Plan now for next year's dahlia garden, and don't be afraid

Plan now for next year's dahlia garden, and don't be afraid

I've always loved dahlias – in other people's gardens. As much as I was intrigued by their cheerful appearance, there was something that frightened me about the routine of planting, stacking, digging and storing during the winter.

But the longer I garden, the more I appreciate their beauty and adaptability.

Firstly, they are available in so many different sizes, colors and even flower shapes, it's fair to say that no two dahlia varieties are alike. And the choices! There are anemones, cacti, peonies, orchids, and water lilies; Single and double plates and even large dinner plates as dinner plates.

With 42 known species and hundreds of hybrids, it's impossible not to find at least one to complement your garden.

Dahlias bloom in the cut-and-repeat method, which means you can choose bouquets to fill as many vases as possible, and the plants will continue to produce flowers from summer through fall.

“Dahlias are actually easy to grow,” Lauren Sikorski, co-owner of Sow-Local Farm, a small cut-flower farm in Oakdale, New York, told me, and she's right: Caring for dahlias doesn't require any advanced skills. . It is time consuming and pays special attention to its growing conditions.

Plants don't like heat or “wet feet,” a gardening term that refers to damp conditions around the roots. They “hate clay soil,” she said. If you are working with heavy clay, adding a generous amount of compost to the beds will improve drainage.

Typically grown in cooler areas and removed from the ground in the fall because they will not survive the winter outdoors, the plants are considered hardy from USDA zones 8-10. (Arkansas has Zones 8-6 with most of the state in Zone 7.)

To grow dahlias in those warmer regions, where the plants bloom from November to December or January, plant the tubers in September or October. Cut the plants to the ground after they wilt, place mulch on top of the soil to keep them cool, and hope for another display from late winter through mid-spring. Then cut it back, cover it with compost or mulch and leave it until next year. In hotter zones 9 and 10, dahlias do best with some shade.

In colder zones 7 or below, such as the one with Sow-Local, tubers should be harvested after the first hard frost. When the plant's foliage turns black and sticky, Sikorsky recommends removing dead foliage and cutting the plants back to about ground level.

After the first two days of drying, sometime during the next week or two, use a pitchfork to lift them out of the ground very carefully, being careful not to damage the tuber mass. Dahlias are not considered hardy in Arkansas, says Arkansas horticulturist Janet Carson.

Gently shake the soil off the tubers (they are fragile), then give them a quick rinse and leave to dry for a few days. Remove any remaining soil, and if you have different varieties, label them because I guarantee you won't remember which one come spring.

“If you're growing a large variety of tuber sizes and colors, labeling is very important and can be difficult,” Sikorski says, adding that it's much easier to tag plants during the growing season, when you can see what you're dealing with. , than after the first frost.

Sikorsky places the tubers directly into cardboard boxes and stores them at a temperature of 40-45 degrees in a dry place. However, many growers prefer to place them in gallon-sized perforated bags (for air circulation) to produce four-cup bags of vermiculite, sphagnum moss, sawdust or sawdust, then pack the bags in covered boxes and store them similarly.

Check the stored tubers once a month during the winter, and if you find them slightly wilted, sprinkle them lightly with water. Those that are severely wilted can be removed and soaked in water overnight in an attempt to rejuvenate them. If full, pat dry and return to storage; If they don't, dispose of them along with anything moldy or moldy. Be prepared to lose about 10% of your stored tubers.

In the spring, after all danger of frost has passed, plant the tubers in a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. To get early blooms, you can give them a head start by planting them indoors in pots about a month in advance, then moving them into the garden after the last frost.

Insert 4- to 6-foot stakes (determined by the mature height of the variety you are planting) into the soil about 1 inch from the tubers and secure the stems as they grow. This will prevent them from flipping over and protect them from storm and wind damage.

If you want to grow dahlias next year, order tubers now. Most catalogs will ship them in the spring.

Jessica Damiano writes the award-winning Weekly Dirt newsletter and regular gardening columns for the AP.

Labeling or labeling freshly harvested dahlia tubers before storing them for the winter helps avoid confusion in the spring. (Lauren E. Sikorsky via AP)
picture The wedding of Petra and her mini dahlias grown by Sow-Local was photographed in late September. (Lauren E. Sikorsky via AP)

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