Dahlias and red wiggler worms (not necessarily related topics)

January 2, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen…start your dahlias!

Who knew? This is a great time of year to be thinking dahlias. I would have missed this completely if not not for caller Samuel, who alerted me to an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Chicagoland Gardening Magazine (hey, I can’t catch everything). The story, written by my friend Michelle Byrne Walsh, features quotes from two people I interviewed a few years ago at Gargantua Radio down the dial…and they are both in studio today.

In fact, Dan Kaplan, who is vice president of the Central States Dahlia Society, called me at the end of last week’s show, when Samuel asked about rooting wedge strips that are mentioned in the artlcle. So I invited him and fellow CSDS member Frank Campise to come down to the studio to explain what the wedge strips are and how to use them.

Campise uses this method to propagate 700 dahlia cuttings each year–and then gives away 600 of those. Some of you might have dug up dahlia tubers in the fall, over-wintered them in your basement or garage, and then replanted them at the end of May. But Dan and Frank say that the cuttings method can help you get blooms much earlier than you will from simply replanting tubers. And if you’re trying to grow those showy, dinner-plate dahlias in your backyard, it might not hurt to have a head start.

What really happens to red wiggler worms in winter?

Dan Kaplan wasn’t the only person who contacted me about a question from last week’s show. One of my callers asked about what happens to red wiggler worms in a compost pile in the dead of winter (perhaps “dead” is the operative word). Heather and I also Tweeted the question just in case somebody out there in Twitterland had a good answer for us.

Lo and behold, I received a message from Cathy Nesbitt, the owner/operator of Cathy’s Crawly Composters, who said she saw our post on Twitter. Her Twitter handle, by the way, is @Squirm. Nice touch. Since her company is based in Bradford, Ontario, just outside of Toronto (so forgive her for the way she spells the word labour), I figured she should know something about what happens to red wigglers in winter. Here’s what she wrote:

Red wigglers are not soil dwellers. They reside in organic matter (eg. compost/manure pile). In an outdoor setting, red wigglers will hibernate during winter. As long as the thaw is gradual enough, the worms will survive. If it is a harsh winter, the worms may not survive, but the eggs will over-winter.

There’s lots of great information on Cathy’s website about how to set up a vermicomposting system, including various kits that she offers, and all kinds of tips on how to get the most out of your worms. If you’re interested in keeping up to date with Cathy’s information, you can sign up for her newsletter.