Ready or not ( Not!), it is time for me to start thinking about digging up all of my dahlia tubers - all 198 of them. Every year my goal is to have them dug, divided and put away before Thanksgiving weekend. That way I can just eat and generally be lazy that whole extended weekend with no guilt involved. This year though, it is unlikely that I will get to meet that goal. To begin with, we haven't had a hard, killing frost yet. The closest that we have gotten was last Wednesday morning. The thermometer read 34 degrees when I left for work. The grass was covered in white frost but all the plants survived just fine. Because we haven't had a killing frost to this point, I haven't been very motivated to start digging dahlias. While the main bloom show has been over for a week or two, I still have some pretty blooms here and there.
My orchid form dahlias are still going strong. Both "Tahoma Hope" & "Golden Star" are covered in top quality blooms.
Even sweet "Chilsons Pride" is going strong despite all of the rain and cooler temperatures.
But, if I have any hope of getting them all out by Thanksgiving, I needed to start working on them this weekend - frost or no frost. Because I haven't had a hard frost yet, I am starting out a bit differently this Fall. When the dahlia foliage is killed by a frost, it in turn signals to the tubers that the growing year is over. The tubers begin to harden off and cure underground and the eyes on the tubers begin to swell. Without a frost this year, I didn't want to start digging my tubers without giving them some time to begin "shutting down" for the year. So today I cut off all of the plants in my first two rows. I left about 4-6 inches of stalk above the ground and covered the stalks with tin foil. Since dahlia stalks are hollow, I didn't want them to be left unprotected and exposed to the elements. A hard rain or two this week would fill the exposed stalks with water and possible lead to crown rot of the tubers. Now I will let the tuber clumps rest in the ground for a week. Next Saturday I can safely dig these two rows and I will cut down some new rows to dig the following week.