Steve Doty loves Dahlias!
What started out as a potential hobby for his wife
has turned into a passion for Steve. This fall he
gave an interesting Dahlias presentation at one of
our Garden Series lectures (shown here) and the
flowers he brought were wonderful! It is easy to see
why he has come to appreciate these beautiful
The following article is
one Steve wrote last year and we hope you will enjoy
by Steve Doty
This is a warning to all men “Be
careful what projects/hobbies that you arrange for
your spouse to do.” My wife spent several years in
the San Francisco area and always told me how nice
the Dahlia Gardens were at the Golden Gate Park.
Well, I had this great idea to order her some
dahlias for her Christmas 2000. I surprised her with
a certificate from Swan Island Dahlias in Canby,
Oregon. Everything was going according to my plan
until I was offered an early retirement from Delphi
which I decided to take. (Great decision by the way!)
Well, since I’m retired and my wife
is still working (another plan of mine) - guess who
gets to prepare the soil, plant the dahlias, spray
the dahlias, pinch the dahlias, cut the dahlias and
dig the dahlias? (My golfing buddies think that this
is very funny). I joined the National Dahlia Society
and the only club in Indiana, which is located in
Goshen. This got me more information than I’ve been
able to process. However, I chose the first name who
was close to me off of the membership list and Jean
Brown has become a great mentor for me. She has
shown dahlias successfully at the State Fair for
over thirty years.
I’ve been growing dahlias for four
years now (Great plan I had – duh). So you think you
want to grow some dahlias. Here are some of my
learnings to date. Obtain your dahlias from
wherever, that’s your choice. Swan Island has been
great for me but they may be a little more
expensive. Their catalog is as bad as any other seed
catalog. Really hook you. I’ve grown 20 - 30
different types every year.
When to Plant: For best
results, plant them (tubers) from mid April through
May or about the same time you would plant your
Where to Plant: Dahlias need a
sunny location to thrive, an area that receives at
least 8 hours of direct sunlight.
Soil Preparation: Ground
should be warm, well drained at planting and in an
open sunny location. Do not plant them in wet soil.
If you have a heavier soil, add in sand, peat moss
or bagged steer manure to lighten and loosen the
soil texture for better drainage. I put bone meal in
the hole and work it in when I plant. They advise
not to use compost of any type. (Sorry, Brad!)
Planting: Lay the tuber (eye
up) horizontally 4 – 6 “ deep, about 18” to 24”
apart (minimum) and then cover with soil. Do not
water tubers after planting. Wait to water after the
sprouts have appeared above the ground.
Staking: Stake any dahlia
which will reach 3’ or taller. I’m now using 5’
wooden stakes. Really should stake before or while
Watering: After the dahlias
have sprouted they recommend a deep watering 1-2
times a week during warmer dryer weather. I’m not
very good at this and they have done fine.
Fertilizer: They recommend low
nitrogen fertilizer. I believe I’m using 5-20-20.
First application should be within 30 days of
planting and repeated again approximately 3-4 weeks
later. Do not over feed. Avoid compost, fish
fertilizers and high nitrogen water soluble types as
they promote weak stems, small blooms, or no blooms
and tubers that rot or shrivel in storage.
Pests: Jean gave me some
powder (not on the market now ??) which I mix with
Sevin to combat spider mites. (Another mite – what
are we doing wrong??) I use slug bait throughout the
early season and Sevin to fight off the Japanese
beetles as best I can.
Pinching: To promote shorter,
bushier plants with better stems for cutting. Pinch
or cut the center shoot just above the third set of
leaves. They recommend pinching two of the three
buds which you will get on a stem. Bigger flower
versus three smaller flowers.
If you get this far you will need to
dig the tubers up in the fall after a killer frost,
clean them, store them (40/50 degrees) and divide
them. See me and I’ll get you more information on
this process. Good Luck!! (Thanks a lot Dear!)
(Continue to ~
Page 4 ~ Give Winter Sowing a Try)