Managment of Dahlia Plants
Immediately after a heavy rain or watering mulch all round the plant, about l in. deep, but not right up to the stem, with clean dry straw, grass mowings, very old farm-yard manure or peat in order to keep themoist.
can probably withstand a drought better than most flowers, but the size of the blooms and the length of blooming will be reduced if the soil becomes excessively dry. Therefore, if the are being grown for exhibition or for a good garden display keep the soil moist by soaking it to a depth of 5 to 6 in., without waterlogging it. A light sprinkling of water on the surface often does more harm than good as it does not penetrate to the roots.
Soil that has been well prepared and is in good heart will not need much additional food during the growing season, but if the soil is light and needs feeding, or first-class show blooms are required, a mulch of decayed farm-yard manure will help the plants. Special diluters can be fitted into the hose-pipe used for watering and the necessary liquid food can then be applied with the water. If top dressings of solid fertilizer are given, make sure that they are well watered in so that they reach the roots. The proprietary brands of dahlia fertilizer are properly balanced to the plants’ requirements, and will give good results. Avoid high nitrogen foods as they will lessen the storage quality of the tubers and make the blooms coarse.
The dahlia tends to make a soft type of growth which should be carefully sup-ported at all times to prevent weather damage, and this is best done from the very youngest stages, by looping ties of soft string from the dahlia stake round each main stem. With varieties which make large, bushy plants it may be necessary to add extra smaller canes to support the outer growths of the plant. The ties should be loose and care should be taken to allow enough room for the expansion of the stems as they grow.
The stems of some of the large decorative type may be too weak to carry the weight if battered by wind and rain, therefore a small thin cane of some 2 to 3 ft. long, tied alongside the main stem, and up to the base of the flower, will help to prevent any damage. When the first ties are made, care should be taken to allow sufficient room for the increasing size of the stem as it grows.
DISBUDDING AND SIDE SHOOTING
Dahlias which are being grown for exhibition must be extensively disbudded, and have their side shoots removed to ensure good blooms. On the large decorative and other large-flowered types, leave only 4 or 5 main stems on each plant, each carrying one bloom, all other buds and side shoots being removed at an early stage. Other classes of dahlia grown for exhibition must also be disbudded, but if they are grown for cutting or for garden decoration the extent of the disbudding depends on the type of bloom required. Remove the two small flower buds which appear on each side of, and below, the main terminal bud, as well as the side shoots which arise in the axil or angle between the leaf stalk and the main stem. These laterals are removed to give a stem of sufficient length for cutting, and the lower shoots are retained to give a succession of blooms.