Saturday, February 20, 2016

How Many Dahlias Can You Squeeze into Your Backyard Flower Farm?

Dinner Plate dahlia "Ice Cube"
How many dahlias can you squeeze into your backyard flower farm? That's a question I ask myself about this time every year as I'm planning for the coming season. I've also had it come up in my Face book group, New England Flower Farmers Connection, so I thought I would address it here for everyone too. ( You don't have to be New England-er to join ) 

Who doesn't love dahlias? I fell in love with these garden stars quite by accident. I was at my local feed store picking up chicken feed when I spotted dahlia tubers not so discretely placed on the end cap of one of the isles in the store. I left with my chicken feed only that day, but I couldn't get those beautiful colors out of my head. I returned the following day and bought my first 40 tubers.





When I started farming my garden in 2012 I began with 8 4 x12 raised beds. I planted 40 dahlia tubers, 20 per bed. The rest of the beds were filled familiar heat loving annuals, like zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, gladiolus, bachelor buttons and just for fun a neat plant called Pumpkin on a Stick, or, ornamental eggplant.

4x12 raised bed filled with dahlias.
  I had no idea what I was doing and I'm pretty sure I even planted some upside down. That was AFTER watching multiple YouTube videos on how to plant dahlias. What can I say, they are weird looking things and if you aren't familiar with them it's hard to tell which end is up or down. 

Dahlia tuber from last years garden. sitting out to dry before winter storage. See the little eye? Next years blooms!



 I always plant a mix of each variety in each bed because with limited growing space I want to grow as many of my favorites as I can. I always lay out the printed label where I've planted each tuber. Sometimes I stake as I go along. and sometimes I wait to see them come up then stake when they get about a foot high. Always careful not to disturb the tuber I place the stake at the topside of the tuber. Once I'm finished with one bed, I write down what I planted in each bed. I number the beds 1,2,3,4, and so on.

Two dahlia beds.
This year, I'm bumping up my dahlia production to 120 tubers so I'll be planting 6 of my 4x12 raised beds with dahlias only in hopes of having more flowers to play with for local weddings and events.

Stored dahlias
  Soon it will be time to bring this tub of dahlias out of winter storage. I know many gardeners pot them up first for a head start, but I don't. I just wait until late May, early June and they take off with the summer heat and go like crazy until the first frost. I'll admit I often think about potting them up because I get impatient and think I should be getting a head-start, but for the purposes of my goals and my farm-coast climate it works!

A few of my favorite dahlias from past seasons.

New additions to my collection this year... Anenome Dahlia mix  from Eden Brothers.


Single-Flower Bridal Bouquet featuring Cafe au Lait



When you are just starting out, it all seems like a big experiment. Honestly, every year feels like that, but each season teaches us something new about ourselves, our gardens and builds confidence along the way. Be gentle with yourself ( just like you are with your flowers) on this journey. There is a lot to learn for sure, but the most powerful lesson of all is following your heart. You can't rush destiny or a garden.
 
Please don't hesitate to drop me an email with more questions. I'll help if I can. And join the flower farmer /florist community on New England Flower Farmers Connection.

Here are some quality dahlia sources: Time is winding down for getting a good selection so hurry!

Ednie Flower Bulbs
Eden Brothers
Swan Island
Longfield Gardens


*I don't get any compensation for recommending seed sources. I just share what I like and know to be good businesses.


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