How to plant Dahlias and care for them through the season.
Growing Dahlias for fun and prizes!
Other than an important place
in perennial borders and beds, dahlias have a definite
place of their own ... grown In gardens by themselves,
carefully staked, fed, watered, and disbudded with extreme
care, they will produce relatively few flowers of overwhelming
size and perfection. They have become known as the Man's
Today's dahlias offer a vast
range of forms and colors with dense masses of dark
green foliage that can give a striking yet harmonious
garden picture. Today they are grown primarily from
the planting of tuberous root sections. However, they
can be grown from either seeds or cuttings. Seed produced
plants will not breed true, but this gives the gardener
a chance to develop his own hybrids.
CHOOSING SOIL AND LOCATION: Fertile,
well-drained soil located in a sunny place is most ideal.
Heavy clay and tight soils should be loosened with sand
and humus material. Moisture and plant food retaining
qualities can be given to sandy soils by adding humus.
A liberal feeding of fertilizer scattered over the ground
and spaded into the soil sometime before planting time
will increase the general fertility level, thus assuring
better plant growth and perfection in bloom.
PLANTING: Dahlia tubers should
not be planted until danger of frost is past. In most
sections of the country, late May and early June are
preferred planting dates. Space planting so plants will
not be closer than 36 inches. Dig planting hole at least
18 inches deep. If soil tends to be soggy during wet
seasons, put some small pebbles in the bottom of the
hole to facilitate drainage. Mix 1 rounded tablespoonful
of fertilizer with the soil left in the lower 10 to
12 inches of the hole. Add loose soil to bring depth
level to about 8 inches for setting the tuber. Place
tuber firmly in the loose soil with the eye upward.
A 5 to 6 -foot stake should be placed to the side of
the tuber before it is covered. This will eliminate
the danger of injury to the tuber and root system by
staking when the roots are covered and will also serve
as a planting marker.
GROWING CARE: After plant has developed
several sets of leaves, pinch off top to make a strong
bushy plant. When about 12 inches high, feed each plant
one rounded tablespoonful of fertilizer, working it
into the soil while cultivating. Tie the plant loosely
to the stake with raffia, a band of cloth, or prepared
plant ties when it is about 2 feet tall: Regular and
frequent cultivation, stirring the top 4 or 5 inches
of soil is very important. Cultivate weekly, or as soon
as the soil is workable after each rain, from sprouting
time until blooming starts. Before blooming, water only
when the soil is very dry and then do a thorough job
of soaking to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Avoid light
and frequent sprinklings during the growing stage.
DISBUDDING: If large blooms are
to be produced, disbudding is necessary. Buds form in
clusters of three. As soon as they can be seen, break
off the two side buds, leaving the center bud. When
the center bud develops a stem about 6 inches long,
other buds will appear at the base of the leaves on
the same branch. These are leaf buds and, if allowed
to develop, they will produce a small bushy effect and
imperfect flowers. Only one terminal bud should be left
on each branch if large perfect flowers and long sterns
are wanted. Plants should be gone over about once a
week during the growing season with the object of disbudding.
FEEDING: To produce the best growth
and beauty,, feeding is necessary. The plants should
be fed 1 rounded tablespoonful of Fertilizer per plant
when about 12 inches tall (6 weeks old). The plant food
may be applied either in a shallow trench made some
8 to 10 inches from and around the plant and then watered
in or applied around the plant on the sur-face and scratched
in with a hoe or rake. In any case do not get plant
food on the plant stalk. Feedings should be made at
this same rate every 6 weeks until the buds appear and
thereafter feed every 3 weeks. Fertilizer Complete Plant
Food gives dahlias complete nourishment, supplying them
with all the nutrients needed from the soil for good
growth and large colorful blooms.
INSECT CONTROL: A dahlia garden
can be quickly ruined by insect pests. Here is a place
where preventively protection is very worth while. Regular
weekly use of chemicals, which gives control of chewing
insects, sucking insects, and many fungus diseases,
will stop most insect and disease dam-age before it
starts. , Even if the plants appear clean and healthy,
this program is advisable. Each fall after the stalks
have died, all plant residue should be cleaned up and
destroyed to prevent the wintering over of boring and
other insects in plant tissues. Aphids, Red Spiders
(mites), Leafhopper-, Japanese Beetles, Thrips, and
Corn Borers are the most common dahlia pests.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Mulching with
straw or lawn clippings when blooming starts will conserve
moisture, eliminate cultivation, and protect shallow
feeding roots. Water frequently during the blooming
season. Cut blooms early in the morning or late in evening
when covered with dew, with a long slanting cut. Place
in cold water and put in basement for 3 or 4 hours before
taking into room temperature. Dig roots carefully after
killing frost. Leave soil attached and put in dry place
for 1 or 2 weeks. Store in dry sand for the winter.
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