Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Separating and Planting Dahlia Tubers

This weekend I took my dahlia out of the crawlspace to plant it for the season. Last year I waited until frost killed the plant. This took a couple of actual freezing nights. I waited until it was good and gone for the year. I dug it up, cut off the dead stocks with a hand pruner, then hosed it off with the garden hose to wash off the soil. I then wrapped it in a retired t-shirt and placed the large mass (tuber and t-shirt) in a plastic grocery bag tied it closed and put it into the crawl space for the winter. I did lightly spray it with water once in late January when I got out the last jar of canned salsa for the Superbowl.
I got the dahlia at Lowe's and haven't divided it since I got it, so it has two years of growth on it. I was quite surprised with all the tubers and will probably divide every year from now.
For those that don't know dahlias come with many different color flowers and the tubers can survive in the ground in places where it doesn't get cold enough to freeze the ground solid. Here in Colorado you have to dig up the below ground tubers and replant them in the spring to keep them alive.
First dahlia flower of 2011

My dahlia seems to grow very well in my garden. I planted it into a hole with some garden compost. The early growth was attacked by earwigs. I flicked them off whenever I remembered to look. Hidden in the picture is a short ~ 12" high support ring to hold up the plant. The above picture was taken in early August and you can see that some of the leaves are drooping due to heat. This one plant produced about 20 flowers right up until the nights started to freeze.
April 2012

Here is what I pulled out of the crawlspace in early April. the sprouts have already started growing.

I tried to cut tubers off with an attached sprout. I used a buck knife to cut apart the tuber. It was just too difficult to get each tuber off because of the "tangle". Here is what I ended up with.
The green things are silver maple seed pods (aka cottonwood caterpillars) while they are annoying they are immensely more desirable than the zillions of seeds that come off individually and blow and fill the yard in a couple of weeks.

Here they are all planted ready to get watered. The sticks poked into the dirt show the location of each of the seven tuber pieces I planted. The soil is pretty good in these beds having been used as garden beds for several years, so my only prep was to add some fresh compost. This bed had a couple of tomato plants and I try to rotate what I have planted to keep disease at bay. I placed them deep enough so that the tips of the sprouts were just poking out. When they start to show some green I'll water them with some high nitrogen plant food and add some more compost and grass clippings to shade the soil. Then after they have a good amount of green growth, I'll switch to a high phosphorus food (that's the middle number in the N-P-K).

This should make for a colorful bed with 7 tubers. They get full sun all day long. I'll be sure to post some pictures this fall when they are in bloom!

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