Ask the Gardener: Digging Up & Storing Bulbs


With bulbs for spring blooms arriving in the nursery, we're currently focused on planning and planting next year's bulb garden. However, fall is also an important time to care for your existing bulbs by digging them up and preparing them for winter storage. Our garden expert Kerry Ann says, "Mid to late fall is the perfect time to dig up bulbs and tubers like dahlias, elephant ears and gladiolas, because it's when those plants are naturally slowing down. Here are some tips for removing those bulbs from the garden and storing them over the winter, so you can replant and enjoy them again next year."

Timing: Bulbs should be "lifted" from the garden before a hard freeze, as freezing will kill the stem leading into the bulb or tuber, causing rot over the winter. Remove the bulbs from the soil after a prolonged dry period; if your garden receives irrigation, stop watering before it's time to lift your bulbs.

Digging: Carefully remove your bulbs from the soil and brush away any dirt with a soft brush -- do not wash them or scrub with a hard-bristled brush. Cut the stems to around 3" beyond the bulb. If a tuber is cut or otherwise damaged during digging, allow it to dry and form a scab over the cut end before you store it.

Drying: Let all bulbs and tubers dry for a few days before storing, allowing any excess moisture to evaporate.

Storage: Once your bulbs are dry, place them into slightly moistened peat moss or clean, fresh sawdust inside ventilated cans or buckets. Store the buckets in a cool, dry location (around 45-55°F is ideal) until spring. Check on your bulbs every few weeks and discard any that are rotting, as this can cause all the bulbs to spoil. In spring, your bulbs will be ready to plant again. 

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