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Dahlia Dividing Observations
by Suraya David-Sadira, FTT and Assistant Mini-Farm Manager, TJC

In 2021, we established an experimental 10-Bed Unit (10BU) at TJC complementing the ongoing research on this topic at VGFP and other 10-BU locations globally. The diet design for this experimental bed included dahlias as a versatile carbon/calorie/income crop. You can find a good intro to edible dahlias here.

image, mikayla miranda dahlias.comWelcome to part two in my five-part series (see part one here) where I share my experiences in Ecology Action’s Dahlia Research Project. The information I collect in this project will eventually be compiled and published in a booklet, but for now, you get to learn about my findings with me!

The varieties we selected this year are Thomas Edison, Café Au Lait, Mikayla Miranda, My Hero, Maki, Who Me?, Chick A Dee, Hometown Hero, Citron Du Cap, Giggles, and Patches. We were selecting for biomass, tuber size, and boom beauty: Thomas Edison, Café Au Lait, Mikayla Miranda, and Patches are likely to have larger tubers; Café Au Lait, My Hero, Who Me?, Hometown Hero, and Citron Du Cap are all high biomass producers; and the others produce extremely beautiful blooms we are all very excited to see.

hometown hero, dahlias.comThis quarter, I learned that dahlia tubers can be very delicate. The best time to start them indoors is one month before the last frost. When starting dahlias indoors, it is important to plant them the correct way and to not over-water them. This year, I started our dahlia tubers on April 15, in 6” seedling flats, on 3” centers, and about 4” deep. I learned about the delicacy of dahlias because I made the mistakes, learned the lessons, and now have the information to share with you! When planting the tubers, it is important to plant them so they lay horizontally in the flat, rather than upright/vertically, as tubers planted in the vertical orientation tend to rot. The next important thing is to not over-water them: once you plant them, give them one good water, then don’t water them again until they sprout or the flat completely dries out.

giggles,  dahlias.comOnce the dahlias have reached 3”-6” and you have passed the date of your last frost then you can plant the dahlia in the ground. The dahlias are most happy when planted in the evening, so they have time to adjust before spending a whole day in the sun. If you plant the tubes in the morning, they will likely be wilted for a few days before bouncing back. They are best planted 4”-6” deep, on 12”-18” centers. While you are planting them, stake them with a 5’-6’ pole. This is best done when your hole is dug, but before you put your tuber in—so you get the stake close but don’t accidentally stab your tuber. Make sure you are labeling each variety if you have a bed with a log of mixed varieties. Finally water your bed and watch your babies grow!!


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