Presentation October 8th
2013
Digging and Dividing
Dahlias
Presenters: Mike Riordan
and Bob Meril
by Ted J. Kennedy

Before you dig the dahlias it makes it much easier to see the eyes if you cut down the dahlia stalks 3 to 10
days before you dig. The eyes swell and are easy to see.

Mike and Bob showed how they dig. Bob brought his Jackson brand shovel that he recently purchased for
about $45.00 at Wilco.  It is a special super heavy duty shovel that has a straight up angle. Most shovels are
bent and do not allow you to push straight down without difficulty. It also had a very thick wooden handle that
will not break easily. Mike emphasized that  you should push the shovel head into the soil all around the
tuber clump to cut of the “rat tail” roots. These roots can put pressure on the tubers and break tuber necks.

A discussion on how to wash tuber clumps ensued. Most people use water but some use air from a
compressor.  Water has the disadvantage of being very messy and one gets very wet and cold while
washing tubers. With the air compressor, the tubers are cleaned without all that water getting you wet and
the tubers do not have to be dried again. Bob tried the air and stated that it was not effective for his heavy
clay soil.  Teresa Bergman stated that a slight layer of soil is left on air cleaned tubers and they have to be
washed for shipment overseas.  

Bob and Mike stated that they did not use sulphur on their tubers and Bob said that it may cause rot rather
than prevent it. Both stated that the use of cinnamon powder was a better method, if you use anything. Bob
said that he rescued a rotting bag of tubers with cinnamon.

Storage mediums were discussed and the most recommended product was vermiculite(best price at Vier’s
Nursery Supply in Hubbard, Oregon).  Alternatives were cedar shavings, wrapping tubers in saran wrap or
putting them into sandwich bags.  Commercial growers use layers  of newspaper above and below piles of
tubers in plastic “tulip” crates.

There was discussion of dividing tools. The best tool is the Kengyu bonsai scissors available form Verrone’s
Dahlias for about $15.00.  It may no longer be available after this year as the factory was destroyed buy the
tsunami in Japan. A discussion on how to divide very large clumps, such as second year clumps ensued.  
Both presenters said anything that works is fine and you will lose tubers no matter what you do.  Implements
discussed were saws all, machete, ax, and even a chain saw. These tools would only be used on very large
clumps. One person stated that you could use a Dremmel tool to divide tubers but no details were given
except to say there may be something about that on the San Franciso club website