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What you need:
  • Digging fork or spade
  • Pruning shears
  • Wooden crate or plastic tub
  • Peat moss or sand
  • Fungicide dust
If you live where winter temperatures fall below 10 degrees F or in areas of high precipitation, lift your dahlias in fall and store them indoors for the winter. Wait until frost blackens the leaves. Start by cutting off the stems a few inches above the ground.
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Next, dig the fleshy roots (called tubers) with a fork or a spade. Dig carefully to avoid injuring the tubers.
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Wash the soil off the tubers in a sink or with a garden hose. Any that are damaged should be discarded. Damaged tubers can rot during storage.
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Space the tubers on cardboard or newspaper in a cool, dark area such as a garage or basement. Allow them to dry for 24-36 hours. Remove any remaining stem fragments. Store tubers whole and divide them in spring before planting. If you need to divide them now, separate each tuber with a sharp knife, making sure that each section has an "eye" and a stalk. Dust each cut with fungicide dust.
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Place the tubers in a single layer in a wooden crate, plastic tub, or 5-gallon bucket, making sure none touches another. Cover them with lightly moistened peat moss or sand. If you are overwintering tubers of more than one variety, label each. Store them at 40-50 degrees F. An unheated basement is ideal.
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Check the tubers several times during the winter. Throw out tubers that are soft and rotten. If the tubers appear to be drying out, lightly sprinkle the peat moss or sand with water. Set the tubers back outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in spring. Plant with the eyes (buds), which are found at the base of the previous year's stalks, facing up. The top of the tubers should be 4" deep. If you live in a cold climate, you can get a jump on spring by starting the tubers in pots or flats 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your area.