Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Extending the Garden Season

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Extending the Garden Season

Article excerpt

My parents grew up during the Great Depression and instilled me with frugality (cheapness).

Every year I store the bulbs or tubers of dahlias, caladiums, cannas, begonias and sweet potato vine.

They are easy to keep for the winter and you'll be able to share all the extras with gardening friends.

Before I share the details, here's what I tell everyone about these plants. If you don't want to save them, it's OK. It's more important to simply enjoy the blooms and foliage.

I store them because I enjoy the process. It feels good to be able to reuse these bulbs and tubers. Don't deprive yourself of their beauty just because you don't want to store them.

Here's how I save the tubers and bulbs for the winter. I dig the bulb or tuber out of the ground and remove as much of the foliage as possible.

Then put the bulbs on some newspaper on a table to let them dry for a couple days.

In the case of dahlias, I find it easier to cut them apart this time of the year as opposed to spring.

It would be fine to store them as is and separate them next year before planting.

The only thing I've done differently the past two seasons is to treat them with Bonides' Bulb Dust. It's an organic fungicide that helps retard rotting. It can also be used for planting bulbs like daffodils.

Then I fill a box with a half-inch of slightly moistened perlite or vermiculite, depending on what I can find at the nursery.

The first layer of bulbs is laid on the material. Be sure they don't touch because that can cause rotting.

Then another layer of perlite is added, more bulbs and the process continues until the box is full.

Store the box of bulbs in a cool dry place that doesn't ever freeze.

Check on the bulbs once a month and remove anything that might show signs of rot.

Next spring set the bulbs out in the garden after the last frost.

Meanwhile, there are things you can do to extend the current growing season.

I got the idea for a straw bale cold frame from my friend Niki Jabbour, author of "The Year Round Vegetable Gardener." It's just four bales of straw butted together to form a square with an old window on top. …

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