After getting the front and back gardens planted full of vegetables, gourds, and melons this year I found myself with a little extra room. I suppose I could fill it with some extra sweet corn….OR maybe a few dahlias?? There’s always a little debate about how many flowers I can sneak into the garden. The practical side of me says that I should most certainly use the space for food- extra tomato and pepper plants, or corn and cucumbers- the staples that we can never have enough of. But the romantic side of me says FLOWERS! Who needs to eat when you can sit and stare at those big beautiful blooms? Am I right?! And these are summer’s equivalent to peonies (love). Besides, I’ll just grab extra corn at the local farmer’s market.
So well into the 2nd week in June, I decide to use 1/2 the space for sweet corn, and the other 1/2 for dahlias, with a few gladiolus and guernsey lilies sprinkled in.
It’s a little on the late side which means you really have to pick through the bulbs at the store to find good ones, and many favorites may not even be available anymore. I dug through all of the varieties that were left and found quite a few that passed the test. Things to look out for when buying tubers/bulbs:
- Mold- if they look even a little moldy or furry, pass them up.
- Dehydrated- after sitting in storage and on store shelves for so long, some bulbs can be too dry. If they look more like a raisin and feel soft or squishy, they may be too dry. They should be pretty firm and plump (almost like a fingerling potato for dahlias).
- Sprouts- when it’s this late in the season, I like to buy tubers and bulbs that have little sprouts. It’s not totally necessary, but just another good sign that they’re ready to get growing!
When you think you’ll have a little extra time one day (planting all of mine, start to finish, took about 35
minutes), get a big bin of water and soak your tubers for a few hours. This may not be necessary if you’re planting right away in early spring, but it was almost 90 degrees here today so I wanted to give mine a good soak first. Again, a few hours is fine, but I wouldn’t leave them in there a couple days or anything- we don’t want them to rot or get moldy.
I put my stakes in the ground first (I use the extra green metal ones we use to stake trees in the orchard, but a sturdy wooden one would work great too), about 12″-18″ apart. It’s better to stake when you’re planting so you don’t damage the roots by doing it later. Each of my packs comes with 2 bulbs, so I just plant 1 in front of the stake, and 1 in the back, so there are 2 plants per stake. If the tubers have sprouts already, I leave the sprout above the soil when planting, and put the bulb about an inch below the soil.
Put a sprinkler on them right away for 20 minutes or so, and then turn it on once or twice a day to keep them evenly watered.
I like to take pictures so I can remember what I planted where without having to label every single plant. I also like to plant similar colors next to each other. For example, this year they go from deep reds and purples on the left, to oranges, to corals and bright pinks on the right. Why not, right?
By late summer I should have some amazing hot pinks and oranges, with my deep reds and purples for fall arrangements.
So what are you waiting for?!? Go get some dahlias- they’re probably on sale- and throw them in the ground! You won’t be disappointed.