Overwintering tubers by burying them below frost line in bags

HighlanderNorthJune 8, 2013

The problem with overwintering dahlia tubers is that it's not so easy to find a place to store them where temperatures will reliably stay between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit all fall and winter long(from November through April around here). What area around the typical home can maintain temperatures in that range consistently? I can't find one, although I did store some in the crisper of our refrigerator after slightly raising the temp in the frig, but that was not only frowned upon by the other users of the frig, but it also meant I was drinking lukewarm milk for 5 months!

The year before I stored them in my bedrooms side entry attic(it's an A frame house) and that did kinda work, but only because we had a warmer than average winter, and I was forced to monitor the temp in there literally every day, usually both day and night, and I had to crack the door leading into there just to raise the temps slightly during cooler nights so they didn't get too cold.

Obviously neither of the above options are good ones, but they seemed the only options. Then I realized that all I had to do was take my separated and cleaned tubers at seasons end, separate them by variety into separate plastic bags with a little slightly damp soil in each bag, then place all the bags into a large, heavy duty trash bags, and bury them in a hole about 20" deep and 24" wide, then backfill the hole with loose soil and cover the area with 6" of leaves which were held in place by some branches. The spot I chose was in a heavily wooded area which was slightly protected from excessive rain or snow.

So I did that for the first time last winter, and although we had an average winter with many nights below freezing, all the tubers were in good shape when I dug them up in April. There were no rotten, slimy tubers, and they sprouted normally, although they were small because I was forced to grow them in 5-6 gallon pots all last season.

So, burying them turned out to be a no fuss solution, and I didn't even have to check on them once....,

Does anyone else do this, and if not, where do you store your tubers?

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The classic area to store dahlia tubers is in the unheated garage but next to the wall of the heated house. Even in rather severe climates the tubers stay above freezing if enough insulation is used. Old blankets, painting tarps are some items that can cover them. Picnic coolers in that location work well too. A remote thermometer can be placed in the storage area and it will help you monitor temperatures. If it is approaching 32, one can move the tubers inside the house for the duration of the cold snap. Tubers will not sprout inside the house unless they are warm for several weeks and will return to dormancy easily when returned to the cooler area.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 10:35AM
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steve22802(7a VA)

I've mostly stored my tubers in my unheated unfinished basement which stays around 55 through the winter. That works pretty good but is warmer than ideal. I got tired of hauling them downstairs so I left some in my unheated garage against the north wall of the house and that worked even better so I'll probably just do that in the future with the tubers I don't leave in the ground. Another idea would be to use a vegetable clamp like farmers use for potatoes and other root crops. To make a clamp you just make a big mound with all your potatoes (or dahlias) and then cover it with soil or other insulating material (leaves, woodchips, mulch, etc.) to whatever depth you need to prevent freezing. I would also cover it with clear plastic to keep dahlias extra dry.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 12:58PM
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