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The Only Diva I Allow on the Farm!!

It seems silly to be talking to you about Dahlias when you will not see their faces for at least 6 months but they are always keeping us busy behind the scenes. In today’s blog post I will walk you through our process of planting, winter care, digging, storage and dividing.

Dahlias are at the top of the list when it comes to high maintenance flowers. If anyone knows me you know that I am not high maintenance so these flowers are like the girly girl daughter that I never had. I can’t get rid of them because they are too much of a staple and workhorse on the farm so I have to just surrender and love them for who they are!

Planting: Our Dahlias typically get planted in the ground in mid-May. We have 50’ beds with two rows per bed and space them 18” apart. We place a bit of bone meal in each hole. Once they pop up through the ground we begin watering, our first three seasons we really struggled with our Dahlias and I have found over the years that they are big drinkers. They really appreciate a soaking rain. This past summer provided us a bumper crop of Dahlias and I fully believe it was because I kept them fertilized and we had a soaking rain at least once a week. We also will stake and net them at this point. Any grass clippings from mowing our grass are placed around them as a mulch for weed prevention.

Care: As I mentioned above Dahlias drink a lot of water and I try to fertilize them with fish emulsion every couple of weeks. If I see anything is off with the color of their leaves or if they seem to be struggling, I send a tissue sample immediately to the lab. This year I am going to try something that I saw from Jennie Love and place bird baths throughout the field. We have heavy grasshopper pressure and I usually have to spray for grasshoppers one time throughout the season. Bird baths are supposed to bring in multiple species of birds that will help with insect pressure. This will be a fun experiment and if anyone has a bird bath that you want to get rid of let me know!

Digging/Storage: Can we pause for a moment and just reflect that this can be the absolute worst job on the farm. If you have a beautiful fall day it isn’t so bad but if it is cold, rainy and muddy you will find yourself hating life and the choice you made to grow Dahlias. It has become a bit better for me because I no longer rinse our Dahlias as soon as I dig. Most growers will hose the tubers off and let them cure for several days before storing them for the winter. I have found with the humidity levels in our basement that if I leave the dirt on them, they store so much better for me. We were losing so many to rot and with leaving the dirt on we barely lose any.

Dividing: There are tons of YouTube videos on how to divide Dahlias so I am not going to deep dive into that but we typically dig in late October and they sit in the basement until February/March time frame when we start dividing. If it is a nice day I will carry them out of the basement and use the back of the pick-up to divide. This helps with two things. One the dirt that is left on them becomes very dusty so it gets me in the open air and I am not breathing the dust in and two the basement doesn’t get as dirty from the dried dirt falling off. Pictured below is Allison dividing outside.

Every year we leave a few rows in the ground to over winter. We mulch them heavily with straw, cover with a tarp and place heavy rocks over the tarp. In the spring when all fear of frost has passed we uncover them and use the straw as weed barrier. The overwintered Dahlias will bloom earlier and tend to be very robust.

I hope you have enjoyed my brief description of our Dahlia process and hopefully sharing what works for us will help you. I know we have a lot of Dahlia lovers in our area so feel free to drop your questions or tips below!!


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