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Mulching dahlias etc for winter

Today I cut back my dahlias 4” from the ground and Echinaceas ground level, I understand I should put mulch over them now before we get a hard frost. I have not got anything I can use so will need to buy, should I use multi purpose or peat free, which I understand hold moisture which I guess I don’t want to happen. Any advice please? 

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  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 4,883
    They don't need any nutrients at this stage, or anything that will collect and hold a lot of moisture if it rains a lot over winter. Do you have access to fallen leaves? I generally just pull the fallen leaves around the dahlia crowns. Otherwise maybe chipped bark or something of that sort of texture?
    Hopefully someone else might have other suggestions.
  • DaisypicDaisypic Posts: 28
    JennyJ said:
    They don't need any nutrients at this stage, or anything that will collect and hold a lot of moisture if it rains a lot over winter. Do you have access to fallen leaves? I generally just pull the fallen leaves around the dahlia crowns. Otherwise maybe chipped bark or something of that sort of texture?
    Hopefully someone else might have other suggestions.
    I did have leaves but have bagged them up to create mulch for next year, I’m new to gardening so learning as I go along. Maybe chipped bark might do the job. When you say the crown-  is that where the stems protrudes from the ground? Should I cut them to ground level or keep them 4” off the ground. I didn’t realise gardening was this complicated! 
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 4,883
    Daisypic said:
    ..... When you say the crown-  is that where the stems protrudes from the ground? Should I cut them to ground level or keep them 4” off the ground. I didn’t realise gardening was this complicated! 

    Yes, that's the crown. In the case of the dahlias you don't want them sitting in wet and rotting. I leave about 4" stems on mine so I can see where they are and don't accidentally stick a fork in, but you might have a better memory than I do!
  • Old potted compost is good as a mulch, so if you have any pots that need emptying you can use that. I use old soil but also a further thick mulch of bracken which I get when I walk the dog. You can even put a pot upturned over the top.
    The thing to remember is that it's not just the crown that needs protection, that is where rot can get in, but the tubers splay out so I mulch about a foot either side of the crown as well to be safe. The tubers have the benefit of being under the soil so have more protection but it's better to be safe than sorry. The dahlias have been ok with this protection down to about -8c.
  • DaisypicDaisypic Posts: 28
    Old potted compost is good as a mulch, so if you have any pots that need emptying you can use that. I use old soil but also a further thick mulch of bracken which I get when I walk the dog. You can even put a pot upturned over the top.
    The thing to remember is that it's not just the crown that needs protection, that is where rot can get in, but the tubers splay out so I mulch about a foot either side of the crown as well to be safe. The tubers have the benefit of being under the soil so have more protection but it's better to be safe than sorry. The dahlias have been ok with this protection down to about -8c.
    I haven't got any old potted compost, but am happy to buy compost if I need to but unsure whether that is suitable as it is new compost, if that’s makes sense! Or maybe I should buy bark, hopefully I will have my own leaf mould to use next year! 🤞
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,942
    @Daisypic
    Honestly, it's Not complicated.
    You'll never know it all ( none of us do ) 
    Every day is a learning day. 
    Enjoy your garden, and your gardening and one day you'll think " I actually know quite a bit about this stuff now " Promise 
     ;) 
    Devon.
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,866
    If your soil is heavy clay that gets very wet and stays wet all winter, you are better to lift the dahlias and store them until spring. Otherwise, the mulch will be fine but I would try to get hold of some proper compost - rotted organic material, not the stuff you buy for planting into. Garden centres sell bags of composted manure or you can sometimes buy it direct from horse owners. This might be the time to start your own compost heap if you have room in your garden.
  • DaisypicDaisypic Posts: 28
    @Posy
    They are on a bank which is pretty much free draining so hope they survive their first year. Thanks for the advice on the composted manure, think I will get some bags of that rather than bark. 
  • Completely agree with Posy, multipurpose compost isn't worth buying for this as it's just a protective layer. Composted manure is good because it can give you the protection the dahlias need and then in spring you can either leave it to enrich the soil or spread it out a little over the borders.
    Things don't need to be that complicated and I've seen people use cardboard covered in soil as a layer, it's just anything that adds a bit of protection and prevents the worst of the weather getting to it.
  • I get woodchip free from a local tree surgeon, compost it for a few months then use it to mulch things like Dahlias and Salvias over the winter.  It usually breaks down fairly quickly but if not I rake it off in the Spring and replace with home-made compost.
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