The Midwest and East Coast have had reason to wonder if spring will ever arrive. They’ve had some pretty strange weather this year, with snowstorms and freezing weather well into April. North Central Washington, on the other hand, has enjoyed a very pleasant spring so far with our biggest annoyance being the wind.
In the dahlia world, dates for first planting vary, depending greatly on regional weather conditions. Prior to growing dahlias, I never paid much attention to weather — having been raised in Western Washington, where everyone knows “It rains all the time …” I tried not to spend a lot of time discussing or complaining about things like precipitation, humidity or temperature, conditions over which I had no control. However, since becoming a dahlia grower, I have a new appreciation for weather and climate information, and now understand why my dad always kept a little pocket diary in his shirt pocket. Located just over his dahlia-heart, he kept his “calendar” and daily recorded the temperatures and precipitation. The data contained in this homemade almanac was crucial to his decision as to when to start planting.
The recommendation for planting dahlia plants and tubers is to wait until your soil has reached a temperature of 60 degrees F. You also need to be relatively certain that the danger of hard frost is past. Those criteria seem to have been met in my home garden this year, so I’ve decided that it is time to start planting my tubers. Because they are well buried below 4-6 inches of soil, the likelihood of death by frost is remote, even if the temps drop to the low 30s. Dahlia plants, as opposed to tubers, are more vulnerable and most growers will advise you to wait until the end of April or early May to transplants cuttings and seedlings. Because these babies are above ground, any temperatures below 32 degrees F are likely to kill them and the prudent gardener will patiently wait until all danger of frost is past.
I guess I’m not as prudent as some, because this week, after checking the 10-day forecast, I threw caution to the wind. In addition to planting one of my 8’x4’ raised beds with tubers, I planted two beds of brand new seedling plants. Although this runs counter to recommendations, the temperature predictions for the remainder of April look promising. My seedlings, which started growing in February, were getting quite tall, and after about a week of hardening them off, I felt that it was time to get them in the ground. I still have more than 100 seedlings in trays indoors and I’m hoping this calculated risk will pay off.
The nationwide weather may have many confused many about what time it is, but here in NCW it looks like spring has sprung.
Linda Holmes-Cook blogs regularly at ncwdahliasociety.blogspot.com.