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Growing dahlias…simple and rewarding

091 pink dahliaI love green….luscious growing green things.  The green things with flowers are an extra bonus!  For many years we lived in the Southern California Mojave Desert.  If you’re familiar with this area you know it is very difficult to grow much and even harder to keep anything alive as the temperature climbs to as high as 118 degrees in the summer.  At that temperature you’re trying to keep yourself and your loved ones alive!  I can remember my husband Mike attempting to dig a hole with a pickax and sparks actually flying as the ground was so hard.  We always tended to vacation to an area that was “green” and suffered from what we referred to as “green withdrawals” when we returned home.  In all honesty the desert has a beauty of its own…the night sky has more stars than you can imagine and the sunsets are breathtakingly beautiful.

When we chose our new home on the Olympic Peninsula Mike and I were so excited to have our very own one acre filled with green grass & shrubs, trees and flowers.   We have since learned just how much work all of that green can be.  Someday it will be too much for us but we’re not at that point yet!  We continue to work on ways to reduce the amount of maintenance that is required.

Every year I look forward to July and the first dahlia blossoms.  Dahlias are one of my favorites…they come in so many varieties and colors.   As long as I do my part and deadhead the blossoms my dahlias will continue to blossom until the first frost of fall.  They are extremely rewarding plants and easy to grow.

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The most economical way to purchase dahlias is by purchasing tubers.  We actually have a dahlia farm in our area.  You can browse row after row of blossoms and choose your tubers for the following year.   There are also many online reputable garden stores that will deliver your tubers at the correct planting time for your area.  In my part of the country the tubers should be planted in March/April timeframe.   If your anxious to enjoy your own dahlias this year you can purchase dahlia plants instead of tubers in most garden centers.

Be sure to choose an area with full sun, good garden soil and a water source.   Tubers look like a bunch of stubby brown carrots and have small budding sprouts called “eyes”.   There should be a minimum of 3 “eyes” on each tuber you plant. Plant the tubers points down following the package instructions. Although a good fertilizer (5-10-15) is recommended  I have to admit I have never fertilized my dahlias.

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I’m always sad to see the end of my dahlias when the first hard frost comes in the fall.  It is recommended that you pull up the plants, chop off the stems a few inches above the tuber, wash them off and sit them in the fall sun to dry.  They can then be stored in peat moss or sawdust in a paper bag in a cool (non freezing) spot for the winter.  Don’t use a plastic bag.  I learned the hard way that the tubers will rot and you will be disappointed!   I would advise sorting and labeling the bags of tubers as they all look the same.   The tubers can also be divided at this point, again being sure to keep a minimum of 3 “eyes” on each tuber.  Because our winters on the Olympic Peninsula are not extremely harsh I have not dug up my dahlia tubers every year.  The tubers have spent the winter in the ground and I do have to admit I have lost a few in the process.

 

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I plan to be very organized this fall….dig them up, divide them, label and store them properly.  I ‘m looking forward to having dahlia tubers to share with family and neighbors next spring.

 

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