Should I dig my flower bulbs and root vegetable now or wait until we have frost?
Root vegetables and tender flower bulbs can be dug now or you can wait for light frost.
In most cases, potatoes and onions are ready for harvest whenever the tops start to die or fall over. Beets, turnips and carrots can be stored in the ground and dug as needed for use. A mulch of compost or bark dust will usually protect them from freezing in the coldest weather.
Caladiums and tuberous begonias are the most tender and should be dug before heavy frost. Dahlias sometimes live over, but can be damaged in a cold winter.
Lily, gladiolus, anemones, ranunculus, canna and calla lily are hardy in our climate.
I avoid washing the soil off bulbs because moisture stimulates the development of rot organisms. A brush works just fine. Bulbs should be stored in a cool, dry place where temperature will not go below freezing. Temperatures between 40 and 55 degrees work quite well. Bulbs can be stored in a refrigerator. However, they should be checked periodically to make sure they are not picking up too much moisture. Potatoes stored in a refrigerator tend to become sweet. Bring them out to room temperature a few days before use to restore normal taste.
Store flower bulbs in dry peat moss, vermiculite, sawdust, or similar materials to protect them from excessive moisture loss. Never use plastic bags for bulb storage. Paper or mesh bags allow some air movement.
When frost is predicted green tomatoes can also be stored in a cool dry space above 45 degrees to allow for gradual ripening. Tomatoes should be spaced so they are not touching to avoid transferring rot.
Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at email@example.com.