Dahlia Season: Plant, Support, Irrigate & Groom forum: Shade Cloth

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Nov 9, 2018 9:06 AM CST
Name: CC
Found the topic of 'Shade Cloth' in a general thread, and thought it deserved its own thread.

DillyDahlia wrote:Considering the high heat that lots of us have been experiencing, is it worthwhile to consider using shade cloth this summer? In UK videos on YouTube, I see dahlias covered and protected from the rain and sun, however, I do not know what type of cloth the growers are using for their show flowers. Is this something we could consider using here in the northeast?

teddahlia wrote:Shade cloth is very common here in the PNW. Show exhibitors use it. Cut flower growers generally do not. We have never put it up but Margaret has discussed it. One issue with some Hollyhill varieties is that they grow plenty tall enough without shade cloth and people usually only have it about 10 feet tall and I know we would need a 12 foot height for our varieties.

In the Northeast, shade cloth would be an excellent idea if you are showing dahlias.

DillyDahlia wrote:Ted, thank you...do you have a suggested shade percentage/density?

teddahlia wrote:Shade cloth story: At the club meeting a while ago we talked about shadecloth and the percentage issue was raised. Most felt 50% was best but some thought 40% was better. A wise club member related a story that someone bought 40% shade cloth and it only let 40% of the sun through meaning to us it was 60% shade cloth. To avoid that possibility, we all agreed that you could not have this happen with 50% shadecloth.

Here in Oregon in the middle of one of the largest horticultural areas in the USA, shade cloth is sold by any number of green house supply companies and I just drove 15 miles to one of them and bought enough to cover our greenhouse so we could work in there on sunny days. No shipping and I believe it was around $100- for the 32 x 32 piece of 50% cloth. That was over 5 years ago.

sylviap wrote:I've thought about shade cloth here but can't figure out how to support it over the whole yard.

teddahlia wrote:I have seen many, many shade cloth set ups but since I was totally distracted by all the dahlias, I did not pay much attention to how they were done. I understand that most people use metal electrical conduit that you can buy at Home Depot. It is a light duty pipe material that comes in long lengths and you can buy various fittings like tees to to put it up. You could use plastic plumbing tees to hold it up also. One rule of thumb is that the very minimum height is 10 feet and 11 or 12 feet would be much better. Dahlias grow much , much taller under shade cloth. If you were somewhat wealthy, you could buy the greenhouse hoops to hold up the shade cloth . All the parts of greenhouses can be bought separately and they would love to sell you a 12 foot tall 40 foot wide 100 foot long greenhouse frame to hold up the shade cloth . The electrical conduit is a bargain in comparison. One of the big advantages of using the commercial frame is that it would be much easier to slide the shade cloth and expose the plants to the full sun when you wanted to. Many of us dream of being millionaires and having extensive greenhouses and large tractors.

If are reading about shade cloth and think that people are being a bit fanatical there are some "sour grapes" issues about shade cloth. Fungus disease is rampant under shadecloth in the cooler weather of the Fall and one has to spray fungicide or suffer lots of damage. The height of the plants can be ridiculous with flowers so high on the plants that you cannot reach them. And it looks rather tacky like a homeless person found some old conduit and built his shelter. And you probably should not leave it up during the winter and taking it down and putting up would be time consuming. Meanwhile if you choose not to have shadecloth, the other show exhibitors in the club put their dahlias under shade cloth and kick your butt at the shows. Perhaps, umbrellas are the answer instead of shadecloth. Some of the best dahlias ever exhibited were grown under umbrellas. What looks worse, a metal conduit playhouse with a black shade cloth roof or a dahlia garden with numerous golf umbrellas mounted to stakes in garish colors and many with advertising on them? To a show fanatic, either garden looks good.

Islander wrote:Clearview Dahlias has been sharing some nice photos of their set up. I think it can be done attractively if the effort is put into it and of course the money for a good framework. We we don't really need it here (I don't "Show" and have enough flowers for market without using sunburnts ones) except for a few days mid summer...mostly we have the "Marine Layer" (Clouds and overcast in the mornings, clearning in early afternoon) for shade.

teddahlia wrote:Shade cloth: previously I had stated that 50% shade cloth is the one show people like. I stand corrected as two different growers say they like 30 or 40% shade cloth. One of them has both 30% and 50% and uses the 50% only briefly for specialized flowers and never leaves it on the plants very long. It may be different in hotter places where 50% would be desirable.
(Updated after Ted's post below)

Here is a garden of golf umbrellas, from the master dahlia grower Bob Romano, of Windhaven fame.

Thumb of 2018-11-09/CCvacation/4f284b

Thumb of 2018-11-09/CCvacation/d3dc2e

Dick Westfall is one of Bob's mentors, and is an amazing showman who is really up there in years. He grows the majority of his garden under shade cloth. I can't remember the specifics of how he grows, as its been a few years since that discussion. Folks that are at the top of their game (always at the head table at shows) talk about Dick with reverence, but Dick is a very kind & soft-spoken man that claims to not be very good. Of growing, he says he is a stickler with using shade cloth, but he just throws on any Scotts fertilizer he has on hand, and has no 'secret formula' for his HUGE and perfectly-formed blooms. Jim Cheuy spent time on his hands and knees under Dick's plants trying to figure out his secret, and swears that he's keeping things from his 'competition.' Hilarious! Dick had his career with and retired from Scotts.
[Last edited Nov 9, 2018 9:35 AM CST]
Quote | Post #1302017 (1)
Nov 9, 2018 9:33 AM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
I did post later on and shared the information that that 50% shade cloth is probably too much and that 40% or even 30% may be what you need. I have no personal experience with shade cloth except I do place it over our greenhouse every year and it is 50%. It is a bit too dark in there to be ideal but it certainly keeps the green house cooler. The one consistent thing I have seen as I visited gardens with shade cloth is that all of the plants are much taller than those grown in the full sun. Umbrellas are temporary covers for show blooms and there is much less a problem with tall plants. I would imagine that if HH Tangelo were grown under shade cloth that it would be over 12 feet tall. Clacks Dahlias shade cloth is 11 feet tall and some plants there do reach it.
We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.
Nov 9, 2018 2:21 PM CST
Name: Tina
NY Zone 5b/6a
Flower Power!
Thank you for creating this thread. It helps when searching back for previous posts on this topic.
“Early to bed, early to rise, plant like hell...and fertilize!” P Allen Smith

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