The First Freeze, Fall 2021

Well, this season has zoomed by. As expected, I was too busy just keeping up with the garden to bother to write anything about it. But I took a ton of pictures, and I have many snowy months ahead, and I have many analysis posts bubbling up to post. But as I’m still in the middle of wrapping up the garden for winter, it may be a bit. And given that I got my first bad head cold in over a year this week, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the last week of warm weather to do my clean-up. 😦

However, now we’ve just had our first freeze– FINALLY! Our usual first freeze is the 1st week of October; this year’s freeze didn’t hit until November 1. I had gotten to the point where I was tearing out my squash and tomato plants even though I knew, based on our weather reports, that they could have had another week or two in the ground. I never thought I’d be wanting the winter to come sooner, but these past few weeks I was getting kinda twitchy waiting for it to finally hit. The leaves are only just now changing and dropping from the trees–usually the trees are bare by the time Halloween comes.

Plants That Did Not Survive The Freeze:

Now that it has, I can say without a doubt that dahlias do NOT like freezing temperatures whatsoever. All of my backyard dahlias turned brown and limp overnight. I harvested the last of the blooms on Halloween–my kitchen windowsill is completely filled right now. It looks beautiful, but for the first time in three months, I have no new bouquets to look forward to. The plan is to let the dahlia plants sit for a week or two and then dig them up and store them. Dahlias will get their own post–maybe even two. I have a lot to say about dahlias this year.

Other plants that did not fare well in the freeze were my zinnias, and my potatoes. The zinnias look just as brown as the dahlias. The potato leaves looked brown and flopped over completely. I harvested the last potato planting from September today, and did actually get a fair amount of fingerling potatoes. The nasturtiums died as well. I thought I remembered them being more cold-resistant last year, but apparently they are only warm-weather plants.

Also, my night-blooming jasmine bushes, which I knew ahead of time would not be happy with the cold, did not survive. I had three but only have the space to overwinter one, so the other two were left out in the cold, and are looking just as bad as the dahlias. (Unfortunately no one in my area had the space or setup to successfully overwinter medium-sized bushes.) Technically the two outdoor plants are still green, but the leaves are limp and I’m sure another night of freezing temps will kill them entirely.

And, surprisingly, my lovely Moonflower vine died just as quickly as the dahlias. I wish it was a perennial–it took a good four months for the vine to get up and going, and I only had a month and a half to enjoy the flowers.

And my green onions and smaller calendula plants (both of which are planted in greenstalks) did not fare well.

Plants That Survived The Freeze Just Fine:

My white-blooming Nicotiana plant survived, surprising enough. I though that given that it has very soft foliage, it was sure to die off. And it’s massive–the seed packet didn’t lie, it did actually get 6′ tall! And 3′ wide. It has HUGE, fuzzy, sticky leaves which are also apparently resistant to frost. But, the freeze has not made a dent in any part of it yet, as for as I can tell.

The rudbeckias and echinaceas are also unfazed. My Shasta daisies and sunflowers were already dead before the freeze hit. The violas and pansies also petered out before the freeze, but I think they could have taken teh cold temps if the plants hadn’t been so old.

My large purple cabbages are also unaffected, though their grow rate has significantly slowed. The beets and turnips have also survived–but again, are not growing significantly. The Brussel sprouts are also alive but no longer growing.

The leeks are faring the same–still healthy and alive, but not really growing.The swiss chard also survived, but I’m not sure how much longer it’ll last.

Plants That Are Thriving Now That It Is Cold:

My broccoli plants are the happiest campers right now. They are obviously continuing to grow, and the leaves are crisp and fresh-looking. Admittedly, I planted my broccoli late–in mid-September, IIRC–but the plants are still happy. They are not producing shoots yet, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m growing the Rudolph variety, which is supposedly December sprouting. I also planted a variety that is supposed to be able to overwinter in Zone 6 (I’m zone 5 a/b) so we’ll have to wait and see how that one does.

All of my lettuces are also quite happy–they look even better than my kales. I’m growing several of Johnny’s Salanova varieties, and other varieties that are supposed to be able to withstand the cold, and so far, so good.

The snapdragons are quite happy as well, and are still showing the light-green of new growth. They do not have as many blooms as they produced during the summer, though.

To be continued…

The Drought (Heat Wave, June 2021)

Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but here in the upper Midwest we’ve been experiencing some crazy heat. This, following an exceedingly dry spring (and now summer), has put us in a drought. And my plants are not happy.

We’ve been experiencing at least 90F highs since June 5. I had about four days between having to shelter my pepper plants in the house overnight due to frost warnings before the high temperatures kicking in. Spring? What Spring??

After a week of these high temps, I kind of gave up. I’d been watering my garden every night and checking each and every plant several times a day, every day, and even so I lost a bunch of them. I lost 4 out of 5 of my expensive Joan J thornless raspberries. All of their new growth had started to go brown, for some reason, right before the heat wave anyway, and when the heat wave hit, they went down like a house of cards. Even the largest one finally gave up the ghost today, apparently. Also, half of my strawberries have died–for the most part these are the ones from disreputable sellers that I would have been surprised if they had survived and produced fruit anyway, but still. And my sweet peas–out of season at this point, true, but still–need constant watering or they turn into prematurely dried sweet peas. At this point, my attitude is: If you’re not strong enough to survive this, then I don’t need you in my garden, no matter how valuable of a plant you are. Suck it up, buttercup.

My plants are also getting heavily hit by some kind of black speck that just looks like dirt got splashed up on the plant’s leaves, but is in fact some kind of nasty bug that is killing many of my plants. It appears to like my dahlias and poppies best, for some reason. And my cabbages! I expected the cabbages to be attacked by the cabbage worms, sure, but these tiny black bugs are even worse. An entire beautiful Napa cabbage plant turned to lace overnight. Cabbage worms, even at their worst, can’t do that. So I’m spraying BT and dusting with diatomaceous earth pretty much every day. My understanding is that this hot dry weather is perfect for these bugs, so until we get out of this drought, this is the situation we’re in. If nothing else, cabbage grows really quickly and I can try again in the fall.

Some good news?

As long as I keep on top of the watering, my potatoes are extremely happy. I’ve never grown potatoes, but they are big and lush and energetic despite the heat. My tomatoes are also coming along quite happily, and my squash seeds are germinating and sprouting really fast. Also, when they are not getting eaten alive, my dahlias are also loving this hot weather. And the rest of the strawberries–those strong enough to survive–are thriving and putting out a ton of fruit. I have my first home-grown strawberry (Albion, from Johnny’s) a week ago! It was tasty, but not mind-blowing. What was mind-blowing was tasting my first home-grown snap pea about two weeks ago (Magnolia Blossom Sugar Snap, Baker Creek); the flavor was amazingly sweet and complex.

Surprisingly, my snap peas and my lettuces are still growing apace. No issues there. I think it helps that I’m primarily growing Salanova lettuce varieties from Johnny’s, which have some kind of heat resistance. My peas in the Greenstalk are producing steadily and have huge vines. The ones in raised beds and containers (planted about a month or so later) are growing and starting to produce, but the vines maybe a bit shorter than they should be. As this is the first year that I’ve ever had any success with peas, I have no idea.

Also thriving are the old raspberry bushes in the yard. I had dug out most of them because they were old and worn out, and the bed was infested with a ton of large elm and maple saplings. (We have a huge problem with random tree saplings popping in our garden and lawn–anybody else have this issue?) But some raspberry canes on the far end of the bed did survive, and they are producing heavily this year. Also, my next-door neighbor’s out-of-control raspberry bushes jut through our fence and, this year, all of those errant canes are heavily laden with raspberries 🙂

I’ve had other setbacks– my mini butternut squash (Honey Nut, Botanical Interests) took 11 days to germinate; it was so slow that I ended up going online and bought a different type from a different seed store and started again (Butterscotch, bred by Johnny’s). Of course by the time the new seeds arrived, the old ones had finally sprouted. I also found out that the type of tulsi basil I had been attempting to grow (just called “tulsi basil”) was not the type I was looking for–the type I was growing turned out to be almost scentless, whereas the type I’m looking for should have a really strong spicy smell to it. So I had to track that variety down (called “Kapoor Tulsi” from Johnny’s; MI Gardener also apparently has it but they were sold out), buy the seeds, and start over my tulsi basil from scratch this month. I also accidentally topped off my only Dad’s Sunset tomato plant the day after I finally tossed the rest of my back-up tomato seedlings. Sigh. Maybe I’ll try it again next year.

And finally , if you’ve read recent posts, I also had to toss a bunch of my dahlias for crown gall (or suspicion of having crow gall). I ended up digging out every single one of my dahlias just to make sure they didn’t have gall. A few I gave only cursory inspections of–if they had come from a small, independent grower who hand-picked each tuber, for example–but the rest were given a through examination. From that, I ended up throwing out another five tubers, and if they had arrived in bunches of 2 or three , those tubers as well. And, due to the heat, even the ones that didn’t have gall didn’t have a chance to regrow their roots before the heat kicked in, so… probably ⅔ of my dahlias, gone. I(Later that same day, though, that I got an email for a last chance sale on dahlias at Swan Island dahlias, so I ended up picking up a few more. Though their tubers are expensive, at least I know Swan Island rigorously inspects each their tubers. (the tuber’s name is stamped on the bulb itself).

But, man. This heat can stop ANY TIME now.

Dahlia Problems: Crown Gall

So this is my first year trying to grow dahlias. (Before this season, I’m not sure I had ever even heard of a dahlia, to be honest.) But I jumped in with both feet this year and have 19 different varieties growing from tuber, with another four varieties from seed. But while was recovering form knee surgery this spring I had a lot of time to research all things dahlias.

One of the things I came across was crown gall. One of my favorite YouTubers, Nicole from Flower Hill Farm, had an absolutely horrible season this past year with her dahlias–they were really short (around a foot tall, when they should have been 3′ at least) and produced few blooms. It turned out when she dug them up that a lot of them had crown gall.

What is crown gall? Well, it’s a pretty gross-looking disease that affects not just dahlia tubers, but fruit trees, roses, and poplar trees, as well as many others. Essentially it’s a cancer–it causes a tumor to grow on the roots or trunk of plants and causes the plant cells to replicate endlessly. This is both ugly and can be dangerous to the health of the plant.

Crown gall on an apple tree trunk

If the plant is big and old enough, this is just an annoyance, but if the plant is small or young, it can kill the plant. It’s caused by a bacteria that is highly contagious and can live in the soil for years. Apparently the only cure is a biological control bacteria called “Agrobacterium radiobacter K-84″; which, for whatever reason, isn’t available at your local garden center. So if you find a plant that has it, you’re pretty much stuck.

And the problem with growing things from tubers is that the tubers can often arrive already infected, and you’d never know.

I’ve come across three instances of it in the past few weeks. My first experience with it was a tuber I received maybe two weeks ago, from Breck’s. It was the “Emperor” dahlia, a pretty dark-puple velvety dahlias. When the order arrived, I found two tuber clumps–one of which had normal-looking eyes on it, and one of which didn’t. I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, but I was paranoid and threw it out immediately. (Update: I did take pictures!)

Crown gall on my Emperor dahlia tuber clump

Nicole from FHF says that it looks like cauliflower, and I can see why. See all those light-colored bumps at the top of the tuber clump? These, if there were only, say, one or two of them present, would be considered “eyes” and be a thing of happiness, as it would indicate that the tuber was viable. In this case, however, the presence of five or more “eyes” in pretty much the exact same spot means that the tuber is infected with crown gall and needs to be tossed.

So with the Breck’s dahlia, I could tell from the get-go that the tuber had gall. The second tuber clump, packed in the same bag with dry peat moss as the first tuber, did not show any signs of gall. I’ve since potted it up, and the two viable eyes from that clump are now sprouting–but there are only two eyes sprouting, not ten. I’m assuming that it also has gall, but I’m potting it up in a separate container just in case. If it has gall, the growth of the flower should be slow and stunted, so we’ll see.

The second tuber I found that had gall was “Pacific Time”, one of my Walmart purchases. (Walmart’s dahlias are supplied by Van Zyverden.) This tuber passed muster when I inspected it initially, and when I sprouted it it only had one or two sprouts, as per many of my dahlias. However, when I went to go plant it into the garden bed, I accidentally broke off the sprout while I was getting it out of the temporary pot. Which was weird, because sprouts tend to be pretty hardy, from what I can tell. So when I went to go inspect the damage, I found the sprout that had popped off had five other mini-sprouts connected to it, just under the soil line. The tuber itself also had several more mini-sprouts trying to grow, right from that same spot. Thus, my diagnosis of crown gall. So out went all of the Pacific Time tubers as well. (It’s kind of an ugly dahlia, really; I’m not too beaten up about it.)

The third instance was tonight–again while I was trying to plant dahlias into my garden bed. The culprit this time was “Great Silence”, from Longfield Gardens. (As I ordered most of my dahlias from Longfield, this freaked me out a bit and now I’m tempted to go dig up all of my tubers because clearly this disease could be anywhere.)

Crown gall on my Great Silence tuber

Again, the sprout itself had at least four other sprouts attempting to shoot from that same exact spot on the tuber–and this tuber was just the eye/neck/body, rather than a whole clump of tubers. The only sprout I saw on the potted dahlia was one large one; I had no idea there were four more just under the surface.

I’m so glad I decided to pre-sprout all of my tubers! Apparently the disease doesn’t necessarily show on the dormant tuber. Luckily, I wasn’t too hung up on the Great Silence variety, either, so I’m not too sad to have to toss it. But I have to say, now I’m freaked out. Every dahlia I plant for the rest of this year will be checked, just in case. Yay for being a first time flower gardener 😛

Too Many DAHLIAS, 4/27/21

Currently, in my house, I have 18 varieties of dahlia bulbs and four dahlia seed mixes. And I still have five (edit: six varieties) varieties that haven’t even arrived yet! I blame this on a number of things. My recent knee surgery required me to stay off my feet for six weeks, and I ended up getting hooked and watching too many flower farming videos as a result. Also, Floret Flowers’ new Dahlia book came out this spring. Finally, lo and behold, Walmart has $5 dahlias! And many are worth buying.

Why dahlias, you ask? Well, they look about a luxe and dramatic as a flower can possibly be. Plus, there’s the fact that, should you take care of your tubers, they will multiply and you will never need to buy them again. (You could even sell or give away your extras!)

Here are a few of the dahlia pictures that lured me in:

I’ve had many tubers sitting in my basement greenhouse, waiting to see if they would sprout. Most did. However, space in my greenhouse is very limited, what with the tomatoes and peppers getting way too big and taking up most of the space, so today I finally decided just to pot up those tubers that clearly showed eyes but weren’t producing large sprouts. Here is the list of tubers that got potted up today:

Dahlia, Crème de CassisVan Zyverden (Walmart)1 bulb
Dahlia, Cafe Au LaitSkyfall Flowers6 bulbs
Dahlia, FleurelLongfield Gardens3 bulbs
Dahlia, Great SilenceLongfield Gardens1 bulb
Dahlia, Karma ChocTerrain2 bulbs
Dahlia, MottoVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Noordwijks GlorieLongfield Gardens2 bulbs
Dahlia, Pacific TimeVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Electric FlashVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Kelvin FloodlightVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, ZingaroVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs

Each of these tubers should guarantee me a flower, as each had visible, sprouting eyes. So, 25 guaranteed dahlias this year, assuming no pest or disease damage.

For the Cafe au Lait dahlia, while I did end up purchasing bulbs for this from two companies (I wasn’t sure the first dahlia bulb I received would survive), most of these bulbs came from me manually dividing up tuber clumps. Also, Cafe au Lait appears to be an especially prolific variety, which is awesome as it is widely considered one of the most desirable dahlia varieties.

Also, despite having no luck whatsoever in potting up dahlia cuttings up to this point, I wanted to try it again. I went back to the source (Swan Island Dahlias, http://www.dahlias.com) and rewatched their cuttings video. They use a specific rooting gel and fertilizer for their cuttings, neither of which I had been using. In theory, you could simply take a cutting from any dahlia tuber and stick it in moist potting soil and it would root naturally. I’ve not had any luck with this approach, even when using the cheaper but still highly recommended rooting powder. I used the gel on today’s batch, and tomorrow I’ll add the fertilizer; here’s hoping it works this time.

This week’s dahlia cuttings:

Dahlia, HS DateLongfield Gardens5 cuttings
Dahlia, Café au LaitLongfield Gardens1 cutting
Dahlia, Crème de CassisVan Zyverden (Walmart)3 cuttings
Dahlia, Great SilenceLongfield Gardens1 cutting
Dahlia, Melody PinkLongfield Gardens2 cuttings

Another lure of the dahlias are the seeds. Due to dahlia genetics, only clones made from the original tubers will produce the exact variety of dahlia that is anticipated. Seeds are a crapshoot, and could exhibit a wide variety of dahlia characteristics. The downside is that dahlia seeds tend to produce smaller blooms and more single blooms as compared to the lavish ones produced by the cultivated cloned tubers. The cool side effect of the dahlia genetics, however, is that every dahlia produced by seed is unique, and if it turns out to be cool-looking or otherwise having unique or interesting properties, you can name it and start selling it. Currently there are 42 categories of dahlias and tens of thousands of specific hybrids, so finding a unique one is probably pretty hard.

As with most things in my garden this year, the dahlias are an experiment. Maybe I’ll love them; maybe I’ll find that they are not worth the hassle. (They are not hardy in my zone–they are only hardy is zones 8-10, if I remember correctly– and so they need to be dug up and stored over winter.) We’ll find out. Currently all I have are a bunch of potted-up tubers and some cuttings; but the potential for beauty contained in each is overwhelming. Maybe one of them will be that one flower that I can’t live without. Who knows?

Garden Update, 4/26/21

Spring is finally here; time for an update!

Since my last update on 4/12, I have not done much seed planting–mainly repeats of previous starts, just in case.

Seed sowing, 4/15/21:

Carrot, DragonSeedSavers
Carrot, Shin KurodaBotanical Interests
Carrot, Sugarsnax 54 (pelleted)Johnny’s Seeds
Carrot, Uzbek GoldenBaker Creek

The carrot bed is finally up! No germination yet, though 😦

Seed sowing, 4/16/21:

Basil, Mrs. Burns LemonPark Seedsseeds
Rudbeckia, Gloriosa Daisy Prairie SunPark Seedsseeds
Rutabaga, Navone YellowBaker Creekseeds
Eggplant, Listada de GandiaBotanical Interestsseeds
Tomatillo, Grande Rio Verde Botanical Interestsseeds
Beet, CylindraJohnny’s Seedsseeds
Lettuce, Little Gem Baker Creekseeds
Chives, CommonBaker Creekseeds
Onion, Tokyo Long White BunchingSustainable Seedsseeds
Lettuce, Green Sweet Crisp (Salanova)Johnny’s Seedsseeds
Tomatillo, PurpleBaker Creekseeds
Cabbage, WakefieldSustainable Seedsseeds
Cabbage, Napa One Kilo Slow BoltBotanical Interestsseeds

This was my last big batch of seed sowing this year. I added in a rudbeckia I’d just received and a basil that a you tuber had recommended. I resowed my eggplant and tomatillo as the seedlings have not been looking healthy and these nightshades take forever to grow. I also did succession plantings of lettuces, onions, and brassicas. One thing I did find out from this batch was that rutabagas and cabbages germinate overnight and grow insanely fast. Too fast, in fact. I ended up turning this into microgreens and eating them right out of the trays 🙂 I’ll plant them again later once I actually have some beds prepare for them.

Seed sowing, 4/20/21:

Cabbage, Nero di Toscana (Dinosaur)Baker Creek
Nasturtium, Cherry Rose JewelBaker Creek
Nasturtium, Tall Trailing MixBaker Creek

I received a new nasturtium and needed some more trailing nasturtiums, so into the dirt they went. The Nero di Toscana cabbage is actually more like a kale, and didn’t germinate nearly as fast as the other cabbages.

My main focus the last two weeks has been on my live plants and on WTH I’m going to put everything.

This past weekend, I received a bunch of Purple Passion asparagus crowns as well as some Joan J Thornless raspberry canes, both from the same Amazon seller from whom I picked up my green asparagus. Raspberries went into large fabric containers for the time being because I’m just not up to digging up every single bed in my yard this year. I tore out the obvious 30 year old raspberry canes and placed the fabric bed on top of it; however, due to raspberries having rhizomes, who knows what the full extent of the 30-year-old root structure at the moment. (All I know is we constantly find random raspberry sprouts everywhere in the backyard.) Golden raspberries should be on the way, but as they are from Stark Bros, that’s a dicey bet–all of my orders from them keep getting pushed back, and as I found, they don’t give cash refunds. 😦

I’ve received all three of the apple trees I ordered. Two from Gilby’s Orchard in MN (the Haralson and the HoneyCrisp dwarf trees) and look as good as bare root trees get. They are both 4 ‘ tall and have a few branches, and flower buds are already starting. I potted both up in extra-tall fabric grow bags as my plan currently is not to put anything large into the ground until I know exactly where I want to put it.

The third apple tree, a dwarf Fuji apple, was originally ordered from Stark Bros, but they kept pushing their delivery dates back 3-4 weeks, so I eventually canceled it. I then saw this particular apple also listed on Home Depot, so despite having ordered it through Home Depot last year and the order eventually having been canceled on me, I went ahead and ordered it there as well. I honestly expected it to be canceled like last year, but it shipped almost right away. When I received it, however, it was nothing more than a long stick with a few roots sticking out perpendicular to the base of the tree. Truly a Charlie Brown’s apple tree. It was also marked “standard size”, not dwarf. I contacted HD right away, and amazingly, within minutes I had a refund approved and was told to keep the tree and dispose of it as I would. (I checked their reviews for this particular tree and almost all of the reviews from this month said the same thing–they received a standard sized tree, contacted HD, and got a refund. So clearly HD is having an issue with that particular supplier.) I also noticed that the entry on their website now reads “standard sized Fuji apple”, not dwarf. The sad part is that I was in my local HD the other day and saw several lovely, tall, potted standard sized Fuji apples for the about the same price. (Wish my yard could fit a standard sized apple, but alas, I live in the city.) No one local seems to have dwarf Fujis, so it’ll probably have to wait until next year. As for the poor tree I did receive, I potted it up and we’ll see if it’ll grow. If it does survive, I’ll keep it potted and pass it along to someone else once it gets too big.

I made a pleasant discovery at another big box store. My partner dragged me into a local Walmart last week so that he could pick up a belt, and of course I wandered over to the garden center. Where I found, to my surprise, many of the fertilizers and other soil components I was already using, and at a much cheaper price. And, even better, I found DAHLIA BULBS–2 bulbs for $5 a pack, and a good variety of them. So of course I picked a bunch up. I wish I had know earlier that Walmart sold dahlia bulbs; it would have made this year’s dahlia experiment so much cheaper. I even picked up a few things I hadn’t planned on trying this year, but since they were so cheap and I never go to Walmart, I figured now would be the time: elephant ears, hollyhocks, peonies, and some kind of golden potatoes. (I also got a clematis, but it didn’t survive.) I only chose dahlias that I could see were already sprouting, so I was guaranteed that the bulbs are viable. I’ll put an expanded list of my dahlias up in another post; it’s gotten a bit ludicrous, honestly.

Finally, I did get some of my roses planted, with help from a good friend. I was replacing some 20 year old peonies along a side fence with some huge Double-Red Knock Out roses I picked up at Costco the other day. My friend wanted the old peonies, so we both benefited. And let me tell you, 20-year-old peonies have bulb clusters. Hopefully they will survive transplant; though they haven’t yet bloomed, they have already sent up a good amount of foliage, and so weren’t dormant when we pulled them. The roses look great planted next to the fence and in a year or so should be bushy enough to start providing a pretty, fragrant privacy screen.

Next up: finishing all of my raised beds, and filling them with soil.

Splitting and Pre-sprouting Dahlia Tubers

The day has finally arrived! I received my first big batch of dahlia tubers yesterday, from Longfield Gardens. I had also received one tuber each from Skyfall Flowers and Dutchbulbs.com a few weeks ago. With all of these tubers, I decided to try my hand at pre-sprouting–for some of them, just to make sure the bulbs were viable; for others, because I wanted to take cuttings and grow more of them 🙂

The first bulb I received, back on 3/25/21 (I’m in zone 5a/b), was from Dutchbulbs. It was a Fleurel bulb clump for my Moon Garden, and it looked absolutely dead. It was a dehydrated as could be, with the outer layer sloughing off most of the tuber clump. I trimmed everything off except for one damaged tuber which looked like it had a bit of crystalized sap on it, and planted that just to see if it was actually viable. The tuber from Skyfall Flowers, on the other hand, was a finely trimmed and cared-for Cafe au Lait tuber (that I paid way to much in shipping for–$15 for one bulb!). It looked happy and healthy. I planted both in pots indoors, and both have now pre-sprouted! The desiccated Fleurel actually has three sprouts coming off of it. I am amazed.

By far the bulk of my dahlias, however, have come from Longfield Gardens. Their prices are amazing (for us non-wholesale buyers, anyway)–3 full clumps of tubers per order, with each order usually ranging in cost from $14-$16.50. (Plus free shipping over $50!) I realized, when I received the bulbs, how they could offer such a low price on their dahlias, when so many other online companies are charging the same prices but for one bulb only. The clumps, when they arrived, were kind of a mess. Some of the clumps were almost immaculate, while others (such as the Melody Pink, for some reason) were so beat up I could barely salvage one good tuber out of each clump. Still, I was able to get at least one good tuber per clump for each type of dahlia I ordered–and some of them had up to 6 or 7 viable tubers. Here was how I processed them.

Though I hadn’t ever split a dahlia tuber before, I’ve now watched countless videos on how to do it, so I decided to give it a go. With the Longfield dahlias, I have at least three of each variety, so I figured the odds were good. I had heard that people often choose to divide the tubers in the spring because it is easier to find the eyes, and I have to agree. A good 2/3rds of the bulbs had eyes already sprouting. With the rest, I took an educated guess, or just kept them together in one clump.

Finally, I potted up two varieties yesterday: Melody Pink, as it was so beat up and I was concerned none of the tubers were viable; and Great Silence, as a friend of mine has already put in a request for that one. (I’m waiting on a set of 10×10 trays from Bootstrap Farmer to arrive before I pre-sprout the rest.)

The sprouts on my first Fleurel and Cafe au Lait bulbs from my earlier orders are just about ready to be cut, so I should have a Pre-Sprouting Dahlias Part 2 coming up soon. Wish me luck!