Monty Don describes how to care for dahlias on Gardeners’ World
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Gardeners’ World lead host, Monty Don, 67, appeared on a winter edition of BBC Two’s gardening series. On the show, Monty shared how to lift and protect dahlias before the winter weather sets in. He said: “We’re at that point in the year when we really have to think about the plants that need protection from the worst of winter weather.
“And we’ve learnt over the years that dahlias really don’t cope at all well if left outside in this garden, so we lift them.
“I’ve got something here just to show you the way that we store out dahlias and it works well.
“And if you live somewhere where you have very free-draining soil, then you should be fine to leave them in the ground.
“But otherwise, lift them, and this is what we do.
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“First of all, cut them back and you can see I’ve taken off the top growth, and there’s no need to do that until they get blackened by the first frost.
“In fact, it’s quite a good idea because the tubers will go on growing for as long as there is green growth above them. I’m gong to put these under a tap.”
Monty proceeded to rinse the roots of the dahlias under his outside tap.
The gardening expert assured rinsing them is not “cosmetic” and that gardeners should “try not to scrub them”.
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He said the reason the dahlias need rinsing is to check what sort of state they’re in.
Gardeners need to turn the dahlia roots upside down and feel them to check what condition they’re in.
The roots of the plant should be firm, not soft or squidgy. A squidgy root needs to be cut off and removed.
Monty warned: “Don’t store anything that is badly damaged, is soft [or] if you can see any kind of fungus.”
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Washing the roots also helps to remove any pests like slugs or snails which are likely to nibble the plant over winter.
Next, Monty turned the roots upside down and planned to leave them overnight in a crate.
The reason gardeners need to do this is to drain any moisture out of the stems.
The moisture isn’t just from washing the plant but comes from the stem itself.
Once the plants have been drained off, they’re ready to be stored for the winter.
To store them properly, they need to be packed into the crate root first with the stems facing upwards.
The crate has a sheet of newspaper at the bottom and scrunched-up newspaper is placed around the dahlias to protect them from the cold and to stop them from drying out.
Ideally, different varieties of dahlia need to be kept separate. Labelling them will help you determine which variety is which.
The crate should then be put into a cool, dark place without any exposure to frost.
The plants will be happiest if kept between five degrees and 10C all winter.
The plants don’t need to grow but they do need to be protected from frost and kept in the dark to keep them dormant.
Gardeners’ World is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
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