Benching up tubers & pot roots

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

For some of us with a bad case of cabin fever starting our dahlias and taking cuttings provide a nice relief for our afflication. What I plan to do it take this from the begining and right up to planting out. I hope to have pictures of all steps and would hope you would have comments or suggestions as to how you do it. So lets get started.
1. First we need a table in a warm room with lights close to the table top.
2. A heat pad is a good investment to move things along. Remember at this point heat is the most important part of the process.
3. Plastic tray with small holes in bottom fill with good grade soilless mix. Fill about 2/3 of the way and place on heating pads under the lights. See picture

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Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

You will note in the previous picture a soil temp cabel but this not a must. Next I select the pot rots I want to take cutings from and place them in the soil with the remains of last years stem pointing up.
DO NOT bury the whole root as we want to be able to see the shoots enterance from the clump of tubers.
What is a pot root? Very simply it's a dahlia that has been grown in a pot all year and when the season is over the pot is dug out of the ground to be stored for next season. Also I grown many dahlias in large pots to prevent wandering roots from tres entwing in my tubers so this would be a big pot root. More on this as we get along.
Picture shows pot root before planting.

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Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

And here we see the tray with 15 pot rots all ready to spring into life (I hope) Please note that all varieties are labled. This needs to be done as you plant each one. Don't wait to do al at once or your red beauty will bloom white :-)

This message was edited Feb 27, 2007 1:35 PM

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I'm watching every step.

At least we've made it to Feb. 28th.

Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Very nice pictures, Steve. I haven't welcomed you here on the Dahlia Forum, but welcome.
Is nice to have such a knowledgable person here who goes all over to dahlia shows too.
I finally got a nice greenhouse so I may do more potting up tubers like you. Tho I prefer to plant them in the ground or actual pot them up in large pots. I am not real fond of planting tubers that have grown for awhile.
Carol

Painesville, OH(Zone 5b)

Steve, thanks so much! I will be watching this thread. I just bought some tubers at our local Home and Garden show. Can I follow the same process as you? Our last avg frost date is May 20, and I will be planting them in the ground. Tamara

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Steve - we've always waited for the soil to warm up before planting them outside. We like 55 but prefer 60. Is this accepted practice or not?

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

Carol and others Thanks for your interest.
First the benching I have shown so far is an early start to trick our tubers into thinking its spring time. I want them to send up shots so I can clone them. If all goes well each pot tuber will give me 5-6 cloned plants. It is much too early to wake up tubers that I am going to plant right in the garden. I will let you know when I take them out of storage and get them going for the garden.
Second If I just bought some dahlias and I was not interested in taking cuttings I would just keep them in a cool place for the next 5-6 weeks. Tamara keep an eye on this thread and you will be ready to get them in the ground.
Pirl- Here on the Island I would like my soil at least 65 better yet 70. Dahlias don't do much growing in cold damp soil. I know the temptation is there and like you I can't wait to get them in the ground so I can have early flowers BUT cold and wet kill more dahlias than any insect. Now you can speed things along with black plastic bags over your soil and that will speed the warming.
Carol as we move along I will show you a good reason to get your dahlias well established in pots before planting out and how you can get an extra bonus this way.

Picture: Feb 27 2001 garden in New Zealand we were there

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Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Steve, I know there are benefits to planting potted dahlia plants. I just don't like digging that large of a hole. I prefer to dig just the tuber size holes. I may be doing more potting up tho since I have the greenhouse. But do appreciate all your knowledge here tho. We all learn little by little good tidbits about dahlias from each other.

That picture in NZ is wonderful!!! Wow, they really grow good there then. Guess the weather is good for them there? I have always wanted to visit NZ since my son did a report on NZ about 10 years ago. The scenery was so beautiful that I just wanted to go there.

Carol

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

Carol,

While I do plant some of my dahlias in pots in the ground I was talking about start your dahlias in pots before you take them out of the pots and plant them in the garden. With greenhouse space this will assure your success in planting out. Planting out in pots is useful when I am fighting tree roots. More on this later. A head start assures you of a good plant in the garden. From my good friend and most sucessful dahlia grower in OR most folks on West coast plant eyed tubers right in the ground and bypass the whole pot deal. Whatever works is the way to go with dahlias.

Steve
Picture: More gardends in NZ in Feb

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Marquette, MI(Zone 5a)

Thanks for sharing your photos and knowledge. I like the ageratums in the front of the border. Their color/shape/size sets off the dahlia beds nicely. What is the amber colored plant interplanted with them?

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Oooh, lovely pathway and gardens there Steve. I appreciate your input too. I've lost more tubers to our cold wet spring ground than you can shake a stake at. Patience is the key, but starting in pots sounds like a great alternative.

Carol, when we're rich and famous, we can go to New Zealand and take the dahlia tour! Hope I can still walk then.... I would love to see that country.

Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Ok, Annie, deal!!!! LOL
Geez, what would I give for dahlia gardens like that? That pic again is just gorgeous. I just want to wonder along that nice green grass pathway............................

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Me too Carol, and instead of NZ you're going to travel afar to exotic WA and try to protect your ankles on my lawn LOL Sorry!

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Albany, OR(Zone 8a)

Guess I better bring my heavy duty boots to protect my ankles, LOL

Nipomo, CA(Zone 8a)

I am oogling those pictures taken in NZ like a 16 year old boy looks at a classic 66 Mustang.Ohh Ahh
~~~~~
Steve, just to make sure we are on the same page here. If I get my dahlia tubers from Brecks, Springhill and Blooming Bulb, within the next week or two. Should I take the steps that you are describing? I plant mine in huge pots, as I have the hardest clay soil on the planet. You specified soiless mix, what is that exactly made up of?

Thanks for all your knowledge, I am sure Pooch and Bigcityal are glad there is another Professor of Dahlia amongst us. I peppered those two with questions like crazy last year! :)
~Dayna

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

First eyes breaking through. 10 days after benching up 8 of the 15 pot roots showing growing eyes. Too small for pictures but stand bye in a few days you can see them. Temp outside 17F

Steve

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

dwerland
Unless you are planning to take cuttings I would wait in my zone but for CA you could start right out as I have outlined.
For growing in pots I would ue this formula for a season use 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 good quality potting soil, 1/6 dehydrated cow or other type and 1/6 perlite. Mix all together and add some slow release fertilizer after planting. I would start my tubers in a flat like I show just to be sure they are going to grow.

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Pickens, SC(Zone 7a)

How long does it generally take to see sprouts on the benched tubers ?

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

Depending on variety from 1 week to 3 weeks

Steve

Dallas, GA(Zone 7b)

oh im watching this one i have a dozen kelvin floodlight coming six in storage and several more that i cant classify all going in the round bed can i start them in my green house? i have some space in my annual shelves before potting up; so,,, can i plant them in pots and then put them out when the the weather is what excatly? cause potting up space will be at a premium in 4 weeks?

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

As Steve said in one of these threads they prefer 70 degree soil temperatures. Mine go out the very end of May to early June (first week).

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

Green at last. The picture shows some green and the begining of shoots. about 10 more days to cuttings. This tray benched up March 1 so this is 10 days later. Tray 1 benched Feb 26 has breaking eyes but not enough for pictures. Some varieties are slower. This picture has mostly Pom varieties which for some reason come faster.

Steve_D

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Nipomo, CA(Zone 8a)

bulbhound~
I love your pretty little island in the middle of a sea of grass. Very nice. I was thinking of doing something like that. Problem is, I don't know if this is always the case, or if mine is just odd, but a zillion years ago when the previous owners laid the sod, there is a very strong green netting that is under it all, it makes it difficult to try to clean out a spot. But I will try! I hear our weather is suppose to be wonderful for the next week, so I am anxious to get started on a project or two.
Dayna

Dallas, GA(Zone 7b)

ill say this, it was a huge job plus automatic underground watering and drainage but it has been the most rewarding experience in my garden.

This message was edited Mar 10, 2007 7:47 PM

Marlborough, CT(Zone 6a)

dwerland,

I saw your comment regarding sod removal and thought that my experience might be helpful. I put down sod for a lawn and then 3 years later removed a 50ftx4ft section for a garden. My sod arrived with mesh and my guess was that this was to hold it together as it was cut in the field and then rolled like jelly rolls for transport. The mesh actually was an advantage when it came to removing the sod. The mesh made it possible for me to peel up sod sections intact. My sod pieces were about 1ft x 6ft. The trick is to start by freeing up some sod, then loosen up an end till you have something you can get a good grip on. It is similar to peeling a label off a plastic container. If you have been hacking away at the sod with a shovel or cultivator, it might be easier to try peel it off instead. Every once in a while my vigorous tugging pulled off a small sod piece and I suddenly ended up on my backside. Make sure there are no garden tool behind you! I hope that this sets you on your way to a new dahlia bed.
.

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

I have not forgotton ---the first sprouts are always slow. Should have some for cutting by the end of next week.
Most tubers are awake and starting to show eyes. There are the usual lazybones that just don't want to wake up. Keep tuned.

Steve_D

Massapequa Park, NY(Zone 7a)

Well it's time to start taking a few cuttings. Several are the correct height and are ready. Note they are about 3" high but more importantly have several sets of leaves. This is an unamed variety from England that is said to have a scent by the originator. He has asked me to evaluate it and I will grow about 10-15 to check on the scent.
Picture shows a 6" plastic pot with 6 TINY pot roots. Will take cuttings tomorrow night as best to have cuttings recover from cutting shock in the dark.

Steve_D

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Aptos, CA

This is fun! Yahoo!

Nipomo, CA(Zone 8a)

Okay Steve Stupid question. The growing matt, does it have to be made specifically for propragation, Can I use dog warmer mat? They looked cheaper.
I have a kitten who likes to lounge in the sun ( I have never met one who didn't) so she has been sunny herself in Mrs. Eileens, pot, I am starting to see some grown so I move and (plat and kitty) kitty doesn't like new spot, so she stalks off and plop right into another pot, this was however was growing anemones and some glads, so I have to take the kitty fur she made in the first dahlia pot, and transfer it to the leeking pot. So kitty can have room to sleep.
Dayna
Just my two cents worth today

Boxford, MA(Zone 6a)

What a labeling nightmare this is.
I just bought some waterproof ink-jet paper; it's worked OK in the bags with the tubers, but it will probably fade outdoors. Then I can just name everything "Dahlia". If I feel like making an effort, I could print pictures (I'll just cross out Al's name) with the cultivar, and make wicked professional-like tags! But that would be completely over-the-top O/C, and we all know that's not like me at all.

Dwerland, Kitty is Supervising! Lucky you!

This message was edited Mar 20, 2007 2:26 AM

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Why not label the tubers and have a tag made up as well - as in cut up old vinyl venetian blinds?

Marquette, MI(Zone 5a)

Jax, I think it is the sun that fades most permanent markers and not so much rain/water. Gardeners Supply, and others, sells a marker that is fade/UV resisitant. It usually lasts at least two seasons for me. When I dig tubers the tags go right in storage with them. Also, label each tag twice, once where you can see it and and then on the part that is buried in the ground. I use ventian blinds, purchased at garage sales and at Habitat Restore for $2.00.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I use the VB's also, regardless of how awful they look. Someone told me that if you use the paint pens on metal blinds it works even better.

Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

I don't like the tip on my nonfadeable marker - it's kinda mushy. Otherwise the blinds with markers are fine. I started to mark mine with homemade metal tags wrote on with an engraver and tied on to the stake. We'll see if they corrode too much to read or not.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

There are all kinds of points now, Al, so maybe return to the store, or try a new shop and see what they have. Just took them all out: one from Gardener's Supply ("Garden Marker") has a distinct point. If it turns flat with time is something I'll just have to find out for myself. Then the Elmer's "Painters" come in Calligraphy point or Medium. American Accents has "Decorative Paint Pen" - calligraphy tip that can also be used for printing (of course!). "UNI Paint" makes medium line pens with a not pointy tip. "DecoColor" offers an "Opaque Paint Marker" with an "extra fine" tip, which doesn't look like any of the other felt type tips - more like a pen.

This message was edited Mar 20, 2007 12:25 PM

Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

I'll have to look - I lost my guy card years ago when I started to frequent Hobby Lobby


Steve - I do have a question for you. I do have some old mother tubers to grow this year. Would you think that it would be best to start them up and then take cuttings to grow them with?

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Dayna, people have used waterbed heaters too: in many cases they are cheaper than a plant propagation mat for the size, thermostat included. I have used a heating pad but the cats fight over the rights to it and the dahlias always lose to the felines.

I use Sharpies on my labels. Brown seems to last longest in the sun, but even those will fade, so a re-writing is in order about mid season. Those Perma Ink 'fadeproof' pens for gardeners have proven to fade here. Ones that lasted without fail were Veeja's aluminum ? metal tags with embossed names- very handy.

Aptos, CA

I mark plastic white labels with plain old #2 pencil...it stays and stays it never fades!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The pencil some trader used, when she sent me some plants, is still terrific.

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