Lifting Dahlia Plant

Lifting Dahlia Plant
by John Tucker

A few growers prefer to wash all soil away from the tubers at this stage to ensure that there are no slug eggs or other soil pests left in close contact. There seems little point in this, for the tubers are more difficult to dry in wet damp weather, and they will tend to shrivel more quickly in store. Provided the weather is suitable it is best partially to dry the tubers out of doors for at least a few days, preferably upside down and in such a manner that the stumps of the stems are not in contact with the soil.

I prefer to cut down almost to ground level as the stem is usually solid at this point, if cut through at the lowest joint, rather than between joints. If any are hollow, then it is good practice to cover the cut end with a tin foil milk-bottle top or, if too large for this, with silver paper or waxed paper to prevent water entering.

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Large mesh chicken wire can be used for this purpose by threading long cane through the mesh at the outside edges, with shorter cane threaded across to keep the wire taut. A supply of sacks or other protective material should be kept near by, ready to put over should frost seem imminent.

It is best to remove all loose soil from around the tubers immediately after lifting, except in the case of plants which have made only thin, fragile tubers. These are best left with much of the soil intact as this will materially help in reducing moisture loss. This also applies to certain varieties which tend to make bulbous tubers with a thin neck at the point of attachment to the crown; if the soil is removed the weight of the unsupported tuber will probably fracture the thin neck.

Though it is difficult to prove that these theories are right it certainly does no harm in dry weather. If the tubers are left in the ground, the cut down haulm should be heaped over the stump to act as a frost guard.

Should the weather be wet, there seems no advantage in leaving the tubers in the ground. It will be much more likely to he harmful as the stumps will be particularly vulnerable to soil borne bacterial or fungoid attack in wet, cold soil. It is much better to lift immediately after cutting down. The tubers will have already plumped up, and will be in good condition for lifting.

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