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The Aylett Recipe For Best Results…
Dahlias grow best in a water-retentive soil but one that drains freely. They flower prolifically when planted in a sunny site sheltered from strong winds. The soil preparation should begin during the winter with plenty of organic matter being dug into the soil. Ideally the following spring at about 3-4 weeks before planting a slow acting fertiliser such as Bonemeal should be forked into the soil.
Dahlias require plenty of room to develop, ideally 60cm-90cm 2ft -3ft) between plants, the larger the flower the larger the space. The Bedding Dahlias require less space and can be planted as close as 22cm-30cm (9-12ins) these then can be grown without staking although if the site is prone to winds they will benefit from short canes between the plants.
Dahlias should not be planted out until all fear of frosts is past; normally this is the end of May beginning of June. All sites differ and its best to keep an ear to your local forecasts, often a covering of frost protection material is all it needs to prevent your plants from being damaged.
Before planting water the young plants well. Plant in a good quality compost, firstly, because it retains moisture to help plant growth, and secondly, when the tuber is lifted in autumn, compost falls away, leaving a clean tuber. Make a hole 20cm square and 20cms deep and put in half a bucket of compost, and mix with a small quantity of Fish, Blood and Bone (about a dessert spoon full). Make sure this is well mixed with the compost so that the roots of the plant are not in direct contact. Insert a strong cane or stake into the hole.
Remove the plant from the pot taking care not to disturb the root ball. With a hand trowel, place the plant next to the stake and firm in well. Plant so that the final soil level is just below the lowest leaves – and give a good soaking with water. Remember to label each plant.
Tying up immediately after planting is a good idea and will protect the young plants from strong winds that might cause damage. It is also a good idea to apply a dressing around the plant with a mulch. On the nursery we use a product called Strulch which we highly recommend. It not only keeps the moisture from evaporating but also discourages slugs, suppresses weeds and has the added advantage of improving the soil structure for the next season. It is available to purchase from the garden centre in the compost area or on our online shop here.
‘Stopping’ is the removal of the growing tip when about four pairs of leaves have been formed. Nip out the tip just above the third pair of leaves, but avoid squashing the stem.
Strong side shoots will develop at the leaf joints, to form the framework of the plant. Plants have often been stopped by us before you purchase so as to produce a stronger plant. If you are planning to exhibit and like to regulate your stopping times, unstopped plants are usually available.
Growing On & Feeding
Dahlias can suffer from the usual garden pests; Earwigs seem to be the one that most customers talk about. We have never found these to be a problem, but slugs can be and do like the young plants in particular. Later in the season, especially if it has been dry and hot, Dahlias can suffer with mildew, this takes the form of a white powdery coating on the leaves and stem. One of the key ways to grow a healthy plant is to ensure that plants are well fed and watered, so they do not become stressed and more susceptible to disease. However, should your plants be attacked by pest or disease, among the broad range of plant protection products that we offer you will find there are many methods to control pests and disease whether its prevention, repelling or controlling – choose one that suits your gardening habits best, talk to our expert team for advice.
Always read the label! When using Pesticides and Fertilisers always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Disbudding is the removal of the buds that form at the leaf axils; this has the effect of producing long stemmed quality blooms. As a general rule the first two pairs of buds below the terminal bud are removed. The number of buds or growths removed will influence the size of the flower. This process is necessary if you intend to exhibit your Dahlias.
For a good garden display disbudding is not always necessary. As each terminal bud flowers and becomes past its best, carefully remove it to allow the side shoots to develop. All old flowers should be removed to encourage further side buds to develop and flower.
Lifting & Storing of Tubers
Dahlia tubers should not be lifted until after a frost. They should be cut down to 6ins from soil level and carefully dug up. Take care not to damage the crown as it is from this point that next year’s shoots emerge.
Tubers should be dried and it is advisable to stand them upside down in order to allow moisture in the stems to drain away. Ideally, they should be put in wooden boxes, packed with vermiculite, straw or even newspaper to stop them drying out and kept in a frost-free place. Most garden sheds and garages are not frost proof. They should not be kept in too warm a place as they will shrivel or a cold damp situation where they will rot. It is advisable to examine tubers several times in the winter and if, any trace of rot is found, they should be treated with a protection fungicide.