Fall has really just arrived. It is my second favorite season, which comes just before the worst – Winter. I do not really want to think about winter quite yet, but it will arrive soon for those in Northern areas. I did speak with a gardener in Colorado today who just received a forecast of snow within the week! So, it seems I am not too early to talk about this for some.
So when do you prepare for winter’s return? I always recommend waiting for the first light frost that makes your tender flowers wilt or flop before beginning cleaning up your beds and store any tender bulbs (bulbs which are not hardy in your zone). If it will better fit in to your schedule, feel free to perform these tasks earlier. I personally just prefer to enjoy my plants as long as possible before I make my beds look bare.
When light frost begins appearing, it is time to pull up your annuals, cut back all perennials to 3-4″ above the ground, and lift your tender bulbs for storing. This is especially important for those in US Hardiness Zones 2-7. If you are in one of these colder zones, you may also want to cover perennials with some mulch. Snow works as an insulator, but with freezing and thawing and little or no snow cover, your perennial roots can be destroyed. Bulbs that are hardy in your zone are deeper in the ground and do not need mulching.
For your quick reference, the most common tender rhizomes, tubers, corms and bulbs are: Dahlias, Cannas, Calla Lilies, Elephant ears, Begonias, Gladiolus, and Caladiums. These bulbs are only hardy in zones 8-10 or 9-10.
You could simply purchase new bulbs next year and allow the tender ones to die, but I like to be as frugal as possible. Storing tender bulbs is very simple and takes just a little effort.
- Start by trimming foliage to ground level
- Carefully dig around bulb and lift
- Shake and gently wipe off as much dirt as possible (do not rinse)
- Let dry for 1-2 weeks in a cool, dry area that will not freeze
- If storing more than one type of bulb, don’t forget to sort and label
- Once dried, shake off and remove remaining dirt
- Find a container to store them in such as a cardboard box, paper bag, basket, etc
- Use peat moss, wood shavings or vermiculite to keep bulbs separated and well hydrated
- Keep your stored bulbs in a dry, cool (45° to 55°), dark and ventilated area until spring
Now that you have taken care of your garden – go relax. Maybe you can enjoy an autumn bonfire like me!