How is it May already? It seems like just yesterday I was anxiously refreshing my browser to ensure I could purchase the dahlia varieties on my list from a couple of select farms! While that has become common practice in our house around New Year’s, this year had some added pressure since all things gardening and flowers have been discovered and rekindled by the pandemic.
I’ve already been by the garden centers more times than I can count and I’ve shown amazing restraint! This is the time of year I get itching to plant. Living in Northeast Ohio (Zone 6b), I know well enough to wait – we had snow last May and mid-May frosts are not out of the question.
To satisfy my planting desire, I’ve declared today “Dahlia Inspection Day”. I have pulled out the dahlia tubers for inspection, inventory, and labeling. It’s important not to handle the tubers too much at this point in the season because those little sprouts are tender and can break off easily.
We wintered over several varieties from last year and I have been nervous about their viability. While waiting one more week to dig the tubers in early November, we received multiple days of ‘hurricane rain’ (what we affectionately call the rain from the remnants of a hurricane passing over the Midwest). Last year was the first year growing in this plot and it had not been amended well – so it was pretty much straight clay. If you aren’t familiar with clay soil, it holds water – really well. We were pulling clumps out of pools of water and had to dry them out on tarps in the garage.
Anyway…We have viable tubers with eyes and sprouts! The numbers are lower than hoped for, but we still have lots of tubers. I’m checking for mushy dahlia tubers (think a squishy, rotten potato), eyes and sprouts. We’ve had the tubers pulled from the root cellar in the basement and they’ve been in the garage for a couple of weeks. This allows them to ‘wake up’ and I can see what has good potential. I’m also taking the time to write the name of the variety on the tubers. This is tedious, but it helps prevent any mix-ups in the field later. Last, I’m keeping track of how many tubers we have of each variety on a spreadsheet. I’m interested in watching our inventory over time and decided this is the year to start documenting.
In addition to our stock from previous years, we did make a few purchases around New Year’s. Most are new-to-us varieties and I’m excited to see how they perform. In our first years growing we only had a handful of varieties. White and purple were my most common colors and I still excited to see a rainbow of colors in the field, as well as variations in form. We started out with dinner plates and have come to love ball forms and even the occasional cactus!
My inspection today also includes these new varieties that have been coming in the mail. It is important to check your tubers when they arrive and keep an eye on them until you get them in the ground. Many reputable sellers will work with you if a variety does not sprout within a certain time of delivery. We purchased from two growers and a larger online retailer. The best quality has always come from the smaller growers. This year we purchased from The Dahlia Shed in Rhode Island (for a second year!) and Five Fork Farms in Massachusets. Our order with the online retailer, unfortunately, had several problem tubers. I’d say half of our order either had diseases tubers or tubers with broken necks, which means they won’t grow. I contacted the retailer and they are working with me on either replacements or a refund. They’ve been good, but it is disappointing to get a box in the mail with so many issues inside.
The tubers below all came from different sellers. Each seller packages their tubers in different mediums (vermiculite, shavings, peat moss). Each tuber below has an eye or a sprout.
These tubers below are all the same variety from the same seller. They differ in size, but will all produce great plants!
I can’t wait to share all of our new varieties with you! I’d love for you to join our email list to receive our latest updates!