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Digging Up And Curing Flower Bulbs For Winter

flower bulbs on a table
Time to dig up your flower bulbs and preserve them for next spring!

With the sudden freeze that happened recently, it's time to dig up and protect precious sub-tropical bulbs such as canna lilies, dahlias and gladiolus.

We'll learn about cutting back the plants, digging up the tubers, curing them and storing them for winter. It's easy to do, we just have to remember!

How to dig up bulbs and tubers:

If you have dahlias, canna lilies and other flowering bulbs, now is the time to go out and cut back the plants to the ground.

Use a shovel to dig up the whole clump of tubers. Then let them sit out in the sun and dry out for a bit to toughen up.

How to cure bulbs and tubers for winter:

Stash the dug-up clump of tubers or bulbs in a cool place, like your garage for a couple of weeks. From there, separate the bulbs and tubers from the clump and put them into bags. (Remember to label them!)

Store them in five-gallon buckets or bark mulch that is slightly wet. A box with slightly moistened peat moss can also work, or a plastic bag with holes in it.

Check on the bulbs periodically over the winter. If they look too dry or shriveled, mist them with water. If they look like they are too moist or rotting, pull them out and let them air-dry for a bit.

By spring, remove the bulbs and tubers from their winter nest, separate them and off you go, ready to plant again!

Q: I’m looking for advice on how to put my asparagus to bed for the winter. My wife and I have a raised bed that is now two years old. I understand that I need compost and covering, but when should I cut the old, now ferned-out shoots, and to what level or height? Secondly, if I cut them now, should I lay them on the bed as cover or compost them or something else? — Chris, in Rutland

Once asparagus turns yellow, you can cut the plant back at any time. Cut the foliage down to the ground and remove the foliage or ferns. Instead of implementing the "chop and drop method," you'll want to remove the foliage from your garden, as asparagus beetles might overwinter.

So take out the foliage and ferns and compost them away from your asparagus patch. In spring, put some fertilizer or compost down on the bed before the asparagus spears come up, and you should be good to go for the season.

Q: Is it wise to dig up vegetable plants that have not yet matured and bring them in and see if they continue to grow inside? I have tomato plants and pepper plants that are still producing, and squash plants who still have flowers on them. — Dianne, in St. Albans

The tomato plants won't last long so harvest any fruits, then get rid of the plants as they don't overwinter indoors well.

The peppers can make it through the winter with lots of light or even under a grow light. Watch them for mealy bugs and aphids that might hitchhike indoors, though! Quarantine the pepper and tomato plants, and keep them away from your houseplants for a bit to ensure you won't have critter cross-over.

Then with lots of light and care, hopefully, you can put the plants back outdoors in the spring.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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