Storing summer-blooming bulbs over the winter


    What’s the best way to store summer-blooming bulbs over the winter? Mike will help you properly protect your dahlias, cannas and tuberous begonias! Plus your fabulous phone calls!

    Photo by cuttlefish

    Question of the Week:

    “What is the proper way to dig up and keep Dahlia tubers for the next season? I love your show.”

    — Leah in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

    Storing summer-blooming bulbs over the winter »

    Highlights from show for November 30, 2013:

    Coffee grounds and compost

    Joel from Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania has been a listener to You Bet Your Garden for about a year now and has learned so much about lawn care and compost that he has taken after Mike and started collecting tons and tons of leaves from neighbors and a local landscaping company. They are finely shredded and will eventually make great compost, but are taking up a lot of room in his driveway right now. Joel would like to know how much they will shrink down, especially if he’s adding coffee grounds. Mike first makes sure there is nothing mixed in like grass clippings and Joel assures him it’s totally clean. Mike recommends finding a good source of coffee grounds from local coffee shops or super markets. In fact, Mike has been taking his from the WHYY coffee machines! “The more coffee grounds you mix in with the leaves the faster they will compress in size and the less you’ll have to turn them.”

    Caring for ivy houseplants

    Maliah from Henderson, Texas has four ivy house plants and she has no idea how to take care of them. Her husband thinks they have spider mites, but she has no idea. She wants to get Mike’s expert advice. Mike says that ivy is a rambunctious gorwer outside, but needs special conditions inside. Mike syas the strange thing about taking care of house plants is that you need “really bright light, but no direct sunlight.” Ivy houseplants also like it cool, so sometimes they suffer in a hot dry house in Winter time. For spider mites just spray them every morning with a sprayer. You want to get them brighter light, mist them every morning and keep the temperatures cool.

    Ornamental fescue grasses

    Jackie from Mansfield, Louisiana has a lot of clay in the soil and has been looking at ornamental fescue grasses to plant on the hill by her house. She hopes these plants will prevent the soil from washing away. She wants a grass that will survive the Winter. Mike assures her ornamental grasses are tough and can survive pretty much anything as long as you water them during really hot summers. Jackie loves the blue fescue variety so Mike suggests she picks what she likes. They are really tough plants so she can’t go wrong.

    Organic lawn care

    Sally in West Chester, Pennsylvania wants to encourage her homeowners association to consider organic lawn care or to at least use less chemicals then they are doing now. They are using a smelly herbicide and two fertilizers and she really needs resources to fight this battle. Mike says that not only are their examples of other places that have done this successfully, but even golf courses are following this trend now. One resource he would recommend is, which has a lot of examples of communities that have switched over. Mike knows she is fighting the good fight and says, “One thing that is on your side are the laws – many states have passed laws that severely limit the percentage of nitrogen that is allowed in fertilizers.”

    What to plant on a flood-prone lot

    Patrick in Greenville, Tennessee is contemplating purchasing a lot, but it tends to flood periodically and he’d like to plant fruit trees there. Mike has no good news for Patrick. No fruit trees can survive wet feet. Mike explains the problem is that all of these are disease prone plants and the flooding would outright kill them. “Of all the plants we use in horticulture and commerce less than 5% of them thrive in situations like this where the soil is wet.” It’s the opposite of what you want for fruit trees. You really need low humidity for fruit trees. However, some brambles can survive wet feet. Raspberry relatives might be able to survive in this soil. Mike also suggests Cypress trees.

    Pruning a sugar maple

    Alice from Narberth, Pennsylvania was wondering about a sugar maple on her property. They just moved there and the tree seemed neglected and the branches over crowded. She called up a tree company and asked about pruning and they came out and cut off some dead branches. Mike says typically a tree like this wouldn’t be pruned, but as long as it was just dead branches that’s ok. “You should always remove dead diseased or heavily damaged branches as soon as it’s noticed.” Mike also points out that any pruning the thin the tree really has to be done during the dead of Winter and can’t be more than a third of the tree. Mike says you’ve got enough to do with a new house, stop worrying about the trees!

    Weeds and composted leaves

    David from Franklin, Tennessee has a question about composting leaves and weeds that tend to come up afterwards. He goes over his leaves with a mover until they are super finely shredded and then tills the shredded leaves into the soil about an inch deep. Mike explains even that little bit of till is exposing dormant weed seeds to light and stimulating them to grow. David is surprised that he is just supposed to leave the shredded leaves there. Mike says, yes and he adds, “As you’ve noticed earth worms colonize under leaf litter. If you just put the leaf litter on top of the soil you will get five times as many earth worms. That’s music to David’s ears!

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