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Jamie’s Little Allotment: Gayton gardener shares tips on the best way to plant dahlias

In this week’s column, Gardener Jamie Marsh discusses the best way to plant dahlias…

Things really get going on the allotment in April, as the days lengthen and temperatures rise.

There are lots of jobs to do, including sowing, planting and weeding. Even if the days are warm, there is always a risk of frost at night, so resist the temptation to sow and plant too early.

Dahlia cuttings will produce beautiful flowers
Dahlia cuttings will produce beautiful flowers

I’m not in the allotment this week, I’m doing something a little different.

You might have read back in November, about how I deal with my favourite flowers through the winter.

It’s dahlias I’m talking about, lifting and storing the tubers over winter so they will be healthy and raring to go again this summer.

Dahlia cuttings will produce beautiful flowers
Dahlia cuttings will produce beautiful flowers

It’s time to wake your dry dormant sleepy tubers up from the winter-long slumber.

Usually, I check each tuber one by one, looking for any rotting or diseased parts, if I come across any squishy tubers I’ll cut them off with a sharp knife.

Then, I pot them up with peat-free compost into a pot large enough to accommodate the tuber quite tightly packed in, give them a good water and put them Into the warm greenhouse, and wait for them to start to shoot.

By the time they are ready to plant out into the garden, which is when you are sure the last frost has passed, they will be well on there way with lots of lovely foliage.

Dig a hole big enough to take the pot, put a handful of blood, fish and bone in the bottom then set the dahlia in, making sure the soil level is the same as it’s been in the pot, firm the soil round it and give it a good water.

As I said earlier that is what I usually do, but I’m trying something slightly different this year.

I’m taking cuttings from all my tubers, to increase my dahlia numbers.

Some people might be extremely wary about taking cuttings. I was until I had some lessons in cutting-taking from a good friend of mine.

Kim O’Brien is a dahlia farmer who grows for the florist industry and on average takes 5,000 dahlia cuttings every year.

The start of the process is the same, check for diseases and pot them up, but this time we need to squeeze the tubers into a smaller pot and leave what Kim calls the shoulders out.

Pack compost in and around the tubers nice and tight, then give it a good water, and place in a nice warm greenhouse or conservatory.

After a couple of weeks, it will start to shoot but unlike the dahlia in the larger pot, because we left the shoulders showing out the top, you will be able to see where the shoot is sprouting.

Once the shoot is about 60mm take hold of it at the base and gently wiggle it side to side and you will feel it give and detach from the mother tuber.

Soft play sand is apparently the best substrate to grow them on in.

If you can’t get play sand a good gritty compost will do.

Slide the cutting down the side of the pot, three or four in each pot will be fine.

Water the sand or compost, keep nice and warm, then in a couple of weeks it will have grown lovely new roots and can be potted on into its own pot, and like before wait for the frosts to pass then be planted out.

That’s your dahlia cuttings done. And the absolute best thing about dahlia cuttings is they will grow, flower and create its own tuber in its first season, ready to start all over again next winter.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on: Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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