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.
To store your bulbs, you will need a container wide enough to fit them and deep enough to cover them. A cardboard box will work fine. The bulbs will need to be covered to prevent the air from drying them out. Vermiculite or perlite will work well as a material to cover the bulbs. Very dry peat moss will also work. You want to put a layer of the material in the bottom of the container. Place the bulbs in the box, and then cover them with roughly 2 inches of the material.
The box should then be stored in a cool and dark area that will not have temperatures that go below freezing. If the temperatures drop below freezing, the bulbs will die. Come spring, you can take your bulbs out of storage and then replant them in the ground.
Speaking of bulbs, there is still time to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs. These bulbs need to be planted in the fall if you want them to flower in the spring. This would be one of those things to do this weekend.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.
Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.