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 Flower. –
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.