Starting the Dahlia Season forum: Starting Tubers & Cuttings 2020

 
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ImageCCvacation
Jan 7, 2020 1:32 PM CST
Name: CC
PA
Nothing beats having everything safety tucked away in storage for the winter... well, except the UNBRIDLED JOY of taking that first cutting and starting the dahlia season all over again!

Please share your experiences, from the frustrations to the excitement, of this renewing time of regrowth.

Questions are welcome, but it is strongly recommended that everyone read the articles "Beginners Guide to Dahlia Cuttings" located here https:/cubits.org/Dahlias/articles/view/1597/ and "The Advanced Grower's Guide to Leaf Cuttings" located here https:/cubits.org/Dahlias/articles/view/1661/.

Last year's thread:
https:/cubits.org/Dahlias/thread/view/88355/
CC
ImageIslander
Jan 16, 2020 10:51 AM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
Time for a review on lights for starting cuttings...Since I don't have a greenhouse after my move, but I do have access to our huge garage, We are planning a "grow room" for them in the garage. What is the latest on lights for my set up? I know we have debated incandescants, vs flurescants vs LED's vs...? before but does anyone have new insight on this question? Should I just go with shop lights from Costco? Husband thinks auto drip pans would be ideal to line my stacked shelves ... I am thinking of setting up my pop up greenhouse IN the garage until the weather warms. We have a wood stove in there. It doesn't warm the cavernous space a lot but it does raise it a few degrees, and I figure the lights in the Pop up will hold some warmth too... Anything else I should be thinking about or planning for?

I did find a few tubers trying to sprout when going through them...
ImageFlowernut
Jan 16, 2020 12:27 PM CST
Name: Jane
Southern California Zone 9/10
Noni, I use the Feit LED shop lights from Costco. They work great...I believe the key is to make sure they are on for at least 16 hours ( maybe others can weigh in on this). My setup is in an unheated shed....by March when I start receiving tubers it definitely warms up on sunny days.

I like the idea of the popup greenhouse. It may keep the temperature a little more consistent. I will eventually insulate my shed...but in the meantime I work with what I have. Good luck with your setup. Thumbs up
Jane
"In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends"-Kazuko Okakura
ImagePaige
Jan 16, 2020 12:34 PM CST
Name: Paige L
Snohomish
So, I’m still pretty new to dahlias, this is only my 3rd growing season. Do people start their tubers early in pots (about 4-weeks prior to planting), and then transplant them when weather permits? I’m in Washington and can never figure out why others seem to have their dahlias blooming about a month before mine. Maybe I’m not planting soon enough? I just don’t want to try something and then kill the tubers. Thanks for the help!
Imageteddahlia
Jan 16, 2020 1:02 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Many of the people in our club start their tubers in pots a month or so before planting in the garden. We also do that for the trial garden at Swan Island and the reason for that was the possibility of hot weather in either May or early June inhibiting the sprouting and growth of tubers. It happened to us about 4 or 5 years ago and some of the tubers were so affected by the heat that they did not bloom until October after the judging was over. If a tuber is sprouted and growing, hot weather does not affect it as much as it affects a tuber planted in the soil. We have found it is also good practice also because if a tuber does not sprout or comes up diseased, we can replace it and not have a blank spot in the garden.

On the other side of the equation, it is a tremendous amount of extra work to do this and it does not make sense for people who grow many hundreds or thousands of plants to do this. There is an intermediary recipe that one commercial grower uses. He has identified the varieties that are slow starters and he places those tubers in flats of soil in his unheated greenhouse where the temps are much warmer. He gets the tubers to send up nice 2 or 3 inch sprouts and then plants them at the normal planting time. He says this helps them grow more quickly.

And another thing that people do to get earlier blooms is to plant rooted cuttings at planting time. They tend to bloom about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than tubers planted in the soil. At the trial garden we have rule that if a person is entering rooted cuttings that he needs to plant them two weeks after the others are planted so that they will not bloom too early for judging.

And finally, large commercial growers like Swan Island have fields of overwintered dahlias that they use for cut flowers. In a normal year they bloom about a month before the plants grown from tubers in the next field over. The downside is that every few years they get some very cold weather that freezes the tubers and they get little or no harvest.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 16, 2020 1:40 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
Paige, Those of us who live in the Puget Sound area (Or in my case, DID live there, have a different set of conditions. It warms up slowly and not nearly as hot as people in different areas. I started mine in pots for 2 reasons...to propagate off them...take cuttings and root them, and to give the tubers for my garden a head start so they were definitely growing when I planted them. IF they are putting out roots they will take more wet then unsprouted tubers if they get a season where we joke about planting from row boats... I liked to prestart my tubers in mid March so they were growing nicely when I put them out in Mid to late May. You will see it recommended that dahlias don't grow well until the soil temp is at 60. For us in the Puget Sound region that might not be until July. When I planted growing leafed out plants in Late May I usually had my first few blooms by the end of June and more coming on every day through July. I thought it was not only worth doing but lots of fun to do. I started mine in 4-5" pots and they pulled out easily to tuck in the soil. I did have well draining soil, however. If your soil tends to puddle and not drain well, its a different story and you may need to let it dry longer.

ImagePNWGal
Jan 16, 2020 2:59 PM CST
Name: Linda
Portland OR, zone 8b
Noni, the Feit LED shop lights from Costco are what I have also, and I agree they work great. My electric bill sure dropped when I made the switch from my old fluorescents! The plants like them at least as well as the fluorescents. I use two per shelf on my 4' x 18" wire racks, and I hang them by their chains on S-hooks so I can adjust the height. They make much less heat than the fluorescents, so I keep them close to the plants, and there is no problem with scorching leaves that grow into the lights. Since they only make a little heat, I like your idea of using the popup greenhouse to contain the warmth. I keep mine on for about 18 hours. I have heard of people keeping them on 24 hours a day, but that seems excessive.
Imagedrewtheflorist
Jan 16, 2020 6:37 PM CST
Name: Drew the Florist
14 miles S E of Pittsburgh
I have the Sun Blaze High Output T-5 fluorescents --- 4 bulb x 4 ft units. VERY bright, and the extra heat they give off is a benefit !
ImageIslander
Jan 16, 2020 9:05 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
OK, we made a trip to Costco and bought The FEIT shop lights today! Thanks for the speedy answers!
Imagejj85
Jan 16, 2020 11:31 PM CST
Name: JJ
Willamette Valley // Oregon
I invested in a light set up a few years ago, bought eight AgroBrite T5 fixtures, 6 bulbs x 4 feet. They put off a lot of light, also a fair amount of heat. Scorched quite a few seedlings my first year! Thumbs down I've since figured them out, but had to eliminate two light panels from my shelving units to allow for proper spacing above the seedling's canopy. If you're interested in more lighting Noni, I have two spare light fixtures! I'm not growing anything from seed this year, focusing solely on dahlias... but would like to take some cuttings. Wondering... when should I start? Confused I usually start planting my tubers in late April, weather permitting.

Thumb of 2020-01-17/jj85/ca1e57
Here are some of my tomato starts under the lights last March. Yes, I admit I have a tendency to start seedlings WAY too early. Still learning. Practicing patience is hard when it comes to gardening.
Imageteddahlia
Jan 17, 2020 10:17 AM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Short answer: Put tubers under lights in March for rooted cuttings to plant in May.
I see a lot of questions about when to start taking cuttings from dahlias. There are two ways to look at this activity:
(1) I am bored in the winter and want to get my hands in the dirt and grow plants.
(2) I want to root a few cuttings and have them ready for planting about May 10th or so.
For the (1) people, they have already started(January) and have plants under lights and revel in seeing them sprout and produce lots of cuttings. They anticipate having way too many plants rooted by planting time and plan on selling or donating or giving plants away. I know several people who are in this category. Our club really appreciates them as they always donate lots of rooted plants for the club's plant sales. There is practical reason for starting to sprout tubers in January and that is that giant dahlias refuse to cooperate and send up very many cuttings and if you really want cuttings from many of the giants you need to start in January. I would estimate that it takes about twice as long to get giant rooted cuttings and it starts from the beginning. They are slow to send up the first sprouts, often taking weeks to do so and the first sprouts are hollow and cannot be rooted easily if at all. It will take about twice as long to get the second sprout to appear also and it probably has something to do with the size of flower. It seems that there must be a correlation between the size of the sprouts and the size of the flower.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 17, 2020 10:30 AM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
JJ, that is a lovely offer and I might take you up. So far we are just in the planning stage but getting more into it since the immediate challenges of moving have settled down. We are going to have to vacate our home for a week early in Feb while the floors stained shag carpeting is removed and new flooring put down, then I hope to get going in earnest. We haven't figured out where to go and take our 2 dogs with us...could go back to our old house which is still for sale but there is no furniture there!
SteveM
Jan 17, 2020 10:43 AM CST
Name: Steve
San Diego
Commercial cut flower grower
Also, remember you can take cuttings from cuttings if they begin to get too "leggy" under the indoor lights. I'm in the group that believes it is never too early to start cuttings!
SteveM
Jan 17, 2020 10:54 AM CST
Name: Steve
San Diego
Commercial cut flower grower
Noni, it must be exciting to start a new operation from scratch! Do you use bottom heat on your tubers/cuttings?
ImageDillyDahlia
Jan 17, 2020 11:59 AM CST
Name: TJ
NY Zone 6a
Flower Power!
I have a mat for seed starting, but never thought of it for dahlia cuttings. Thanks for mentioning this, Steve! Smiling
Imageteddahlia
Jan 17, 2020 12:17 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
The use of heat mats for rooting cuttings is very tricky. I would not recommend it unless you know what you are doing. The big issue is too much heat at the bottom of the pots. Dahlias want to root at about 72 degrees and do not like it hotter or cooler. The issue is the temperature of the area where you use the heat mat. If it is within 10 degrees or so of 72 degrees, the heat mat will not be on long enough to burn the bottom of the pots. If it is colder, the heat mat will be on too long and the bottom of the pots will be way too hot. The best environment for rooting cuttings is a steady 72 degrees. It can be achieved without heat mats. I have an 8 foot long heat mat that I have used for 20 years now. I use it to get quicker growth on already rooted cuttings but I do not leave the plants on it for longer than a week or two.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 17, 2020 1:02 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
I do not use bottom heat. For the last 10 years or more I have been starting them in my greenhouse with the first few starting late Feb (These would be tubers I had to cut rot off of or something I am trying to save... The majority of them I start in Mid March. I pot them up in 4" good potting soil and start them in my greenhouse using just 2 small room heaters for a 20 foot greenhouse. By mid March the sun is high enough in the sky to warm the air nicely in the daytime most days. Over the weeks I take and start many rooted cuttings for sale at my Farmer's Market. (Not sure whether I will be doing this in a new location...its a very small Farmer's Market here and I probably need to get to know folks a bit first.) I have do loved doing this and my son has helped me with the marketing of them.
SteveM
Jan 17, 2020 1:41 PM CST
Name: Steve
San Diego
Commercial cut flower grower
it is interesting to hear of other's experience with heating mats/heating cables. I do all of my cuttings in an unheated greenhouse (hoop house) where the night temperatures this time of year range from the low 40's to the low 50's. With my setup cuttings take forever to root without bottom heat. Although, with both cuttings and eyeing out tubers, I have learned (the hard way) that too much bottom heat will cause damping off and tuber rot. I keep the temperature in the root zone between 65F and 75F. For growers who need to use bottom heat I would recommend investing in a heat mat with a temperature probe connected to an automatic thermostat. I haven't had much luck with the cheaper mats/cables with built in thermostats because the reading is not taken in the root zone. If I took my cuttings indoors and the room temp was about 70F I wouldn't bother with bottom heat except to start pepper seeds.
Imageteddahlia
Jan 30, 2020 10:40 AM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
I am on the fence concerning buying more light fixtures. I bought a bunch of florescent bulbs at a garage sale. My florescent fixtures put out some needed heat in my daylight basement area. The LEDs put out almost no heat. I did some research and in order to match the light output of the florescents, I need two LED fixtures(42 watt) and I would be paying about $33- for them if I buy 6 at a time. So, do nothing and use my old fixtures that work fine or pay some money and get new fixtures that use less electricity but I would have to turn on the base board heaters. If I were starting out LEDs would be obviously the best choice although there are better florescents than what I use and they do put out heat.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
Imagedrewtheflorist
Jan 30, 2020 6:54 PM CST
Name: Drew the Florist
14 miles S E of Pittsburgh
Never use a heat mat WITHOUT it being thermostatically controlled ---- sure way to cook whatever you're trying to root/grow...

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