a hands on workshop and I found I still have more to learn about digging, storing and dividing dahlias!
In brief, once a dahlia has blackened due to frost, cut the stalks down to about 4 inches. Wait a day or so, to allow buds to form and then dig gently out. Loosen soil on each side and then gently lift. Shake off soil.
Some people like to wash the tubers but this is not necessary. Neat freaks may go ahead and wash! At this point, you may lie the tubers upside down on newspaper, cover with newspaper and let them cure for a week. This is the time that they will harden their skins for a long winters night. You may divide your tubers now in Fall, or you may wait until Spring. I find that it is easier to wait until Spring when the buds are pink and you can tell which are the viable tubers. The eyes or buds at this time of year are brown/black and harder to read.
During the workshop yesterday we learned so much about dividing. There were many questions and lots of misconceptions. The ladies could not get close enough or ask enough questions of our expert. He had all the answers!
You can sometimes replant your tubers without dividing and keep it going like this lady did with this three year old clump. BUT! But make no mistake, you are not going to get your best plant with the best blooms from this! Like crowding puppies in a kennel, they are not going to thrive! One tuber with a crown, a neck, and growth eyes is all you need or want. Too many tubers planted together produces a weak plant. The plant is lazy and gathers its nutrients from the tubers and does not reach down with new roots to get the fertilizer, compost and benefit from your soil.
So after a week of curing, go ahead and begin the surgery. OR place the tubers in boxes of peat moss mixed with perlite and store in a cold (not freezing) dark space, like an unheated garage that does not freeze. Wait to divide in the Spring. If you divide now, store just as you would the clumps. Carefully pack and do not let them freeze in their cold Winter home.