Monica from Garden Faerie's Musings asked me last week if I lifted my Dahlias for the winter, so I thought I'd show you today what I've been up to over the weekend. The usual garden advice for the UK is to lift them, trim off the top foliage and any rotting tubers, and store them in sand or peat (or an alternative, more eco-friendly compost) in a frost-free garage or shed for the winter.
Being a gardener of the lazier sort and fortunate enough to live in the south west of England (I reckon it's about zone 8, for those of you reading this over the pond), I've decided to leave my Dahlias in the ground to overwinter, just like I've done for the past few years. They're in the terraced part of the garden, so this is a warmer, more sheltered spot for them anyway. In order to ensure their survival until the spring, I give them a thick snuggly duvet like the one shown in the picture. I've cut off the blackened foliage and stems from last week and then covered the plants with a few inches of thick mulch - the used pet bedding from next door's pet guinea pigs and hamster in this case. The wood shavings and straw are ideal and will rot down sufficiently over winter, so the emerging plants in the spring won't suffer a nitrogen deficit. I reckon the rotted pets' poo will also give them a boost.
Of course with this method, eternal vigilance is needed come April/May next year to ensure the emerging foliage is not attacked by pesky slugs and snails. I reckon it's worth it though, otherwise I'd have to tidy up my shed so I can fit them in somewhere for the winter.