Its early November as I write this and its crazy to think we have yet to have a proper frost. This will be my 7th year of growing flowers for cut in 2023 and I have so far always had the flowers frosted by the middle of October, if not sooner. So it’s odd to be digging up cosmos and dahlias which are still in flower rather than being blackened by the frosts.
Do you dig up your dahlias or leave in situ?
If you have your plants located in loamy free draining soil and they are fairly young tubers or from cuttings, you can leave them in the ground and mulch over them heavily to protect from any really hard frosts, but if they are precious to you or the tubers have got too big which is stopping the plant from flowering well then you need to dig them up, clean them, divide or cut out any bad parts and pack them and store in a frost and rodent free environment. Mine go into polystyrene boxes, or cardboard boxes with air holes wrapped in newspaper and labelled. Don’t forget to label them. If you haven’t labelled them yet and they are still flowering now is a good time to do that as they become unrecognisable when the frosts do have them.
I will be planting approximately 3,500 bulbs in a couple of weeks. I do like to wait until the ground is colder which reduces the risk of tulip fire which is a fungal disease caused by Botrytis tulipae, which produces brown spots and twisted, withered and distorted leaves. It is so named because in severe cases plants appear as if scorched by fire. I don’t really have a massive problem with rodents/squirrels digging up the tulips, but I have always have a catering pack of hot chilli powder to hand, which I cover the bulbs in before planting. I just put a batch in a bag with a sprinkle of chilli, give them a good shake and then plant. I also shallow plant, shoulder to shoulder to maximise space as I am growing for cut and want the bulbs to come up as I pull the tulips. If you are planting in your garden for a display then plant the bulbs twice their depth.
We have sown the hardy annuals for now, sweetpeas were sown 2 weeks ago but you can still sow yours now to get a good start for spring with better root development. I am currently sprouting my Italian ranunculus and anemones in trays of damp vermilculite in the greenhouse before planting out in the polytunnel, to avoid mice eating them as it’s a favourite snack.
The remaining beds we are mulching, still splitting and moving perennials to new locations but leaving as many seed heads and ground cover where we can for winter habitat for wildlife. We can then cut this all back in the early spring.
I have also moved my new hive of bees to the cutting garden as they were split from the main hive this summer, so have not really amassed enough numbers to survive a blast of winter weather on their own. If there are plenty of them they can generate enough heat to keep themselves warm but if not huge numbers they need extra protection.