Featured

Mid-Winter Dahlia Garden Prep

It’s the time of year when the holidays are over and we hit the mid-winter lull. Now is the best time to start planning and preparing for the next growing season! Following is a list of things you can do to prepare your dahlia garden during the dark days of winter.

Take Stock
  • Make a list of tubers you have in storage and that you have purchased. This will help you track what you have in storage, what you have ordered, to plan out next season’s garden. You can also track tuber loss with your list.
  • Take stock of your tools, fertilizers, pest control products, garden markers, plant labels, etc. and make a list of items that you need to replace or stock up on, or maybe even add to your arsenal.
Example using an Excel spreadsheet
Map out your garden

Now that you have a list of tubers you have for your next growing season, you can begin to plan the layout of your garden. Having your dahlias mapped out will help in case you lose your plant labels. The example provided below leaves room for notes to be taken on each plant.

  • Remember to have a minimum of 18-24″ between each plant. This spacing allows for air circulation and for access to groom the plants.
Example of a garden plot map for a 10' by 10' plot with room for notes
Make Schedules
  • If you plan to exhibit your blooms, get out your calendar or planner and start marking down dates for stopping/topping and disbudding to time your blooms for show. You can find information on timing blooms by our very own Randy Siem in the article linked below:
  • Make a schedule using a calendar or set up reminders on your smartphone for fertilizing and pest control applications during the growing season.
Garden Tool Maintenance
  • Sharpen your tools either using a sharpening device at home or check with your garden center if they provide a sharpening service.

Check out the links below for more information on garden tool maintenance:

https://www.gardenbetty.com/6-simple-tips-for-maintaining-your-gardening-tools/

HOW TO CARE FOR GARDEN TOOLS

on GardenDesign.com

Review and Research
  • Review your notes from last season to determine what worked and what didn’t work for your garden.
  • Research methods for disease and pest control, watering methods and systems, protecting blooms, plant support options that reduce tying, etc.
  • Make a plan of action for implementing any new or current techniques for next season.

Featured

2020 MDS Dahlia of the Year

Weston Spanish Dancer

Weston Spanish Dancer was selected as the Minnesota Dahlia Society’s 2020 Dahlia of the Year. This dahlia’s title plays into our 2020 show themes of ‘Dancing with Dahlias’ and the ‘Roaring 20s’. Unfortunately, we were not able to obtain any tubers for our sale.

Weston Spanish Dancer

ADS Class: 4312

Size: Miniature (M) bloom size up to 4 inches

Form: Cactus (C)

Color: Flame Blend (FL) RD24/YL18

This dahlia cultivar was introduced in 2000 by T. E. McClelland of Bulkington, Warks, England. This dramatic and vibrant small cactus dahlia has approximately 3.5-inch blooms of bright yellow in the center with vibrant red tips. Winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Grows to a height of 3 feet. Loaded with vibrant flame-colored blooms. Very productive cut flower and consistent show winner.

Featured

ADS 2019 Show Results

The American Dahlia Society published their December Bulletin and special 2019 Results. There was a lot of confusion and conflicting instructions so they are taking input to consider how to improve the process next year. Although I submitted our results on time and to the correct party, they did not get them. I coordinated with them yesterday and our results will be published in the March 2020 bulletin. Our results are already published on the website, at:

https://www.dahlia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Minnesota-DS.pdf

Minnesota Dahlia Society Celebrated “90 Years of Dahlias in Minnesota”. Bloom Count was 1670.

Minnesota Dahlia Society Celebrated the “Year of the Dahlia”. Bloom Count was 1010. www.mndahlia.org

Featured

People’s Choice Winner 2019

People’s Choice 2019 Results

Every year at our State Fair Show we have a section called the People’s Choice section in which the public vote on their favorite bloom.

Vote box
Vote box
Peoples Choice lineup
The line up

This year’s winner is Ka’s Khaleesi with 152 votes, by John Kooiman! 

Ka’s Khaleesi is an

AA = giant dahlia with bloom diameter measuring over 10 inches

ID = informal decorative – defined by ray florets being twisted, curled, or wavy in an irregular arrangement)

W = white

Winner
Ka’s Khaleesi

The complete results of this year’s People’s Choice voting are below:

1. Carmen Alexandra – 15, Mary Montagne
2. Miss Amara (two-centers) – 72, Jeanne Murphy
3. Bloomquist Globe – 79, Judy Romer
4. Pinking of You – 40, Arnie Sachs
5. Pam Howden – 111, John Kooiman
6. Clearview Sharron – 8, John Kooiman
7. Ka’s Khalessi – 152, John Kooiman
8. Just Married – 108, John Kooiman

Total Votes: 585

Thank you to everyone who took part in voting!

Featured

MDS Logo Wear!

 
Get your MDS logo wear and accessories!

Check out the online store for your MDS logo wear and accessories provided by Fox Box Frippery!  Fox Box has also created a new logo for our 90th Anniversary!

With this online store, you can browse and purchase your items and have them shipped directly to you!

There are several styles of tops, logo style, colors, and accessories to choose from!

Check out the online store at:  https://foxboxfrippery.com/collections/minnesota-dahlia-society

This link will be active until October 1st.  If there is enough demand, we can extend the deadline for the online store.

If you have any questions or think of anything additional that you would like added to the store, please contact Amy Simonson.

Featured

Trial Garden Volunteer Process Sign up

2019 Arboretum Volunteers

We want to encourage you to volunteer at the Trial Garden so we include options that will allow you to complete the process at no cost to you.

4 Step Process to Volunteer at the Trial Garden

  1. Create or update your Arboretum volunteer account (new this year). Use this link Application Form – MN Landscape Arboretum.If you volunteered last year you should have received an email with your username and a temporary password (check you spam folder), fill out the section on the right: I already have a username. If you are new to this, complete the form on the left: I am new to MyImpactPage.com to create a username and account.
  2. If you did not volunteer last year, request info to complete the background check, using this link for the Dahlia Society Form at the bottom of this page.
  3. If you do not already have a membership to the Arb, request one, using this link for the Dahlia Society Form at the bottom of this page.
  4. Sign Up on a Team at the Trial Garden. Using this link to SignUpGenius.

MDS is working with the Arboretum on this so we need to coordinate information. They have a new Volunteer Database where you can create an account by completing the Application Form.

Click the title above to open the Volunteer Database. Unless you have already done so, fill out the short form to create an account by choosing a unique username. I just added MDS to my first name. You will also need to read (and check the box) the university of Minnesota’s Code of Conduct. Then Save and Continue.

Fill in all the fields flagged as required. Read and agree to the Volunteer Agreement and Release Statemenet as well as the Expectations for Interactoin withYouth.

After you submit your completed form, you will recieve an email (check your spam folder) which talks about an orientation meeting. If you only plan to work in our Trial Garden you can skip that.

Of course the Arb has a lot to offer and you may find a new interest if you go.

Use Sign Up Genius to put your name on specific dates where more volunteers are needed. You don’t have to stick to the same team each time. Just click the Trial Garden Sign Up button.

The MDS has agreed to pay the one time $40 background check fee for members who pledge to work at least FOUR times in the Trial Garden this season.

If you select that you are a member or interested in Minnesota Dahia Society then there will be an option to take advantage of this.

If you went through the process last year then skip the background check step.

You will receive an email reminder in a few days before each of the dates you signed up for.

PC

You can still log your time in the main building lobby. Ask which PC to use behind the Information desk. Find your name and Dahlia Society. Enter 2 hours for average Saturday.

Or you can now login to the new “My Impact” system from home, to enter your hours. You are free to change your Username and/or Password any time you like by visiting “My Profile” and choosing “Contact Information”.  

Emails went out on April 4th and April 29th containing your temporary username and password. If these emails are not in your Inbox, please search your Spam or Trash folders. New volunteers will receive their information in due course.

Already have an account on MyImpactPage.com to volunteer at the Arb? 
Go to volunteer login

Volunteer Login

Featured

ADS Accredited Judges Course Outline 2019

If you are interested in taking the Judges Course, you should contact Karen at dahliagrower1119@yahoo.com

Minnesota Dahlia Society Basic Dahlia Candidate Judging Course

Course includes nine (9) sessions

5-6 sessions on the judging manual
1 sessions on the Classification & Handbook of Dahlias
2 Judging workshops

1) show table cut bloom (bench) scoring
2) trial garden judging (seedling) scoring—whole plant

1 examination (50% of mark; 10% on quizzes)

Classes run 6:30 to 9/9:30 p.m.

Download the appropriate document. Karen has reviewed and updated them for 2019.

Candidate Judging Requirements

Accredited Judging Requirements

Senior Judge Requirements

Honorary Judging Requirements

guide_to_judging

And get your own copy of the

Guide to Judging Dahlias

$4.00

Ask Karen if she has one. If not Kathy Thomson can order some more.

 

 

 

Position of Trial Garden Director

From the By-Laws

Article IV, Officers

Section 10 – The Trial Garden Director will be responsible for all Trial Garden activities and will serve as Chairperson of the Trial Garden Committee. Responsibilities will include the maintenance of trial garden records, coordination with U of M Arboretum staff, establishment of maintenance teams and the carrying out of Spring planting and Fall digging operations.
Section 11 – The Board of Directors shall be composed of nine members: The President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, ADS Representative, Trial Garden Director, and two additional Directors. The ADS Representative and the Trial Garden Director are selected by the Board of Directors and continue to serve until their resignation, or until they are replaced by the Board of Directors. As a vacancy in the position develops it will be filled by the Board. Their place on the Board is dictated by their position, not by the election process.

General duties:

Assist at all General Meetings and Internal (Members-only) Events

  1. Coordinate with the Landscape Arboretum management
  2. Coordinate with hybridizes with entries
  3. Planting
  4. Coordinate Maintenance volunteers
  5. Coordinate with Judges

1930 – Present

2020 – Larry Bagge and John Kooiman

2019 – Larry Bagge and John Kooiman

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Position of Program Director

From the By-Laws

Article IV, Officers

Section 8 -The Program Director will work with the Second Vice President in the planning and preparation of the general monthly membership meetings and will be responsible for setting up and coordinating the activities of the Calling Committee and the Kitchen Committee.
Section 3 – The Second Vice President shall be assisted in the performance of these duties by the Program Director and other committees as shall be appointed by the Board of Directors. 
Section 11 – The Program Director and the Membership Director will be selected by the Board of Directors at their first Board Meeting of the new year.

Article XIII, Parliamentary Practices

Section 2 – Reports of Committees d. Old Business e. New Business f. Adjournment g. Program

General duties:

Assist at all General Meetings and Internal (Members-only) Events

  1. Find Speaker
  2. Document Program
  3. Setup Audio/Video equipment
  4. Setup/Put away room
  5. Manage microphones and speakers during presentation

1930 – Present

2020 – Eric Thomson

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Tubers Sold Out!

  • We sold every last tuber, over 1,700 tubers in total.
  • We provided dahlias for 223 growers to enjoy this summer.
  • And we did it safely, wearing masks, keeping social distance, online payment, and no-contact pickup.

We want to thank all of the volunteers that gave their time and energy to make this event work, we appreciate your contributions. We were successful despite having never done anything like this before. We overcame problems and worked together and received many kind words from customers, even those we had to refund.

Heather Alderink
Kyle and Lisa Cassidy
Dahlia Del
Rita Gindt-Marvig
Jordon Goodwater
Byron Jacobson
Audra Johnson
Carolyn Koehler
John Kooiman
Lynn Lombardi
Karen Loney
Jodi Martin
Charlot Meyer
Arnie Sachs
Amy Simonson
Jane Skjerven
Rick Snyder
Kelly Thommes
Eric and Kathy Thomson
Beth Vaughan
Sandra Ward
There were others that assisted in less direct ways.

We had donations of masks, gloves, and hand-sanitizer from: Rick and JoAnn Snyder, Jordon Goodwater, Eric & Kathy Thomson, and Charlotte Ryan. A few customers did not want their shipping refunded when we delivered instead : Tom Darling and Clark Orlaska, there may have been others.

2020 Meetings Cancelled

All general meetings and the picnic are cancelled, until further notice.

We do have some good articles on planting and John Kooiman is recording a video that will be posted soon.

Soil Testing: For those of you that want your soil tested please go to, http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/sites/g/files/pua891/f/media/lawn_and_garden_2018_3.pdf                                 Print this form and fill it out. Bring the Form, your soil sample and a check made out to, University of Minnesota for the amount noted for the test you would like. Rick Snyder will then drop them off at the U of M soil testing site.

Jon Soule passes

IN MEMORIAM, JON SOULE

The Minnesota Dahlia Society lost a dedicated member and great friend on April 16, 2020.

Jon was an ADS Senior Judge, an active exhibitor and a frequent winner at shows. Jon and his wife Cindy enjoyed traveling and participating in local, regional and national dahlia shows. Along the way, they met many people that shared their passion. Jon also served as Director of Membership for the Minnesota Dahlia Society from 2002-2004. 

With his mild manner and soft-spoken ways, Jon was the yin to Cindy’s yang. They complemented each other perfectly. Together they enjoyed going to Twins, Vikings and Wild games. They also loved to don their ear protection and take in a good ol’ NHRA drag race, often traveling far and wide to find one. Politics was another passion of Jon’s, he was a true union champion. Jon loved his music, especially the blues. Rain or shine, nothing stopped him from enjoying a live soulful blues concert. 

Jon retired after a long career as a prison guard at Minnesota’s Correctional Facility in Stillwater. His co-workers remember him as a kind and gentle man who was passionate about the things he loved and believed in. He was affectionately known to them as ‘Soule Man’.

Jon’s health had been failing him. Most recently he suffered a fall at our 2nd Dahlia show last September that landed him in the hospital. His health continued to decline from there until his passing on April 16th.

Our deepest sympathy goes out to Cindy, his wife of 35 years. Our society has lost a dear friend and valued member. His passing is a loss for all who knew him.  Rest in peace Jon.

Sandra Ward

ADS Representative

https://www.startribune.com/obituaries/detail/0000353397/?fullname=jonathan-edward-soule

What to do with your new Tubers

Thanks to Katie, for this question, “I’m new the the MN Dahlia Society and the tuber sale. I just picked up my tuber order yesterday. Thank you so much to you and all the other volunteers for doing the sale — it’s so wonderful!
I did wonder, being a novice dahlia grower and new to the tuber sale, what should I do with my tubers? “

The tubers you have received now, were in storage at temperatures around 45 degrees Farenheit, until less than 2 weeks ago. But in order to wake them up and inspect them, they have been warmed up a bit. You do not want to return them to cold temperatures gain because that could stop or upset new plant growth.

  1. Get your new tubers into a warmer environment (50 – 60 degrees) than the garage or sun porch.

  1. Tubers should be put into any medium to stabilize the moisture content to keep them from drying out. There are many ideas about this; but the traditional method is wood shavings.

The average Last Frost Date here is May 10th. This is why we usually recommend planting tubers outside after Mother’s Day. You should ensure that the soil is at least 55 degrees and not too wet (saturated) from recent heavy rains.

Tubers can be potted now for transplant after last frost. Soil should be deep enough that it does not dry out.

Starting them early will result in early blooms but they will continue blooming until the first frost in fall. The only concern is for those that enter their blooms in competition because the first blooms are usually the biggest, so they try to time them for the show.

It will take potted tubers, a week or two for sprouts to form. With good light and moisture the plants can grow to 12 to 16 inches by May planting. Leaves should be dark green and robust; not yellow and spindly, to get the full potential out of them when put into the garden.

Planting Trays

If you don’t have a good place to pot and grow them that large, you can wait till May 1st and just plant them in plastic trays. This will give your plants about 2 to 4 inches of leaves with some good root structure.

Be careful at this point to protect new roots and plants from drying out.

Planting Dahlias Presentation Recap

At our May General Meeting, we were given a presentation on planting dahlias by John Kooiman and Larry Bagge who shared their methods and expertise. Here are some notes and takeaways from the presentation.

Planting Presentation

  • Many growers start their tubers indoors before planting them in the ground. This allows you to know what you have growing before dropping your tubers in the ground.  Tubers can be placed in pots or trays with potting soil with the eye(s) pointed up. Water your tubers when sprouts are above the soil and don’t allow the soil to become saturated which will cause tubers to rot.

 

  • Do not plant your tubers until ground temps have reached 60 degrees. In general, it is safe to plant your dahlias when you plant your vegetable garden. Cool weather and rain will cause tubers to rot in the ground.

 

  • When planning the layout of your dahlia garden, keep in mind each plant will need a minimum distance of 2 feet of space between each plant. This allows for air circulation, ease of access to work on the plant, and prevent the plants from fighting for growing space.

 

  • Both John and Larry use no-till or low till methods on their established gardens. Tilling can cause compaction of the soil by destroying the soil structure and disrupting the natural microbial ecosystem of the soil. However, both of them make sure to add lots of organic matter to their garden beds by top-dressing or by light/shallow cultivation of the soil.

 

  • Be sure to water your plants before planting them out in the garden. Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and large enough to fit the root system. At this time you should add a slow release (granular) fertilizer/amendment to the planting hole. Some growers use bone meal, earthworm castings, or a bulb and bloom fertilizer. Mix the fertilizer lightly with some of the soil and place your tuber in the hole.

 

  • Some growers will plant their tubers horizontally in the ground and some will angle the tuber in the hole with the root system resting at a lower point than the shoot.

 

  • Plant your tuber so that the sprouts are oriented South and the tuber and root system are oriented North.

 

  • There are many different ways growers support their dahlias. However, be sure to always place your support system at the time of planting to prevent accidentally piercing the tuber or its root system. The method you choose to use all depends on the number of plants you have, the time you want to spend on your plants, and what works for your budget. John discussed his method of staking his plants in conjunction with a heavy duty tomato cage. This method reduces the amount of tying needed for his numerous plants. The stake allows him to tie up his plants when they reach above the tomato cage.

 

  • When choosing your materials for supporting your plants, be sure to use sturdy materials. Rebar is a top choice for staking dahlia growers. Rebar is cost-effective, sturdy, and lasts for several decades (unless you live by an ocean).

 

  • Protect your young sprouts from rabbits and squirrels. These garden pests love the tender young shoots. Many growers buy rolls of chicken wire and create “cages” or cloches until plants are more mature.

 

 

 

 

Planting Dahlias

What is the best way to plant show worthy dahlias?

We discussed different approaches and practices at our last general meeting, and will now share what we actually did at the Trial Garden this year.

Kooiman planting
  • All of the submitted tubers were planted earlier in trays and started in a greenhouse. John Kooiman grew them to about six inches tall.
  • We did not till the soil this year. Larry Bagge weeded and set up the irrigation system. The stakes were left in place last year.
  • Dig the holes next to each stake, about 7 or 8 inches deep.
  • We did not use commercial fertilizer but did sprinkle Azomite into each hole. It provides trace minerals to improve root systems, yields, and general plant vigor.
  • We had a couple tubers that were just sprouting and we planted them at roughly a 45-degree angle with the top (sprout end) almost touching the north side of the stake, and a bit over 2 inches deep. The root end could be quite a few inches deeper depending on the length of the tuber. The plants were planted at a shallower angle because we didn’t want to bury too much of the green stem.
  • Then we filled in with just the local dirt and patted it down lightly.
  • Sprinkle Azomite into each hole. It provides trace minerals to improve root systems, yields and general plant vigor.
  • Finally, we sprinkled some Epsom Salt crystal in a circle around each plant to promote blooming and enhances a plant’s green color.
  • Tuber producers advice to not water for a week after planting to ensure the sprout is growing well. Otherwise, the tuber could rot. This doesn’t really apply to plants.
  • Larry came up with an ingenious was of labeling each plant. He cut some lengths of PVC pipe (a little bigger than the re-bar) heated one end to soften it, and then flattened it in a vice. Cindy then used a marker to identify the plant and then slid it onto the top of the stake.

Hope your planting efforts went well and looking forward to seeing your entries at the State Fair show.

Chuck Spragg passed away 3/21/2020

Sylvia and Chuck

Chuck has passed to Eternal Life with the Resurrected Christ. Please pray for Chuck’s wife Sylvia, their family and all who love them as we mourn our loss and celebrate his life.

Mass of Christian Burial is being postponed at this time and is tentatively anticipated in the fall.

Obituary will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

Rest eternal grant unto our brother Charles, O Lord of Hope: and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

Saturday evening I lost my husband and best friend of 57 years. My heart and soul aches. I hope he knows how much I miss him already.

We wish to express our deepest appreciation to all of you for your prayers and well wishes through this journey.

Love and blessings,

Sylvia, Michael, Kathy and Andrea, Shelly and Maria and Baird

His last bloom entry 2019

Our society lost a beloved member on March 21, 2020. Chuck Spragg, age 80, of Richfield, MN passed away peacefully at his home and he will be greatly missed by all of us. He was a lifetime member of the Minnesota Dahlia Society and an avid grower and exhibitor of dahlias.

Chuck was always ready to lend a helping hand. He was the first to respond and help with all club events when the call went out. Chuck annually lead a work team at the North Central Trial Garden located at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. He eagerly shared his vast knowledge and enthusiasm for growing dahlias with everyone. Chuck also helped construct the permanent fence around our trial garden at the Arb. It still stands today and successfully keeps the deer, turkeys, groundhogs, and rabbits from eating the newly planted entries. This gift alone will keep on giving for many years to come, and we thank you for that Chuck!

Chuck was a respected ADS Senior Accredited Judge and judged blooms at too many State Fairs to count. I always loved it when I was placed with Chuck to judge at shows. He was patient, kind, fair and knowledgable, and I always learned so much from him. Chuck was also a member of our club’s accreditation committee.

He always said he loved people and greeted everyone as his best friend in his cheerful and welcoming manner. He was helpful to me early on when I had just started out growing dahlias. I was having problems with slugs. Chuck invited me over to his garden and gave me a glass jar full of slug-bait granules and told me how to sprinkle them around my plants to keep the slugs at bay. Chuck always gave more than he received.

Our condolences go out to Chuck’s wife Sylvia and their family and to all the people whose lives he touched.

Sandra Ward

ADS Representative

The Role of Soil Fertility In Gardening

Reproduced from the April 2002, Minnesota Dahlia Society Dahlia Digest
©by the Author and Dahlia Digest, 2002

By Dave Syverson
Updated 10/01/02

Plants consume a lot of different nutrients, most of which we never need to worry about too much. There are certain ones that must be replenished in the soil because they are consumed in fairly large quantities and are not returned to the soil under normal circumstances.

In unusual situations, certain soils are lacking specific minor nutrients and we may need to add these to balance the nutritional profile of the garden. Successfully using fertilizer in a garden is a matter of adding the right amount of whatever nutrient is in short supply. Guessing at what needs to be added can result in adding more of what we already have and still be missing what is in short supply. We may be experiencing what appears to be a nutrient shortage, when what is actually happening is a nutrient availability problem because the pH is out of whack for the plants we are raising.

Up to this point, a decent soil test may appear to be all we need to do to figure out what the garden needs to prosper, but sometimes other factors may blacken our green thumbs.

Sometimes we have too much or too little water. Sometimes the amount of organic matter in the soil is not right and creates problems. How much light is available? A real good way of looking at gardening is to ask one’s self, what is the greatest liming factor I have in this garden, everything considered? Low fertility may not always be our biggest problem — a gardener needs to view the big picture. Success may mean fixing the drainage, correcting the pH or making more light available before the plants will be able to even make use of any nutrients we add to the soil.

THE ROLE OF SOIL ACIDITY/ALKALINITY


We may practically view pH as a way to measure how much acid or alkali is present in the soil. A pH of 7 is acidic while more than 7 represents an alkaline situation. The primary reason pH affects nutrient availability is that plants pick up nutrients which are dissolved in the soil water, and pH affects the degree to which most nutrients will be dissolved in the soil water.

A lot of plants, including Dahlias, do best on soils which are slightly acid; just a little less than a Ph of 7, such as 6.5-6.7. If the pH of the soil is much above 7, a number of nutrients will become less available because they will be tied up in compounds that are not as soluble in the soil water.

To a degree, we are victims of our location. Most garden soils in southeast Minnesota will have a pH of 8 or slightly more because the soil has a lot of carbonates in it due to limestone in the parent material our soil is composed of. Folks in northeast Minnesota will likely have slightly acidic soils. Generalities do not always apply to a specific garden plot.

Rather than guessing about soil pH, it can easily be determined when a soil test is done (everyone has their soil tested – right?). Soils that are drastically high in pH can be adjusted by adding sulfur, and it may need to be done each year because there may be a good supply of the stuff in the soil that tends to raise the pH anyway.

Yellow garden sulfur will have the greatest affect and will require less material than will other acidifying products. Low pH (high acidity) is normally corrected with lime additions. A point which is not usually recognized is that garden fertilizers may affect pH due to the ingredients contained in blended fertilizers. When a 10-10-10 or a 5-5-5 fertilizer is purchased, it is normally a fertilizer blend that has been diluted by additions of 50% to 75% carrier. The carrier is usually lime, which is just fine if your garden has a pH of 5.5 and needs to have some of the acid neutralized, but it works against you if the soil pH is already 8.4. The additional lime will only serve to maintain the already high soil pH. For this reason, I stay away from diluted low analysis fertilizers and use smaller quantities of higher analysis fertilizers. Other fertilizer ingredients, such as monoammonium phosphate, diammonium phosphate and triple super phosphate are somewhat acidic to begin with because of how they are manufactured, and frequently contain up to 1% sulfur. Knowing what your garden pH is through frequent soil testing is essential in order to know if the acidity/alkalinity needs to be adjusted, and by how much.

FERTILIZER 101


Understanding a few of the basics is key to understanding what a person is getting when purchasing fertilizers and ultimately knowing how to apply this information to raise some really great dahlias.

I think it is a fair statement that most consumers have at least a vague idea that there must be someone out there who looks out for the interests in the marketplace, but they might not know exactly who that is and what they do. The regulation of fertilizers, which includes definitions of terms, ingredients and labeling and many other issues, is done primarily by the states through their Agriculture Departments. Most states also do routine product control sampling to assure that what is being sold agrees with what it is represented to be. State fertilizer regulators belong to a national association, The Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO). A primary purpose of AAPFCO is to promote uniform fertilizer regulations, definitions and standards that ca then be adopted by the individual states. The net result is uniform labeling across geographic regions and among products so that a person can logically compare products.

The major plant nutrients that are present in most fertilizers we know by the familiar N-P-K designation we see on the fertilizer label. N being % by weight total Nitrogen, P is % by weight available phosphorus pentoxide (P205) and K is % by weight Potassium oxide (K20).

The secondary plant nutrients (used in smaller quantities than the major plant nutrients) are Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur and each of these are shown on the label as % by weight.

Micro Nutrients include Boron, Cobalt, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Sodium and Zinc. As with the secondary nutrients, these are labeled as % by weight, or they may be labeled as PPM (parts per million). 1% equals 10,000 ppm, so if you see something labeled as 5,000ppm, it is the same as 0.5%.

When it comes to ingredients which provide nutrients in fertilizer, there are officially 37 ingredients which are used to provide Nitrogen, 24 which provide Phosphorous, 11 for Potassium, 18 for Calcium and Magnesium, 9 for Sulfur and more than we care to talk about for the micro nutrients. Many of these substances provide more than one nutrient, such as potassium nitrate (N&K) and Diammonium Phosphate (N&P). A full discussion of fertilizer ingredients is more suitable for a separate occasion than this article , but a person can get an idea by reading the list of ingredients on commercial fertilizer labels.

For our immediate purposes, the issues of ingredient purity, controlled release characteristics, and the use of feed ingredients as fertilizers have considerable general interest.

Fertilizer grade ingredients are not required to have the same purity as products intended for animal or human consumption. A person needs to understand that the label guarantees on a fertilizer container are telling you what you are getting. The guarantee does not tell you if there are other nutrients in smaller quantities, nor does it provide information about heavy metals or other substances you may wish to avoid. A lot of fertilizer products do contain small amounts of sulfur, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, etc. even though it does not say so on the label. The incidental inclusion of micronutrient is one of the reasons we do not normally need to add micro nutrients to the soil. As far as contaminates are concerned, certain fertilizer ingredients, such as urea, ammonium nitrate and potash are known to be relatively free of contaminants. Other fertilizer products, such as “Ironite” (mining waste for a particular mine) and “Milorganite” (dehydrated sewage sludge from the Milwaukee municipal sewage system) are essentially waste products and are being sold more as a matter of disposal than because they are the finest fertilizer available. In both of these cases, you are buying some heavy metals, and possibly other nasties, along with a small amount of plant nutrients. Normal agricultural and garden fertilizer avoid significant amounts of stuff you do not want. “Miracle Gro” and similar products cost about five times as much as agricultural or garden fertilizer because they are general composed of “technical” grade ingredients that have a high purity, and are usually 100% water-soluble. These are fine for specialty use, but may not be economical or necessary for large quantity garden use. A little care in label reading will normally provide a person with sufficient information to know if they are purchasing a product of appropriate purity for the intended purpose.

Slow release products have been marketed for the purpose of supposedly doing one fertilizer application rather than several over a period of time. The way these things work is by: 1) Having a coating (such as sulfur coated urea and osmocote), 2) Having a low solubility in water (like isobutylidene diurea) 3) Being an organic product (for example alfalfa meal) so that the material has to decompose over time to be available to the plants. Sulfur coated urea is one of those things that works better on the drawing board than it does in the garden for slow release characteristics because the coating is almost always perforated to begin with or cracked in handling–maybe a good source of nitrogen and sulfur, but it will not do the slow release thing very sell. Most of the remainder of the slow release products will work to a degree, but it is hard to know how long a period of time the release takes place over. People who want to be sure of delivering a set amount of nutrients over a period of time either need to experiment a lot with the slow release products to find out how they will deliver, or simply do frequent small applications of standard fertilizer products so they know for sure how much the plants are getting over a set amount of time.

Feed ingredients may, and frequently are used by some people as a source of fertilizer for gardens. Feed grade products, unlike fertilizer ingredients have to meet standards on contamination including removal of fluorides and heavy metal limits. If you think about this for a bit, both plants and animals have a lot of similar nutritional requirements, with some obvious differences about how they get it. Inorganic feed ingredients (which are all “quick release”), such as feed grade urea, feed grade monoammonium phosphate, feed grade diammonium phosphate and feed grade potassium chloride are very nearly the same chemicals as are the equivalent fertilizer ingredients by the same name except that they are of a much higher purity and can be considered to deliver a slightly higher level of N-P-K than will the fertilizer ingredients because of the increased purity. The down side is that they can be a bit hard to get unless you happen to live next to a fed mill that carries these products. Organic feed ingredients are more commonly used in gardens and are more easily available. Any feed product that has a protein value can be used to supply slow release nitrogen. To determine how much nitrogen alfalfa meal, corn gluten meal, brewer’s dried grains, soybean meal or meat and bone meal will provide, simply divide the protein value on the feed ingredient label by 6.25. All of these products will provide a small amount of phosphorous, potassium and micro nutrients, however meat and bone meal will provide significant amounts of phosphorous and calcium.

Traditionally, people will use steamed bone meal for gardening, which provides slow release phosphorous and calcium as the bone powder decomposes. At the present time it is easier to find this material in a garden center than in a feed mill. People can successfully use feed ingredients as fertilizers where either high purity with respect to avoiding contamination or slow release of nitrogen is desired.


Editor’s Note: Dave Syverson is the husband of Minnesota Dahlia Society Bronze Medal winner Dianne Syverson. He graciously contributed his thoughts on soil fertility to our club for publication in our newsletter. Thank you, Dave for the fabulous information. This will help all of us to grow better dahlias.