We’ve had plenty of sunshine & rain here recently, & everything has taken advantage of this, growing at a fast pace. This of course, includes the numbers of pests like slugs & snails. Last year I was so disappointed when my 6 young dahlia plants were all eaten, snails I think… possibly assisted by slugs?
This year I made a plan. I don’t use slug pellets, favouring a more natural approach [though after last year I was a tiny bit tempted] but the solution had to be organic.
This year my dahlias are proof that chemicals aren’t needed to grow healthy plants.
This is how it worked:
I potted up the dahlia tubers & kept them in our new greenhouse, watering them until small shoots appeared & they gradually grew into plants.
When frost was no longer a threat, I got them used to the outdoor life by putting them outside during the day & taking them back into the greenhouse at night, for about 10 days.
This exposure to sun, wind & rain acclimatises the plants to life outside the greenhouse. The leaves change, becoming tougher, & therefore likely to be eaten. Although it seems like a faff, it’s really worth it … just keep thinking of all those dahlia flowers you’ll be picking for months.
The next step was to plant them into their final places for the summer. Mine went into large, 16in/40cm diameter terracotta pots. I planted them in a mix of approximately 70% multi-purpose compost & 30% John Innes/loam based compost, the latter helps to keep moisture in the soil.
Last year they were all planted in the same border, which turned out to be the snail & slugs most favourite part of the garden. This year I placed the pots in different parts of the garden, just in case one area had lots of pests lurking in it. They were also in places where it was easy to keep an eye on them.
To keep them flourishing they’ve been watered regularly, the downside of planting in pots is that they need watering thoroughly every day in dry weather.
Regular dead-heading encourages the plant to make more flowers. It’s easy to confuse flower buds with spent flowers once the petals have dropped, but I soon learned that Dahlia buds are round, whereas the ones to cut off after flowering, are trumpet shaped.
Finally, even more flowers are made by adding liquid tomato feed to the watering can once a week. The fertiliser contains potassium which encourages plants to produce fruit & flowers.
After the first frosts, I’ll dig them up, dry them out & store them until next year. I’ll write about this later in the year about this. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting little fact about dahlias, they’re named after Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist.
all photos: Jill Anderson