How has your luck been with the wet and cold weather this year?

HighlanderNorthJune 4, 2013

I tried planting most of my tubers in late April because they were sprouting in storage anyway, so I planted them. Then it rained, rained and rained some more before their stems had broken ground, plus it was very cool most days and dahlias don't seem to grow fast in cool weather.

So at least half never grew stems above ground due to the stems rotting in the mud, and fortunately I was able to dig up most of the tubers before they rotted and I replanted, then we got 2 more inches of rain over the next few days! So I had to replant a few yet again.

They have been in the ground for almost 6 weeks and none are over 6" tall yet! I am learning that its best not to put them in the ground til about the 3rd week of May like I have done before with good success. It seems I just can't seem to get an early jump on dahlias with any success. Maybe if I had a heated greenhouse I could start them in early April then move them out in late May, but I no longer have a heated greenhouse, so....

How has your luck been with all the rain and cool weather?

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steve22802(7a VA)

Your just over in Delaware right? You must have a significantly different climactic pattern over there than I do here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I'm technically in a semi-arid climate and I've been suffering from heat and drought! :( But my dahlias are off to a good start anyway though I've been watering more than usual this time of year. Hopefully on Friday I'll finally get some welcome rain.

I started lots of dahlias in pots in my unheated greenhouse this year and that has given me a big head start. I planted some out before my last frost date (May 15) and wouldn't you know it we had a hard frost on May 14th and even a light frost on May 25! I had to cover around 140 dahlia plants during the hard frost. The light frost on May 25th only did minor leaf damage though it totally destroyed the leaves on some green beans in a nearby garden. My first dahlia blossoms should be fully open today. One is on a plant that I overwintered in the ground outside and the other two are from clumps that I stored in large pots, woke early in the greenhouse and then plant outdoors in the ground. I have many more plants with nice buds already because I got them off to an early start in the greenhouse and then transplanted them outdoors as 12 inch plants a week or two before last frost date.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 12:07PM
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I usually put mine in the ground about June 1st - but I havent gotten them in yet because it has been so rainy here. The plants however look super healthy. I planted them up in 4"cow pots mid April (except a couple of giant tubers that went in 1/2 gallon pots) and kept them under fluorescent lights until last week when they went out to my screened in porch. They range from 18" to 6" tall and are rarin to go. I maybe able to start putting them in tomorrow.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 3:16PM
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steve22802(7a VA)

Here's a picture of the bed of dahlias that I overwintered. The dahlia on the left side of the photo that is blooming was not overwintered but it was started early in a pot in my greenhouse.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 5:01PM
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How did you over winter them in the ground without then being killed by snow and frost? Did you have a temporary greenhouse structure built over top of that garden or something? Christ, I planted my tubers over 6 weeks ago and the tallest plant is maybe 6 inches, and I just was finally able to snip the stems at the 3rd leaf level on just 3 of them so far, and that was just a week ago! Granted, it's been cool here for the most part, except for a heat spell a that ended about a week ago where it was in the high 80's to 90 degrees and humid for about 5 days, but just 1 day before that heat spell began here in northern De, it was high temps in the 60's.

Usually if I plant unsprouted tubers around May 25 they are up in around 12-14 days, and ready to be topped at their 3rd leaf level within 2 weeks of that time or so. But then again, the daily high temps are usually steady in the high 70's to 90's by late May into June, and the spring rains are usually over by then.

But it's been in the Mid 70's all week, and we've now had about 26 straight hours of moderate to heavy rain due to the current storm. I'd bet we've gotten another 2-3 inches of rain in the last 26 hours! I fully expect more of my already weakened dahlias to rot.

Next year I think I'm gonna pay a local greenhouse to let me place a few pots in their heated greenhouse in early April, and I'll start some of my tubers there. Maybe even early march.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 12:35AM
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steve22802(7a VA)

Woohoo, I finally got some good rain! At least 1.5 inches of nice slow steady rain thanks to Andrea. We were on the edge and got just the right amount of rain with no wind. :) My dahlias are lovin' it! They are going to grow like crazy this coming week with the fully saturated soil and nice moderate temps in the mid 70s.

HighlanderNorth, here's what I did to overwinter one 4x16 foot bed of dahlias last winter. The bed is a raised bed constructed two concrete blocks high, 16 inches. (See the picture.) So the dahlia tubers are all above grade and will not sit in saturated ground over winter no matter how much it rains or snows. I mulched the bed in late November with about 8-10 inches of dry leaves. Lastly I covered the whole bed with a 4x16 foot sheet of clear 4mil sheet plastic and weighted it down with bricks all around the edges so it wouldn't blow away on a windy day. The plastic sheds water which keeps the soil from becoming saturated and keeps the leaves dry which maintains their insulating value. I used clear plastic because that allow some sun to penetrate and helps warm the leaves and soil on sunny winter days. Along about early April I simply removed the plastic and part of the leaves and let the dahlias do their thing. All of the dahlias survived and most of the plants are huge already but a few looked weak and one i replaced. I don't know what was different about those that weren't strong right out of the gate.

It worked so well that I'm going to do the same thing with the other 3 raised beds that I planted with dahlias this spring. I will leave the clumps I overwintered this past winter for a 2nd winter. I'm curious to see how much bigger the clumps get in their 3rd season (2014.) I'm hoping they don't get much bigger but instead stabalize at what would be their natural maximum size as a tropical perennial.

I think one could accomplish the same thing, keeping the tuber clump above grade, with mounded raised beds. The thing I don't like about mounded raised beds is that they tend to become rounded instead of flat on top and shed much needed water during summer thunderstorms. You could also use a simpler construction method and build simple raised bed walls using treated 2x12s filled with good well draining soil. HighlanderNorth, you should give this a try next winter i think it would work well for you too.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 8:26AM
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