April, 2008


April 8th at 7:30 PM on 9th  Ave. and Lincoln Way.


Slide Show: A Year of Dahlias.  Please bring your extra tubers or cuttings to donate for sale: tuber $3 and cutting $4.  Who will bring tasty treats?

DAN DOES DAHLIAS:  By David Rogers

We were delighted to have Dan Pearson, of Dan’s Dahlias in Washington, visit us and present a personal lecture during the March members’ meeting. As I understand it, members helped him unload for the Flower & Garden Show, which afforded him some spare time to come and talk with us. Can you believe he started selling Dahlia’s at the age of ten years old?  His first sale was to a questioning neighbor driving by. He quickly ran inside and grabbed some scissors to cut her a bouquet. Incidentally, he charged about the same then as he does now at local farmers’ markets- about $1.50/stem.

For over 20 years, Dan has dedicated his life and career to raising Dahlias, with a degree in horticulture, no less. He farms 4 acres of dahlias. Other than attending the Flower & Garden Show here in SF and one in Seattle each year, Dan sells mostly on the internet and at the Olympia Farmers’ Market. From his internet business, he ships his tubers out four times a year: 4/1, 4/15, 5/1, and 5/15, so there is still time to take a look and get your order in.  

His annual cycle seems familiar to us, only on a bigger scale. In January or February, he adds manure to the growing area and then lets the rain wash it in for the following few months. In May, he prepares the soil by tilling; he only amends the soil with manure- nothing else. Dan shared some of his fall techniques and schedule with us, also. He explained that after cutting dahlias back, he waits 10-14 days before digging up tubers because the sugars turn into starch after the tubers stop growing. Another tip Dan mentioned was that although he often finds dahlias in plastic, he would never store them in plastic because it is too easy for moisture to collect and ruin them. He stores his between 40-50 degrees in some light vermicular over winter.

If you have ever seen Dan’s internet site (http://www.dansdahlias.com/) or his booth at the Flower & Garden Show, then I am sure you have noticed the image of the cow with a dahlia hanging out of its mouth. There is a funny story to that picture. After many years of raising dahlias, and perhaps at a time when all things were going great for Dan, he returned one night to find that the neighbor’s cows had trampled the fence and were grazing on all of the dahlias. There was nothing left; even the stakes were lying on the ground. The picture was drawn and used ever since to remind him of his good fortune and also to tell the story of being humbled.                                                                                                                                        Thanks to the members who brought the wonderful treats we all enjoyed.

TUBER AND CUTTING SALE:  April 5. Please bring your ADS Classification Book, a no-blot marking pencil, comfy shoes, your name badge, a magnifying glass if you have one, your most  helpful attitude and a potluck dish to share at lunch time (‘fridge and/or stove top available). We need volunteers to place tubers on the right tables, to label boxes, to look up classifications, and most importantly to help new dahlia growers make outstanding selections.  This is our ONE and ONLY fundraising event of the year, so let’s make it VERY SUCCESSFUL!   If you have previously helped with our show, Dig-Out, or are donating tubers, please call Elsie  (415 566 5222) to get on the gate list for 7 AM arrival to help set up.  Only people on this list will be admitted before 9 AM.  We really appreciate your bringing named, labeled tubers; we do not sell unlabeled roots.  This is a hectic time so we want workers not shoppers.  If we finish by 8:30, we usually have an half hour to reward those who have been helping since 7 AM  and let them purchase items before we open to the public at 9.  Please DO NOT bring tubers/plants into the building for the purposes of trading or giving away to other members.  Do all your swapping out in the parking lot.
ADS BLOOMERATI CONFABULATION:  Members of the ADS Board as well as dahlia lovers from the Bay Area met in Milpitas over the March 8 weekend.  Claudia Biggs brought a collection of great educational CD’s available for $11 each at dbiggs@mindspring.com.  

CULTIVATING RESEARCH:  The brainstorm session surrounding further dahlia research came up with 4 areas to ponder:  how to id symptoms of disease, pests, nutrients, and interactions of all; how to best store tubers; how to increase the vase-life of cut dahlias; and more sustainable culture practices including plant improvement, disease control, water and nutrient cost management, and cost/risk pest handling.

ADS plans to upgrade their website to include both public areas and ADS member only areas. Suggestions for the exclusive domains would be the Classification tables as a useable data base, indexed back Bulletins, minutes from the Board Meetings and some photos.

GOT MILK?……CRATES, THAT IS:  Mike and Martha have developed a unique way to grow BIG dahlias:  above ground in milk crates.  They solve several problems with this solution:  thwarting gophers, mitigating adobe soil, simplifying dig out (dump out), speeding up the time from last bloom to dormancy and finally warming up the soil faster in the spring thereby producing sprouts earlier.  From a single ˝ “ water supply line, each crate gets its own Ľ” soaker tube.  I had the pleasure of dumping out a few humongous root clumps onto a tarp and watching as one literally self-divided right in my hands. Using the tarp, I poured the rest of the soil back in the crate ready for planting.  Wow!  The brilliance of simplicity!  Several of M&M’s splendid Kenora Wildfires, Woodlands Wild Things and Pinelands Pixies will be at our tuber sale.


Deborah will lecture on dahlias at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek on Sunday, April 13, at 10 am.  Invite your friends if they missed our meeting slideshow.

AWESOME APRIL:  Finally planting time!  If you have purchased cuttings at the tuber sale you have 2 options:  a:  plant directly into the ground.  Make sure you have a stake, a label, and sufficient sail/slug/earwig abatement otherwise your cutting will just be cheap snail salad bar.  Or b:  transplant the wee green slip into a larger pot and place in a warm window until it is heartier.  On warm days, take it outside to “harden it off.”  I take mine out but bring them in at night for a few nights and then leave them in a sheltered spot where they will NOT be munched by night marauders.  Once hardened off, then they can get tucked into their permanent spot in the garden. If you bought up tantalizing tubers, you also have 2 options:  a: to put directly into your garden, dig a hole 10” deep; add some fertilizer and/or bulb food; pound in your stake, add your label, then put your tuber lying flat with its eye up; cover with 4” soil; add a little water and then NO MORE until the sprout has come up; as your dahlia grows, begin to fill in the depression.  Your second option is to pot up your tuber in a milk carton or other container and place in a warm toasty spot until it sprouts.  I prefer this method because you can control the temperature and moisture; otherwise, your tuber could sit in cold soggy soil and possibly rot.  In either case, use prophylactic snail/slug/earwig protection.  Once my plants are about a foot high, I drench the soil around their bases with 3 Way Bayer’s, a systemic insecticide, fungicide and fertilizer.  Rose suggested using a turkey baster; it works very well to apply your Bayer's exactly where you want it.  I spotted this blue container at Costco for under $20 recently.  Come to the tuber sale! 

  Yours in Dirt



Click to return to DSC Home PageDahlia Society of California, Inc., San Francisco, CA  -- Copyrighted

 Editor: Deborah Dietz
e-Newsletter Editor: Jytte Rasmussen

Acknowledgement: Photos in this issue by Deborah, Franck and ADS