Dahlias forum: 2020 Dahlia Season

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Name: Sulli
Philadelphia (Zone 7a)
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SulliO
Mar 28, 2020 12:44 PM CST
hi all!

Well, it's time for me to start my 2020 dahlia season which is only my second year with them. I'm afraid that my tuber storage didn't go as planned and I had quite a few losses. I had ordered some backups to start early so I will still have plenty but I think I went wrong from the start storing them and I kind of knew it even as I packed them up.

We had such a mild Fall and Winter, we never really got a hard freeze and I dug them all, washed the clumps and then got so busy with holiday projects, I think they dried out in the cold garage for way too long before I packed them in newsprint lined open crates with damp peat. Then I think my storage area which is a walk in cooler that I convert to winter storage, leaving it off with the door open may have fluctuated too much temperature wise. It would be cold in there but also warmer on the warmest winter days.

I dug them all out of the crates this morning and had so many "empty" tubers it was sad. I saved anything resembling a plantable tuber but couldn't see eyes yet so I'm going to put them in a little damp peat and bags and see who is left standing. I would estimate I lost about 60% of the 175 I stored but we'll see in a few weeks.

I was disappointed last season with the long bloom times on the larger varieties so I've started all my larger sizes early in a cold frame that stays pleasant and nicely warm on sunny days. I'm so grateful to have had so many spring garden projects to keep me busy.

Hope everyone is looking forward to lovely season!

Photos of the color gradient dahlia garden in 2019, I will NOT be doing the rigid color design this year it was too much work Big Grin

Thumb of 2020-03-28/SulliO/25da78
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Name: Eric
Hawthorne, fl (Zone 9a)
Bee Lover
Miamiu
Mar 29, 2020 10:11 AM CST
I have one popping up from last year. Don't think I could handle all the preparation of dahlias from winter to spring.
Name: Top
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Peonies Dahlias Region: Missouri Seed Starter Zinnias Daylilies
Irises Hummingbirder
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Topdecker
Mar 29, 2020 11:59 AM CST
I've got around 20 tubers to plant (most are not here yet) and ~65 seedlings growing. I started at 75 seedlings about 3 weeks ago and since have had some casualties.

If I manage to get 30 of the seedlings transplanted successfully, I will be fairly happy. They seem a bit more fragile than zinnia seedlings and have a bad habit of stretching too far and collapsing in a slight breeze. And because they are dahlias, they are super-easy to over water.

I've already been hardening them with a few hours outdoors each day, so hopefully they toughen up. A fair number of them already have started real leaf nodes, and have survived 3-4 hours of outdoor exposure on multiple days so I am slowly getting them ready. I hope to be able to transplant them to the garden by the end of April if not a week or two sooner. Hopefully a few of them will be nice enough for me to want to propagate them in 2021.

Any idea of what the minimal temps should be for dahlia seedlings? Zinnias are 50 degrees or warmer at night.
The return of perennials in the spring can feel like once again seeing an old friend
Name: Dan
NE Ohio (Zone 6a)
psudan
Apr 2, 2020 1:09 PM CST
Decided today was the day to dig up my buried box of dahlia tubers. As I mentioned before, the winter was so mild that the experiment is inconclusive. I doubt the ground froze more than a few inches deep all winter, certainly no where near the 40" depth I've been told is normal. The box was only 2' or so deep. Half were saran wrapped and the rest were in zip lock bags with vermiculite. I'd say all (or most) look as good as those stored in the attic. A few had a tiny bit of shriveling and could use a little moisture. I put them back into the box and very lightly sprayed water on top of the shavings. Next question, .... will they sprout? The small clump at the bottom right (last photo) is a bit shriveled, but no surprise since I have no luck at all storing clumps. So what did I learn? Not much! LOL

Tubers were surrounded by newspaper and cedar shavings, top and bottom.
Thumb of 2020-04-02/psudan/358904


Thumb of 2020-04-02/psudan/02523d

Most of these were the mislabels from last year.
Thumb of 2020-04-02/psudan/08be51

Name: Gary
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
hostasmore
Apr 4, 2020 9:26 AM CST
Checked out the dahlia selection at Lowes. Very much a why bother offering. Meanwhile at home, I placed a late order with SI. I couldn't get everything I wanted, but that is probably a good thing! lol
Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan (Zone 5b)

Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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frankrichards16
Apr 7, 2020 4:52 PM CST
I have not been down to the cellar yet. Maybe in another month. I am going to plant in groups of 3 or 4 this year. That is 3 or 4 of the same dahlia. Also trying some new support using farm fence.
Name: Melissa
Omaha, NE (Zone 5b)
Dahlias Cat Lover Region: Nebraska Annuals Cut Flowers Butterflies
Daylilies Bee Lover Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Melissamaeday
Apr 8, 2020 10:18 PM CST
Tuber orders are arriving en masse!!
I usually get super anxious about my dahlia boxes sitting on my side porch this time of year, while I am away at work. I am working from home for who knows how long, so all I have to hear is the mailman's beep, and I am out pulling them into the house a couple of minutes later.

My overwintered tubers look pretty darn good! Smiling I have been receiving emails from vendors about tubers that didn't make it through the Winter, but likely will still receive the majority of my treasures.

With all the strangeness in the world right now- well, I just can't wait to regularly get my hands 'good' dirty!
Name: Judy
Simpsonville SC (Zone 7b)
Plant and/or Seed Trader Peonies Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I helped beta test the first seed swap
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SCButtercup
Apr 16, 2020 4:55 AM CST
Reading all your dahlia labors makes me appreciate the zone I live in where dahlias can overwinter more or less. In the beginning I was careful and fussed but the dahlias multiplied out of control so I dug up and gave away baskets of tubers. Now I just have one area of neglected dahlias and they are popping up again this week.
Name: Gary
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
hostasmore
Apr 16, 2020 2:16 PM CST
Garden centers are now allowed to operate in my area. I was able to shop the dahlia tubers offered by one which still had a good selection. I purchased several. I was one of the few shoppers. Staff all wore masks. I was offered a sanitized cart when I entered the store. I brought my cart to the cashier. Was told to leave my card, they were not accepting cash, and proceed to the end of the belt. They rang everything up, bagged them, and then pushed the cart to me. Seemed strange, but at least I had an outing!
Name: Dan
NE Ohio (Zone 6a)
psudan
Apr 16, 2020 5:15 PM CST
Garden centers here have never closed though the big box stores are counting heads and limiting how many shoppers are in the store at one time. I drove to my regular garden center a few days ago and bought more dahlias and bags of composted manure. Closing the garden centers would actually be to my benefit since I can't seem to control my dahlia buying. I need to get back into that 12 step dahlia addiction program. I was doing good till I fell off the wagon.
Name: Sulli
Philadelphia (Zone 7a)
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SulliO
Apr 17, 2020 8:07 AM CST
I'm in a hot spot so we've been home doing pretty much nothing but working on a large landscape renovation with materials that can be safely delivered.

I potted up about 100 dahlias to start early in a cold frame, it's been chilly this week though and we have a few more cold nights coming up. I won't be rushing the dahlia planting this season, I'd rather get them going in pots till I see if we have another wet May coming up and that gives me time to keep working on the new beds. I have compost to spread on 2500 sq ft of recently cleared beds and I'm grateful to have so many projects to keep me busy.

I work in weddings/events and it's safe to say I won't be working for a while so my new schedule is full time gardener which is actually a nice break!
Name: Top
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Peonies Dahlias Region: Missouri Seed Starter Zinnias Daylilies
Irises Hummingbirder
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Topdecker
Apr 17, 2020 8:10 AM CST
@SulliO Cool that you are able to adapt! And that's a lot of compost Hilarious!
The return of perennials in the spring can feel like once again seeing an old friend
Name: Sulli
Philadelphia (Zone 7a)
Image
SulliO
Apr 17, 2020 8:16 AM CST
Topdecker said:@SulliO Cool that you are able to adapt! And that's a lot of compost Hilarious!


yeah it is, I ended up registering with the supplier so I could order at cost because I need to do bags rather than bulk- our first order is 600 bags-gulp! I did bulk last year and the labor of moving it was exhausting. Bags at least store easily and I can pause the project if needed. We're also in a city and have nowhere to dump 40 yards of compost but can store pallets easily.

Years of seasonal work has conditioned me to be able to tough out some lean times, I've been in it for 10 years and it's never predictable from year to year so I had to become a saver and if I'm not working on projects at home I help out my husband with admin stuff for his business which is steadier. I actually may intern with our hardscaping contractor to learn some new masonry skills and help him as he's short staffed due to the virus. Gotta keep busy
Name: Eric
Hawthorne, fl (Zone 9a)
Bee Lover
Miamiu
Apr 17, 2020 12:53 PM CST
So far most of my walmart dahlias in pots last year have started sprouting.
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Butterflies
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ScarletTricycle
May 11, 2020 3:24 AM CST
I can't sleep so why not reach out and say hello!

Sulli: my goodness that's a lot of compost to move. I hope that job went well and easily. I have my own heap that we will run the small tiller over this week and I'll get moving about into my beds and garden. With your cold frame do you have any issues with the drops below 30? Of course maybe it doesn't get that cold where you are.

Miami: I too wintered over Walmart ones - I had bought a 3 pack of DP last year, I had lost one before fall. The other was a DP yellow that looks kind of like a kelvin floodlight huge initial blooms and the other one was definitely not a DP. I think it's great we can save and grow again.

Dan: I hear you on seeing one and saying I'll fit it in. That was my problem w/shopping local with my few excursions once a week. Besides winter temps that seem to want to go on and on and being at home, seeing new life grow with the anticipation of blooms made me grab "just one more".

Hello all!

Did any of you get an email from SI announcing their end of season sale beginning on 5/16? Just in case y'all need a few more too.

I think all of the flowers I have been overwintering have been a saving grace for me during this stay at home. I have had blooms since it began(not on my dahlias but the other items I have). Totally helps the mood!

I have been working on my dahlia bed idea and think I have what will go where thanks to all of you. I also plan to tuck in my Victoria falls salvia and tassel flowers in some spots. I like riotous color. Who knows if it will all work but the goal is just to get them to grow.

I've got my jar lids ready to punch and write names on. I then hang them w a zip tie on my cages. I use old canning seals or jelly jar lids. It helps when I'm running quick and completely forget who is where.

I will say I'm totally ready for warmer temps, this 28F is for the birds. Heck they don't even like it. Happy start to your day!
Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.
— Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing
Name: Eric
Hawthorne, fl (Zone 9a)
Bee Lover
Miamiu
May 11, 2020 4:03 AM CST
As of now it looks like my dahlias growing this year are better looking plants than when they grew last year.
Name: Top
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Peonies Dahlias Region: Missouri Seed Starter Zinnias Daylilies
Irises Hummingbirder
Image
Topdecker
May 11, 2020 5:05 PM CST
I just finished planting the dahlias that I will have this year. 20 tubers spanning 15 varieties. I had 3 plants last year and this will be my first year starting with a few tiny bits of knowledge :)

All of the taller plants I planted in a row in order to make it easier to keep them supported. I am hoping that the 3.5' and smaller plants can manage without much support.

Top
The return of perennials in the spring can feel like once again seeing an old friend
Name: Sulli
Philadelphia (Zone 7a)
Image
SulliO
May 11, 2020 7:43 PM CST
Hi Scarlet,

The compost moving is still in progress but it's coming along. Today I was working on running the supply lines for drip irrigation. I hadn't planned to get into that but the boxes the tubing came in are huge and it's easier to just get the tubing run than try to find somewhere to store it all!

My cold frame just keeps the frost off on a cold night, here in PA we had mid 30's over the weekend and all was fine. I covered up my veggies but still lost a few tomatoes and peppers. I didn't expect such a cold May and I'm glad my dahlias aren't in the ground. We had a very mild winter this year but I didn't put up the frame or put anything out there till mid to late March. I tried it as a place to move seedlings to as I need the grow light space, it has worked pretty well.
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Butterflies
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ScarletTricycle
May 12, 2020 7:50 AM CST
Eric: Good for you on growth! I always am happy to see leaves come out on any plant I may try to grow. Keep it up!

Top: I didn't support some of my 2-3' varieties last year and I found they spread out and stayed weirdly low to the ground. I plan to support the 3' ones at least. I have horribly sandy soil and throw a populous and very active mole family on top of it, I'm not sure if that aided in those having a harder time to stay upright.

Sulli: did you build your own cold frame? I have had my plants in the last 3 days. We set a record low last night and my young hosta leaves tell me the story. I believe it was 24-25F. And tomorrow the low will be 50. I swear as I age the spring temps of late have been in serious crazy ranges. Some years it's so cold like now and other years serious heat that kills my iris just as they open. Somedays I say I can't win!

Question for all: do any of you use bonemeal? And if so, how do you keep the neighborhood dogs away in the middle of the night? I don't have a fenced yard. I've been advised to use potash and phosphate (I think, the bags are in the garage) instead. I'm just curious what you all use when you finally get them in the ground.

I long to go play in the dirt so this afternoon my kids and I will go work in the compost heap instead and get it ready to spread on the beds and garden as I plant. Funny how dirt can make you smile.

Happy day all!
Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.
— Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Butterflies
Image
ScarletTricycle
May 13, 2020 8:11 PM CST
Last night went ackled half the compost heap. Why only half? Because I found tufts of rabbit fur and we all know what that means. I came in the house to get something and my youngest ran in indicating they saw a small bunny. I'm hopeful mama takes care of moving them so we can finish tilling it up and I plan to move it to the garden and all beds and if excess around the bushes in the yard. I'm happy with how it broke down, now if it keeps every plant happy and healthy - I'm good!

I got some dahlias potted today as a lady from church dropped off in a trade. I haven't seen her since the virus reared it's head and I didn't want to pester her as she's older. We talked for sometime on the phone and we compared notes on storing over winter. It's good to get them planted and ready to leaf out.

I will be putting the dahlias out in the greenhouse shelf tomorrow. Finally nights not in the 20s! So I feel confident to move them out and keep them overnight in there. The ground is still too cool I feel to put them in yet and will continue to wait it out as it warms up.

Any of you in warmer areas, when do you see your first blooms? My very first one opened in the middle of July last year. It'd be so nice to see something earlier but maybe this one particular flower group will finally teach this gal patience. I'm really not!

Have a good evening. I'll keep you updated on the rabbits, I'd be more than happy if that was the last of them. Crazy things.
Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.
— Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing

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