Need advice on dahlia bed

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Every year I have traded for some dahlias and every year a scant few manage to produce or survive. I want to do better this year. I think putting them all together will help. I want to turn this location into a dahlia bed. What do I need to do to prepare it? Can any of the ferns stay? This gets afternoon sun until the sun sets each day. The two clumps of irises over near the cellar doors will need to stay for the time being until a new place is located for them in the main gardens. The pink, yellow, and dark purple (no longer blooming) will be dug out -- they do not have names.

The glass is for an eventual cold frame. It will be moved.

Thanks for the suggestions.

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Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Oh did I mention I will be doing the work beginning in the cool of the evening tonight and early tomorrow morning. Here's why. I've got a dozen in various stages of growth like this Lauren Michele.

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Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

As long as that site is sunny enough(4-6 hours a day) it's fine with me. The ferns could stay - they would of course not be visable by midsummer. How I make a new bed is to till it up as deep as I can - rake through getting out all the rocks etc, let it dry up and then till again going through it again. I then will add in compost of your choosing to help loosen the soil and work in not as deep. Certainly rich well draining soil is the goal - it might take a few years to get there, but it gets easier each year.

Delhi, IA

I'd add a little compost and bone meal if stray dogs don't roam about. They would love digging in the bone meal!!

Plant carefully since you have a lot of top growth. Usually we pot them up soon after growth starts. It will be very tender. Think I would dig a hole about 6 inches deep, put in your tuber and sift a little soil over it. Don't bother to fill the hole completely. I'd let it get established a few days and then gradually fill the hole with soil as more growth shows. We usually insert a stake at planting time so you have one ready when the plant needs staking. That way you won't stab the tuber if you drive in a stake later.

I wet newspaper and cover everything except the sprouts. Top with your favorite mulch and you are ready to grow. Hope this helps. Jean

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Your porch would make an ideal set up to use for staking the taller dahlias! Good luck and please remember to use slug bait as soon as they're planted.

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

I agree with all of the above- good enough sun, ferns can stay, deckrails will be great to tie to if you have tall dahlias, but I'd use stakes as well to support the early growth. Lauren Michelle is gorgeous, you'll love it!

Jam, why do you use wet newspaper? For weed suppression?

Delhi, IA

Wet newspaper under all my mulch whether grass clippings, straw, wood chips. No light, no weeds. It takes a little more time in the spring but you are done for the season. (And I hit the big 70 a couple of weeks ago so I look for the easy way!!!)

I wet 2 or 3 sheets of paper so it clings tight to the ground. No airpockets; then wet down the mulch afterwards to settle it down. And within a week a mole will find all your efforts. Just stick your hose in his run and turn it on. Perfect irrigation watering from all of his efforts____hehehehe____and you aren't wasting any water. It will stay moist for a month. 'Course we will probably get an inch a week all summer.

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Oh my stars...... good info on the paper/mulch covering.

Delhi, IA

Hey, as thin as I'm spread all summer I don't have much time for weeds. Last summer I tilled part of my garden after the taters were dug, poured on the compost, covered it with newspaper and then grass clippings and alfalfa that I cut and dried. This spring I used my trusty meat cleaver and slit open my row in the mulch and newspaper and planted. No over soft soil to work in for me. Haven't pulled a weed out of my vegies yet this year. But there will eventually be some for me to enjoy!!

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Looking very good!

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Well thanks for all the responses. It seems I was very busy this weekend. What started out as small for me wound up large for DH. This photo shows our progress as of Sunday afternoon. It seems he discovered that the slope of the hill was messing up the supports for the stairs (ie future rot problem) and we needed to fix it now. That led to pouring concrete.

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Ah! The joy (?) of gardening. One thing always does lead to another.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Which of course led to a retaining wall (which I think I'm liking better than our wall of stone in other locations)... DH is quite a master of "complicating" projects. ;-)

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Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Just another shot. It's looking quite good as of 9:30 this evening. Tomorrow evening will be the finishing touches. (I HOPE!) and the planting.

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Delhi, IA

Roni, I know the feeling. One spring I just got my annuals in place and my son decided this was the year to remove a buried gas tank under part of my bed. Well, anyway it's gone.

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Jam your technique looks like it works wonders. Maybe I could plant veggies again for the first time in years in the new rock bed. I may have to consider that for a small section. I think you ought to have someone get a photo of you with dirt smudged face, gleam in your eyes, and meat cleaver held aloft going after the mulch/paper rows. That would be Ebay material, for sure!

Roni, you really HAVE been busy. Wonderful job there. Are you going to be able to get in as many dahlias as you originally planned? It looks so very tidy and it's always smart to save your house from further damage. Nice work.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

I think so. Now the garden is about 3 foot further from the house than before to compensate for blending the new concrete pad in. Also I'm going to place some to the right of the stairs (if I need to) where the original rock wall had been.

Delhi, IA

Aren't garden related projects fun!! And so worthwhile. Let us know when you finally get the dahlias planted. Mine are waiting another day for the fence painting job.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

The last block to the dahlia bed was laid away today. Then I planted the dozen dahlias. I don't know how you all do it with 30 or 100's! Jean you rock! I hope I'm still moving around like you when I've been married 50 years! I couldn't get a good shot in the dark of the dahlias in their new bed, but I will in the morning, until then you can see some of the name tags and the remains of the baggies until I get name plates made in the morning.

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Good job! Did you put down slug bait?

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Ohn NOOOOOOO. I knew I forgot something!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Don't panic. Just apply it and don't overwater or the tubers may rot.

Delhi, IA

Roni, Don't panic about slug bait. All parts of the country don't need it. I don't know about where you are but I've never owned a can of it. Are other things of yours bothered by slugs? I may see an occasional nibble on a hosta, but nothing to require spending any money. Go by what bothers in your locality.

You see folks, I have an interest in Roni's dahlias. Some of them came from me. Don't forget to mulch them well___want to save all the moisture you can.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I've read reports from others in Maryland about slugs. That's my only reason for mentioning it.

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

The slugs in the Midwest are far fewer and paltry little fellows compared to our soggy loving local varieties. We uncover one every once in a while in my Mom's hosta bed. Not too much to complain about there. Here they climb up our glass patio doors to 3-4 ft leaving their nasty little slime trails for the Windex woman.

Jam, do you think slugs overwinter in MN/IA? Or do they perish and only eggs survive? Come to think of it, if a slug can survive a midwest winter, they deserve to live!

Don't know about the east coast, but they are a real menace here.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Never would I have imagined I'd be writing so much about slugs! Ours are the tiny variety - as in an inch for most and only two or three inches for Momma but I haven't seen a big one this year.....so far.

Delhi, IA

They must have eggs that winter over. Those moist bodies would never stand 20 below.

Enough talk about slugs. Next thing you know those whoppers you guys in the nw have will hear we are rather lacking and move on over. You can have them from some of the pictures you've shown. But it's a good thing they aren't a real menace all over. Crawling up the patio door____yuck. Keep all of them!!

This message was edited May 30, 2007 12:41 PM

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

I'll keep my well manner large slugs if you keep the Japanese Beetles and corn borer thingies. Those are too tough to fight. Hope that green coating on the seed corn helps keep their numbers down this year. A dahlia petal is a terrible thing to waste!

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

I didn't panic, too much. :) I will watch them but I do see slug trails up on some of the stone paths in the garden, but not in the raised areas, so I'm hoping that the slugs just won't go there. Of course when my 4 sons see one, out comes the salt contained for slow death.... Climbing up the glass, ewww!

Jean does have a stake in this plot in MD as does Marsha. Both have decided to give me a shot in exchange for irises. I'm so glad they have allowed me to repeat several years as I work this new addiction out. Of course, I like the idea of getting rid of excess in order to learn about something new.

Well I've got to run. Rangers to teach tonight. So no more gardening. I did take time to make markers and a map and to water the dahlias as the soil has not yet compacted completely, so I'm just doing a light watering -- it's draining rapidly. How often do you suggest I water?

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Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

Slugs are slow to get going here, I don't think I see them until June.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Friday is June 1st. Happy slug fest.

Don't overwater those baby dahlia tubers or they'll rot. Al would be the best one to tell you how often to water them. Twice a week, Al?

Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

You are right there Pirl. I worry about them rotting too and I don't even soak them like summertime yet.

Delhi, IA

If you get a weekly shower that should be sufficient until it gets a lot warmer. The ones I planted today were starting to wilt some so I watered them in. (Never done that before) They won't get any more by me until new growth starts showing. I hope to get the mulch on tomorrow and maybe that is all I will need to water.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Sounds good.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Marsha & Jean

I've got 7 of 12 you two sent up out of the ground. DANG something is ignoring the beer and eating the newest sprouts on the North end (left of picture above). Could it be rabbits? I wish I had seen the milk jug idea sooner. It would catch my attention since I just gave away several milk jugs that would have worked great. I think I may try clear plastic disposable cups instead of milk jugs for a few nights to see what we can do, seeings how a handful are less than 3 inches tall. Off in the morning, on at night.

I think I've lost Koral Reef to rot. I cut off the yucky part (it had white fuzz on it and was soft) and planted the good part which looked like it was trying to send out a new shoot, but I don't think it will survive. Duet, Be A Sport, Kenora Superb, and Kari Fruit Salad just seem to be sitting there. I will try to post pictures.

Mulching will be completed this weekend.

Roni

Delhi, IA

If they aren't out of the ground, hold the water. Rot will probably be working if you've been getting showers. Remember a fairly dry tuber can send up a shoot. If they are wilting, then water sparingly.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

We had a few evenings of rain so I've not been watering. None are wilted looking. I did get large cups to cover the the smaller shoots, the bigger ones (Lauren Michele and Goshen Calico are up to 6" +/-) are too big so I have to wait for some empty jugs later to help with slug issues. The ones that aren't doing anything, weren't doing anything in their baggies either. I was hoping putting them in the warm earth would help, but I've got time. :)

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

Those big pop bottles with bottoms cut off work too Roni. I have no time for milk jugs this year, but am slug baiting like crazy. So far so good. Want some milk jugs? I have about 200 I could send you.

You have time is a good attitude. I was ready to give up on a few here, we've had cold and rain off and on for 48 hours. Low and behold, I come home tonight and many of the slowbies are up! Now to fend off the slugs and any rabbit....

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

Big Bottles -- Good grief I've got tons of those -- why didn't I think. Oh would it hurt to leave them over the plants for a few days -- like a miniature green house? I haven't but I'm just wondering if it might help the slowbies.

Issaquah, WA(Zone 7a)

If there's any heat to the day, NO don't leave the plants covered. They will cook. 'On at night, off in the morning' is the best way I've found. Liquid Fence spray is excellent for both deer and rabbits.

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