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October 23, 2013

Tim's Tips: Time to store your tender bulbs

For many of you, this week holds the potential for our first frost of the fall. Hopefully, by now, you have brought the houseplants back into the house. If not, any frost will kill the plants. Remember that you should treat the plants for insects before you bring them indoors. If you haven’t brought the houseplants back in the house, it’s past time to do so.

There are potentially other plants that you need to take care of after we have a frost. These plants would be the tender bulbs. These bulbs are usually summer flowering bulbs. This would include begonias, dahlias and gladiolus. If the bulb freezes in the ground, it will die.

Generally, a frost will kill the leafy part of the bulb but won’t damage the bulb. Once the frost hits the foliage, you should dig up the bulb and remove it from the ground. Using a garden hose, you should wash off all of the soil that surrounds the bulb. Once the soil has been thoroughly removed, you need to allow the bulb to dry off for a few days in an area that won’t freeze. If the bulb is left outside in an unprotected area, the next frost could kill the bulb. Once the bulb has had a chance to dry, you can cut off the foliage.

In some cases, the foliage will fall off the bulb once the bulb has had a chance to dry. At this point, you should closely examine the bulbs for any sign of damage. If you find any soft sections of tuber on the dahlias, you can cut off that section. On the glads or begonias, it is better to throw out any badly damaged bulbs.

The reason for checking the bulbs for damage is because these damaged bulbs will rot in storage, and that rot can spread to the other bulbs. Once you have determined that the bulbs have dried and that there is no damage to them, the bulbs are ready to be stored for the winter.

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