Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Growing clivia, planting garlic, and digging dahlia tubers are some of the gardening tips for this month.
Clivia (also known as Natal lily) is a choice, tender bulbous
indoor plant which can produce flower stalks, generally about two
feet high, rising above the strap-like leaves. Flowers, usually
orange but yellow in some cultivars (cultivated varieties), are in
clusters on top of the stalks similar to its amaryllis relatives.
If you have a clivia, or get one not in flower, now is the time to
give it a “temperature treatment” in order to get blooms this
This South African native needs dry and cool conditions to
initiate flowers. Place clivia in a minimally heated space
(garage, hall, spare room) where it will be at 35 to 55 degrees
(F) for a minimum 5 weeks but up to 15 weeks, and don’t water
during that time. Although I have a friend who puts his in an
attic with success, I put mine in a cool basement under plant
lights (on for 12 hours a day). After that time, bring your
clivia back into more light (indirect sun or a bright room—it
prefers low light), and warmer temperature. And keep the soil
just moist until you see new growth, then water normally. Too
much water can cause root rots; watering during the dormant period
may keep it from flowering.
Hopefully, then, in a few weeks you’ll see flower stalks and
subsequent flowers. Keep clivia rather pot-bound, tempting as it
may be to replant into a larger pot. If children or pets are
around, consider that this plant may be toxic if eaten in
When the first frost blackens the foliage of dahlias (or if a
hard freeze is predicted), cut off the stems about six inches
above the tubers. Carefully dig the clumps with a spade or fork,
and rinse them off. Let them dry out of direct sun and wind for a
day (not too long or they'll begin to shrivel). Store the tuber
clumps whole, or carefully separate the tubers from the stem,
making sure to include any "eyes" (small, raised nubs near where
the tubers attach to the main stem) with each tuber. These are the
future sprouts. Store tubers in ventilated plastic bags filled
with peat moss, vermiculite, or sawdust and keep them in a dark,
35- to 50-degree (F) location. Check every couple weeks to ensure
that they aren’t too wet, or shriveling from dryness.
Plant garlic now for harvesting next summer. Purchase garlic sold
specifically for planting; locally adapted varieties from garden
stores are best. Commercial, non-organic, supermarket garlic may
have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Try some different
varieties to see which you prefer. Separate the garlic head into
individual cloves, keeping the largest ones for planting. (Use the
small cloves for cooking.) Add compost before planting. Plant
cloves about two inches deep, and six inches apart with the
pointed side up. Mulch the bed with straw.
Usually the first half of the month is when you’ll stop mowing.
Keeping grass mowed, going into winter, will help prevent snow
mold disease on taller, packed-down grass. Allow grass clippings
to remain on lawns to break down and recycle their nutrients. At
the end of the month you may want to apply one last, light
application of fertilizer to lawns. Make sure to keep leaves
raked from lawns so they don’t smother the grass. Leaves can be
composted, or shredded with the mower, and used to mulch flower
beds and gardens.
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