Saturday, November 3, 2012


You may not be quite done with the shovel even though it's November. 

Many years, we've already had freezing temperatures on a regular basis; often sleet and snow.  This year the growing season has been slow to kill or stop the growing process.  This makes for some really pretty late season displays and it also makes for some late season digging.

The canna, daliaha, elephant ear and gladiola bulbs are finally ready for digging and storing.  They must be nipped by cold weather for the foliage to turn brown and the intake of nutrients stopped.  Sometimes I get the digging done and other years I simply can't make myself go out in nasty weather.  It's the reason I don't buy expensive bulbs or tubers of the above.  Once the ground freezes, you've pretty much sealed the fate and it's too late to dwell on what might have been.

Should you want to dig this gray but decent November Saturday, here's a few hints:

If the area is full of plants, it's best to use a garden fork so you won't cut into any bulbs.  (I know some are called tubers but for the ease of writing I'm going to call them all bulbs.)  A fork keeps more soil in the ground because it breaks up when digging.

Once you have all the bulbs out of the ground, gently knock or push off most of the soil.  It's better to leave some than to damage the bulb by pulling off soil.  With a sharp pair of clippers, cut off the foliage about one inch above the bulb.  Put the foliage on the recycle pile.

Never wash the bulbs unless you're using a liquid antibacterial nursery solution for this specific purpose.  Don't dig them when the ground is wet (if possible.)  Throw away any dried, rotted or damaged bulbs. 

Now, you have choices:

  1. You can simply put the bulbs on layers of newspapers in a basement or garage that doesn't freeze. Do not layer.  Do not put in sunlight 
  2. You can wash in an anti bacterial/fungus solution made for this purpose.  Lay to dry.
  3. You can layer between newspaper in a large trash container. 
  4. You can put in mesh (such as onions come in) bags and hang from the ceiling. 

If you have the room, I've had the most success with #1.  My basement has the old fashioned canning ledges that are perfect for this.  Inexpensive plastic shelving would work.  Check occasionally during the winter and spritz with water if they are drying out (mostly the smaller ones).  Toss any that have started to get mold or rot.  Lay another layer of newspaper over them if you have cats that might want to eat or play with them.  (Obviously, don't do this if your cats are paper trained instead of litter trained.)  Eeeeoooowwww. 

One fun thing about digging up bulbs is finding all the newly formed babies (bulbs.)  Canna are especially prolific meaning unless you have a "bad year", you will always have an ever growing number for next year's garden or to give away. 

My current batch came in a couple of zip lock baggies from a Salvation Army store.  Aw, the joy of cheap!


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