Digging up Dahlias Part I

I started growing dahlias by accident. A friend of mine at the community garden was giving away these strange tubers and I am incapable of passing up free plants. In cold climates like Massachusetts, dahlias are dug up each fall and stored in a dark, cool (but not frozen) place. Dahlia enthusiasts are very meticulous about methods and varieties. I am still figuring things out.

I don't know the cultivar names of my dahlias, so for now I am calling them "pink pompom", "white", "red", "white-lavender", and "pink-yellow". My big goal for this season is to keep the tubers labelled.

I waited until the first frost killed the foliage and flowers to dig up the tubers. Dig early if you are expecting a hard freeze that might damage the tubers. A pitchfork works better than a shovel for lifting clumps of tubers out of the soil. Clumps can get to be about basketball sized. Try to avoid slicing or breaking the clump as you pull it out of the ground. Keep them labelled.

In the first phase of preparing the tubers for storage I trimmed off most of the flower stalks, knocked off the dirt, and cut out obviously damaged tubers. Use a knife with a sharp, clean blade. I have circled the issues I look for in the first round of trimming; broken necks, critter damage, and rot. Most healthy tubers with feel firm like potatoes. Rotten or frost damaged tubers will be squishy and can get gross and moldy in storage.

Last year I put clumps of tubers at this stage in storage and things turned out pretty well. This year I am doing more trimming - to be chronicled in Part 2.