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Soil Basics 101 / Spring Barn Sales

Posted on: April 2nd, 2016 by Aimee Sherrill

Spring is here and soon it’ll be time to plant your dahlias!  Yeah!  

What can we do now to give our gardens the best shot possible for success?


The first step in a successful garden is soil.  It’s all about the soil, because plants are only as good as the soil they are planted in.   Think of your soil as a living, breathing organism that like all of us, needs to be nourished, fed, loved and needs a little attention now and then.  Growing great gardens takes a lot out of the soil from year to year, and it’s important that we put that nutrients back into the soil from year after year.

Add Compost:

Add a 4″ layer of compost to your planting beds as a first step.  Then till or work in with a pitchfork to mix the compost and theimage native soil together.  This will drive the nutrition back into your soil that was depleted from last years garden.  The biggest contributor to a healthy garden is without a doubt, compost.  Compost improves the soil in so many ways, it adds organic matter to make the soil softer, allows it to drain better, adds oxygen to the soil by improving drainage and attracts beneficial insects, worms and micro-organisms to you soil.  Compost also has nutrients in it that gives both the plant and the soil what it needs.  The benefits of compost is endless, but too much is not a good thing either.  Your plants don’t like to grow in straight compost, they need the micro-nutrients that comes from your native soil as well.

Soil Testing:

The best time to test your soils nutrient levels is from February to April.  Basic soil test kits tell you about N-P-K, N-Nitrogen, P-Phosphorous Soil Test kitand K-Potassium and will measure the amount of nutrients you have in your soil.  They can also tell you where your soil pH is at.   The pH level in your soil is important because it can effect nutrient uptake by your plants.  If the plant doesn’t like where the pH level is at, the amount of fertilizer that plant will absorb can be hindered.

Why your soils pH level is important:

PH has a range from 0-14, with 7 being neutral.  Most soils will fall between the range of 6-8.  6 would be more on the acidic side and 8 would be more on the alkaline side.  Most acid soils are found by trees that drop their needles every year and cause the soil to be more acid.  Soil test kits can be found at any home improvement store this time of year.  They range in price from $10-$15 and provide a lot of valuable information as to where your soil might be lacking in nutrients.  You can also contact your county extension office, they will often test your soil for free if you send them soil samples.

What to do if your soil is too acidic or too alkaline:

Too acidic:  Add Lime to raise the pH level in your soil.

Too alkaline: Add Ferrous Sulfate (iron) to lower pH

The pH level in the soil is what would cause a hydrangea to be pink or blue in color.  By adding lime to your soil and raising the pH, the hydrangea will be pink.  By adding ferrous sulfate (iron) and lowering the pH, this will cause the hydrangea to be blue.


The process of changing the pH levels won’t happen overnight.  Often it will take months up to a year to see the full results.  But knowing now, and taking steps to correct it will grow a better garden in the future.  Try to make it a yearly chore, to test your soil.

The Take Away:

Ideally for dahlias, you want your pH to be slightly acidic and fall somewhere in the range of 6.5 – 6.8 and your Nitrogen to be the low.  Too much nitrogen in the soil will create a lot of foliage, but not a lot of bloom.  We recommend using a granular fertilizer with a 5-10-10 ratio or as close to that number as you can get.  Fertilize once when you plant and again 30 days later.  Dahlias are pretty low feeders, it’s the watering that will create the best blooms.  Don’t fertilize your dahlias after August 15th as well.  They won’t have enough time to absorb it before the harvest.


 

Soil Thermometer

A soil thermometer is a valuable tool.  Take the soils temperature and plant when the temperature reaches 60 degrees.  At that point, your safe to plant your dahlias and any other warm season crop like tomatoes and potatoes.


 

What’s Happening on the Farm Now?

Our Barn is Opening for Dahlia Tuber / Perennial Sales on April 16-17, 2016 and will be open every weekend through the middle of May or until we are sold out.  Customers who placed tuber orders during the Flower Festival, can also pick up any weekend our barn is open from April 16th-17th through May.  We’ll send you a reminder email as well.  The barn will be loaded with all our reliable, favorite dahlias and the best producers we grow.  Tons of Perennials like tuberous begonias, hostas, daylily, gladiolus and more.


Online customers – we have a great selection of dahlias and perennials.  We’ll continue to ship through May or until we are sold out of our dahlia tubers and perennials for the season.  We’re shipping to the south and central US now, northern US starts shipping mid-April.

We’ll end with a few of our favorite farm shots last year !

 

 

2 Responses

  1. VALERIE RAINEY says:

    Thanks for the great information and the beautiful pictures.

  2. Alex Harris says:

    Hi, really useful advice on Dahlia care, I will definitely dig up & decide my dahlias in the fall.

    This year I planted dahlias for the first time. It’s my first garden & I’m still on a learning curve on how to do things. What advice have you got for slug infected gardens? I’ve been fighting off slugs as they keep eating the new shoots. I managed to get a couple of plants to grow under glass jars but slugs are still active and attack any new growth that comes out of the tuber (I planted them in large clumps without deciding the tubers up first). To fight slugs I’ve purchased metaldehyde based chemical to be dissolved in water but it doesn’t seem to fend off the slugs. I live in Ireland & summers are moist & humid. From a small garden I collect at least 20-30 slugs in the evening. Do you have any advice how to counteract the slugs?

    Next year I will definitely grow them in the greenhouse before planting the new plants into the ground.

    Thanks a million for advice

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