Dahlia season is on the horizon

Those who walked through Bower Place mall last fall when the Alberta Dahlia and Glad Society were hosting their annual show know what these flowers look like at their best. They are magnificent and easy to grow. Every garden should boast a few. Start with good roots or tubers.

Those who walked through Bower Place mall last fall when the Alberta Dahlia and Glad Society were hosting their annual show know what these flowers look like at their best. They are magnificent and easy to grow. Every garden should boast a few.

Start with good roots or tubers.

These can be purchased in box stores, at greenhouses, garden centres or from the Alberta Dahlia and Glad Society.

The society is holding a sale on Saturday at Bower Place, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will have a large variety of tubers and corms available, all at a very reasonable price. Members will be on hand to answer all questions concerning the planting and care of these plants.

To ensure that the dahlias bloom early in the season, the tubers are planted and grown as bedding out plants.

Once all danger of frost is past, the plants are hardened off and placed outside in a sunny location.

The Alberta Dahlia and Glad Society has a few suggestions to make the transition outside less stressful on the plants.

Water the plants two days before they are planted outside making sure all the soil in the pot is wet.

Before planting them out, place a 60-inch (1.5-metre) stake into the ground to the depth of 12 inches (30 cm). This will allow the plant to be staked as soon as it is placed in the hole.

Dig a hole twice the size of the pot and sprinkle a small amount of slow release, balanced fertilizer in the bottom of the hole.

Then remove the pot and place the plant in the hole, backfilling it with soil. Be sure to press the soil down firmly around the plant.

Tie the plant loosely to the stake and water thoroughly.

Then do not water for about two weeks. This method of watering forces the plants to develop deep roots, which will support the plant as well and access moisture.

Plants should be placed far enough apart, approximately 24 inches (60 cm) to allow the air to circulate between the plants, decreasing the chances of mildew.

Dahlias need the average amount of care over the summer. Like all plants, they do best with adequate water, fertilizer and should be free of weeds which compete with the plants for moisture and nutrients.

Purchase gladiola corms now but keep them in a cool area until two weeks before they are to be planted out. Members of the society plant their glads when the mayday trees begin to leaf out, end of April to first part of May.

As corms grow well in soft fertile soil, it is best to cultivate deeply by machine or with a fork or shovel. Plant corms that are being planted for cut flowers in a trench that is about 5 inches (12 cm) deep and place the corms root side down. Place corms every six inches (14 cm) and backfill to cover the corms. When sprouts appear, fill in more soil.

If glads are to be added to a flowerbed, dig a hole approximately 12 inches (30 cm) across and five inches (12 cm) deep. Place five to six corms in the hole and backfill.

Before purchasing corms or tubers, inspect them.

Do not purchase or plant ones that contain mould, rot or soft spots. Diseased materials will not grow well and can contaminate healthy plants.

For those that are worried about having to dig the roots in the fall and store them overwinter, they are so inexpensive that they can be treated as an annual.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com.

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