Dahlias need warmth but garlic needs cool to grow
I haven't planted dahlias before. Am I better off
ordering tubers by mail or are there garden centers locally that
will have a good selection early enough to plant late this spring?
Any other advice?
Where you buy depends on if you want growing plants or dormant
tubers, and whether you need a particular color and type of
For potted dahlias, shop locally. I bought some fine potted
dahlias late last spring from a local garden center. At other times
I've bought them from growers at the farmer's markets.
If you plan to place the dahlias as filler near perennials like
oriental poppy or lupine that wane after their spring bloom, tubers
are best. It's less intrusive to slit the soil and insert a tuber
alongside that perennial, than to plant a potted dahlia there.
Local garden centers may carry both potted dahlias and tubers, but
it's tubers-only if you order by mail.
Do you want a specific dahlia variety? To find it takes shopping
around. Chances are you'll find it only by mail.
There are so many dahlia varieties that no one seller can
carry them all. Each of your local garden centers may carry a half
dozen. It's unlikely that you'll find a particular one of the
thousands of existing dahlia varieties in such a small pool. Your
chances improve if you include mail order sources in the
There are generalist and specialist mail order firms.
Generalists are like a garden center, offering a few types each of
a hundred species, from Anemone to Zantedeschia. A specialist may
list just one species but a hundred or more varieties. So shop
dahlia specialists to find a particular color and shape of
To find those specialists, use your computer or a library's
Internet connection. Go to the Dahlia Society at www.dahlia.org to
use their "Big List" of links to dahlia growers.
If you order by mail, specify a late May ship date unless you
have the time and inclination to start the tubers in pots indoors.
That's because dahlias do not like cold soil and perform poorly all
season if planted before the ground is 60 degrees or more. Those
temperatures don't occur in Michigan gardens until early June.
The garlic on my kitchen counter has started to sprout.
Can I pull the cloves apart and plant them and grow my own garlic?
And what is the best way to do this?
Some garlic varieties grow well here. So plant that sprout. It's
worth a try, even if it turns out to be a type that doesn't like
Michigan winters, or can't get what it needs here to produce hefty
Full sun and well drained soil are all it takes, but get it
planted as soon as you can break into the soil. Garlic needs cold
prior to its blooming season to produce side bulbs. If it goes
straight to bloom, it may put all of its gusto into one flowering
bulb that will be a culinary hull by harvest time..
Gardening under oak trees
J.D. wonders if it's possible to garden under oaks. Yes! In
fact, given a choice of tree to garden under, I'd pick white oak.
They tend to be high branched, leaf out late in spring and keep
some leaves right through winter. That means plants at their feet
get more light during the growing season and more protection from
Oak roots tend to be widely spaced and relatively deep. I can
dig without hurting the tree's roots or putting my garden plants
into close competition with the tree.
I enjoy answering questions you mail to me or post on my
school's website. However, don't expect much help from me if you
pose a "stumper" such as: Why, on a murky March day as I yearn for
color, must landscapes be dominated by bright blue- and orange
tarp-covered items? What happened to earth tone tarps?
Green thumbs up
to the stalwart snowdrops and witchhazel already in bloom, and
the snow crocus just joining them.
Green thumbs down
to the lack of foresight that caused me to plant my late winter
bloomers away off in a corner of the yard I can hardly see from my
Originally published 3/5/05