, Salem, MA


October 25, 2013

North Shore Gardener: Dig up and save bulbs after frost kills foliage

Q: Should I save the tuberous begonia I planted last spring?

A: While you are planting bulbs in the ground this month, don’t forget the tender bulbs that need to be taken out of the garden and brought inside for the winter. Tender bulbs, such as caladiums, tuberous begonias, glades, tuberoses and dahlias need to be lifted after the foliage is killed by the early frost if they are going to be saved for next year. Do not let the bulbs freeze! Air dry the bulbs thoroughly, remove the dead foliage and pack the bulbs away in a frost-free, airy cellar, garage or closet. Bulbs can also be kept in mesh bags or in dry peat moss or vermiculite. Check them over during the winter to be sure there is no rot. Check also for rodent damage if there are mice in the house.

Why bother to save tender bulbs from year to year? Why not just replace them?

Besides the cost saved by not replacing them, many bulbs grow larger and better with each season and will produce superior plants for you in the coming season. It’s worth the time, and it’s not much work to store them. But, please, do it before the foliage is completely gone and you can’t even locate or identify a treasured bulb.

Q: We’re planning to do a new vegetable garden next spring, and the space is really overrun with weeds. I’m trying to kill weeds using black plastic and, in my opinion, the cloth should be left over the area for probably three to four weeks, but my husband is saying two weeks is fine. We’re going through all this, and I want to do it right. Any opinion on the amount of time we should leave it on there?

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