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Garden Articles ~ Page 3


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 flowers.

The following article is one Steve wrote last year and we hope you will enjoy his story.

Dahlias Yes Dear

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 Im 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 Ive 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.

Ive 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, thats 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. Ive 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 vegetable garden.

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. Im now using 5 wooden stakes. Really should stake before or while planting.

Watering: After the dahlias have sprouted they recommend a deep watering 1-2 times a week during warmer dryer weather. Im not very good at this and they have done fine.

Fertilizer: They recommend low nitrogen fertilizer. I believe Im 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 Ill get you more information on this process. Good Luck!! (Thanks a lot Dear!)



                                               (Continue to ~ Page 4 ~ Give Winter Sowing a Try)