Garden calendar: For the week of Oct. 21
Summer-flowering bulbs: Dig up cannas, gladiolas and dahlias after frost when the foliage dies back to store them inside over winter. Dig cannas after the tops die and let them dry for a few days. Shake off and remove as much soil as you can so they dry well. Once dry, cut the tops back to about 3-4 inches and leave them attached to the rhizome. Store cannas in a cool, moderately dry area with good air circulation. Putting them in mesh bags from potatoes or oranges works well. Temperatures should not get above 55 degrees or below 40 degrees.
Gladiola corms produce small bulblets called “cormels”on the underside of the corm as they get older. They will come up in a clump attached to the stem. Dig gladiolas after frost. Discard any corms that are withered or rotten, and gently shake off the loose soil from sound corms. Cut off the tops down to about two inches and let the corms dry for a few days. You can separate larger cormels from the corms if you desire at this time. They will take a couple of seasons to produce plants big enough to bloom. After drying, it is best to “cure” the corms at a temperature of 80-85 degrees for 2-3 weeks so they will store more successfully. It can be challenging to find a place to do this in October! A warm dry attic or sunroom may work.
After curing, break the old, dried corm from the base of the new one, and discard it as it will no longer grow and may rot over winter. Two to three more days at curing temperature and a corky layer will form at the scar. Gladiola corms can be stored in open paper bags or cloth bags, or mesh bags. Make sure there is good air circulation and don’t stack the corms too deep in the paper or cloth bags. Store them at 40 degrees in a dry area like a cool basement.
Dig dahlia tubers after frost as well. Cut the stems back to about 4 inches being careful not to injure the tubers—especially the area at the base of the old stem. This is where the small swellings that are the buds for next year (called “eyes” are located). Shake soil off gently and divide the tubers shortly after digging. Each tuber must have at least one eye with it — the tubers themselves are only storage organs and won’t produce stems without the eye tissue. Dry the tubers for a few hours and store in a cool dry area at about 50 degrees. They may desiccate if it is too dry, so wrap them in newspapers or pack in barrels or boxes of peat moss, or dry sawdust for best results.