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 Post subject: Dahlias
PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:22 pm 
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Obsessed

Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:12 pm
Posts: 1826
Location: Ypsilanti
By now you dahlia growers should be starting to get some blooms. I have 50-60 plants and some are nearly 4' tall and a few are only 1' tall. Don't forget to tie them to the support stake every foot.

Peak season for blooms is from mid-Aug until frost. If you want to get larger flowers with longer stems (for cut-flowers), remove the extra buds that form at the sides of the main central bud, and the next set of buds that form on the sides of the main stem, the first leaf-pair down. That is what the competitive growers looking to earn blue ribbons do.

If you just want more flowers (not longer-stemmed or larger flowers), don't do that.


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 Post subject: Re: Dahlias
PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:07 pm 
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Apprentice

Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:47 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Pittsfield Township (at intersection of US 23 and I-94 near Ann Arbor)
I have some excellent dahlia plants and would like to store the bulbs through the winter but understand that the temps need to be in the 50s or thereabouts.

Have you had success storing them over the winter?


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 Post subject: Re: Dahlias
PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:45 pm 
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Elite

Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:37 am
Posts: 389
Location: Waterford, Michigan
These are just a few of the ones we got.
Thanks Dave!!


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 Post subject: Re: Dahlias
PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:34 pm 
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Obsessed

Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:12 pm
Posts: 1826
Location: Ypsilanti
My dahlias triple every year, including any storage loss. That's why I always have them to give away. I grow 50-60 plants, and annually give away a hundred. So, yes, I can store them.

After frost has killed the whole plant (which probably happened today, a longer-than-usual season) and before the ground freezes solid, is the time to dig them up. Tomorrow would be fine, but I have often waited until Xmas, which I would not really recommend. Sometime in the next 1-2 months....

Carefully dig up the entire clump of tubers that has formed at the base of the stalk. The critical part is the "crown" which is where the tubers connect to the base of the stalk. Each tuber must be connected to the crown by a solid "neck" which is not broken. Try not to break the "necks" when you dig out the clump. That is where the "careful" part of digging comes in.

Then cut off the stem about 1-2" above the crown. I usually wash off any clinging dirt with a spray of water. This is to remove any worms that might be present. The dirt will not hurt anything, but you don't want to store any worms with the roots, as worms might eat them in storage. Also removing the dirt helps to see what you are doing.

You can divide the clumps either now or next spring, but I always divide in fall because they take up less storage space that way. Each viable plant for next year must have a pretty-intact tuber (or more than one tuber), connected to a piece of the crown by a solid neck (or necks). Tubers that have weak or broken necks, throw them away. The piece of the crown attached, should be the minimum size of maybe 1/4 or 1/2 of a cubic inch. If it's the size of the end of your thumb (beyond the last joint) it'll probably work.

First, discard tubers with weak necks. Then divide the crown among the remaining attached tubers. I usually use pruning shears to cut the crown, but a knife or a broad chisel could work. You'll want to do this at a table, not on your lap or standing. I have a planting/potting bench that I wheel out to the garden for this.

If your shovel has cut off part of the tuber, that is no problem as long as a substantial part remains. I use pruning shears to cut off the "rat-tail" root on the end of each tuber, but that's just me. It is not really necessary to cut this off; I am just trying to make my 150 stored tubers take up less space.

After washing, dividing, and (mostly) drying them, I store the tubers in cardboard boxes of peat moss on low shelves in the coldest corner of the basement. Yes, 50 degrees is ideal, like a root cellar or a wine cellar. If the peat is too dry, mist it with a spray bottle. If it is too wet, take that bale of peat back to the store and get a different (lighter-weight, less water-logged) bale.

A balanced humidity is good, not too moist, not too dry. If they are stored too wet, they might get moldy. I would NOT recommend plastic tubs, nor plastic bags, unless a lot of holes are punched in them. I use cardboard boxes. I do use small (perforated) plastic boxes like strawberries come in, inside of the cardboard boxes, as subdividers. I also use stryofoam clamshells like from take-out restaurants or "doggy bag" use, but these are pretty ventilated and the lids don't seal tightly.

I know when you buy dahlia tubers they are sometimes in wood-chips or planer shavings, but I would not recommend wood-chips for overwinter storage; I believe it does not hold the necessary moisture but rather sucks moisture out of the tubers. I like peat moss which tends to have a moderate stable humidity. That said, if your tubers in the spring are all wrinkled and dried up from too-dry storage conditions, they might still be viable. I have had real ugly wrinkled tubers still grow.

If they are too warm (60), they'll also probably be OK, but if they freeze once, they're junk, so I wouldn't recommend most unheated garages, or even heated garages if the door is ever opened.

I put the boxes on a low shelf in the coldest corner of the basement, and check the thermometer there occasionally through the winter.

Your new sprouts next spring will all come from the section of the "crown" that you so-carefully divided. These sprouts are called "eyes" like the eyes of a potato, but potato-eyes are roots and dahlia-tuber eyes are the new stems. It's hard for a novice to perceive the early formation of an "eye", but after you have looked at a lot of tubers, you get where you can see them better. Plant your new tuber next spring, with the eye facing up, because it's going to be the stem. Plant in late May or early June, around the time you'd put out tomato plants. If you want an earlier start, use a pot in a window or greenhouse because there is no advantage to putting out dahlias too early when the soil is still cold.


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 Post subject: Re: Dahlias
PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 10:28 am 
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Apprentice

Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:47 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Pittsfield Township (at intersection of US 23 and I-94 near Ann Arbor)
Dave,
Many thanks for this note. I will copy and paste into my gardening notes in my computer for next year.

Unfortunately, I dug up all my dahlias Sunday morning and now they (including the tubers) are mixed in with a 5-foot pile on top of my compost pile.

This year I bought a mix from a nursery and some of them were spectacular. i saved several blooms of several likewise spectacular lage zinnias to plant from seed next year.

I tried saving about 20 plants last year in my garage and they (as i anticipated) froze.

I have read many times that a residential basement just won't work because the temps are always above 65 or so.

Jay


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 Post subject: Re: Dahlias
PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:00 pm 
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Obsessed

Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:12 pm
Posts: 1826
Location: Ypsilanti
You know the temperature in your basement better than I do. But I would suggest using a thermometer to find the coldest (low, near the floor) corner of your basement and trying again. Maybe it is the farthest corner from the furnace, or there is a heating vent you could close in a little-used room. I had a friend who forgot some dahlia tubers in paper bags in a built-in cupboard on a (below-grade) outside wall of her basement for 1-1/2 years, over 18 months, and they were fine.

I have heard that "frozen in the garage" story many times, too. You could build an insulated closet in a corner of your basement for a fruit, root, and wine cellar. That's what I did, but it is too damp/moldy in there for the bushels of apples and pears that I'd hoped to put there. Works fine for dahlias and wine, though.

Good luck to all dahlia-savers.


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