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The Secret to Digging Dahlias Before Frost

Here’s a little secret to a slice of our sanity here at Fruition:

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Rather than waiting for frost, some years we usher our dahlias into premature dormancy.

Here’s the thing: it’s ideal to harvest and store dahlia tubers that have begun their enzymatic journey to dormancy, so they’re not shocked by the transition of summer growth to winter storage. 

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Two weeks after your first frost is the ideal time to harvest them, since they’re well into dormancy & haven’t yet been harmed by the cold. 

Here in the Finger Lakes, Zone 5, it’s often cold and blustery if not snowing in earnest two weeks after frost…

…and if you’re harvesting less than perhaps 20 dahlias, you can still likely find a window of a few hours conducive to digging and wet spray two weeks after frost…

…and if you happen to be harvesting thousands of dahlia, as we do, suddenly you need days if not a week to lift, wash, divide & tuck them all in bins for the cellar…

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….which is a recipe for hypothermic dystopia, indeed!

We love long falls for a thousand thousand reasons (and dahlias do, too!) so it’s always a humbling call to make to finally when we head to the dahlia field, in full glorious bloom, with giant pruners to lop back their lovely stems to 1-foot above the ground, in the bright sun, then singing them over with our flame weeder (we call it ‘fire wind’!) to solidify their commitment toward dormancy. 

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We’re fast careening toward the latest frost date on record (the 10-day forecast makes a first frost in November most likely) (such surreality!) and now you know why/how we are just finishing dahlia week, even before frost. Hope this helps you stay cozy as you lift dahlias for many seasons to come!

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

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& the whole Fruition crew

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4 thoughts on “The Secret to Digging Dahlias Before Frost

  1. How long do you wait to dig after you have singed the edges with fire wind?

    1. Hi Doris, In the past we burn on a Friday and harvest the following Monday. Melissa

  2. I want to know if the seed pods are still good if the dahlia plant gets frosted.

    1. Hi Mildred, If the seed where fully developed, they should be good! Melissa

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