On Friday night, a good frost blasted the succulent foliage and melted the crayon-bright colors of the blooms. So, it was time to intensify my somewhat wary relationship with the dahlias.
On Sunday, I used a garden fork to raise the lumps of tubers. What knots of incestuous plant life!
A rinse with the garden hose took care of most of the dirt covering the clumps. Everything that I'd read focussed attention on the dahlias' eyes: the plants should be lifted as the eyes are swelling (quite the x-ray vision trick for the novice dahlia gardener, as the eyes are underground), each viable cutting has to have a least one, and the plant stems must be trimmed off as close as possible to them.
In order to kill any clinging bacteria, I soaked the trimmed tubers in a mixture of one gallon of water and a third of a cup of bleach for 15-30 minutes. The darker tubers in the bowl will likely not bloom again. These "mother roots" were severed from their other family members and tossed into the trash. Tubers that I'd accidently skewered during digging or broken while handling were also discarded. No pity here.
Here's the final cull of pink and yellow tubers laid out to dry.
After drying the tubers for two days under a desk in my study, I packed them in bags of peat moss. They felt slightly spongy. Hope that's not the beginning of a rotten end! They are spending the winter in the attic where temperatures will hopefully hover at 32-50 degrees. Rather frighteningly, I read somewhere that dahlia growers lose about 10% of their over-wintering tubers.
But my father-in-law says to keep whatever I want! That's assuming that there are survivors come spring.