October on a Dahlia Farm

A Busy October

How does October make you feel? For me it makes me happy because I know some of our dahlias will start to flower soon. It's exciting seeing what new flowers we will get. But it is also our busiest time of the year! This time of the year everything seems to start growing and exciting things are all around. Our resident wild turkey has had 11 chicks with 3 of them having an unusual white colouring. Our chooks are back to their old tricks of hiding their eggs and pretending to nest, even though we don't have a rooster this year. And the puriri tree out the back by the water tanks is an all you can eat buffet for the kukupa who glide right past the house to get to it. And then there are the rabbits. The naughty rabbits. But I'll talk more about them later! Anyway, there's not enough time to enjoy the wildlife, there's dahlias to plant!

Planting Goals

Labour Weekend, 24th October, was our goal for completing all the panting in our dahlia farm. We have just under 1,000 new seedlings, about 3 or 400 international tubers saved from last season, and 285 of our last year's seedlings we have kept to grow on another year. Each of these Year 1 cultivars has been growing in the tunnel house for cuttings these last couple of months totaling around 2,000 cuttings to plant. All up, that's a lot of planting to get done!

Goodbye Kumeras

Did you know you can eat dahlia tubers? Well, that's what some people say. But we googled it, and some other people say they are poisonous. I don't think we will be trying them any time soon. (More on Mum's microwave dahlia experiment later too!) At the end of last season, we decided to just keep a few of our bought dahlias for our breeding programme, maybe 2 or 3 varieties each. Looks like we kept 3 or 400!?!  We had to dig up the kumera patch to plant them all. Simon wasn't too pleased. He had a bumper crop of kumera's last year (they were really delicious), but I don't think we will have a bumper crop this year. We did save him a small patch though. 

We planted our international tubers out first at the beginning of October. We need to be careful about rot (rain and clay soil don't mix so well), but luckily the kumera patch has mounded rows so the rain rolls off easily. It's a lovely sunny spot, but the soil isn't the best. Grows nice kumeras though! Hopefully the dahlias will be OK, too! 

Our Seedling Experiment

Did you know bees fly in straight lines? Everywhere you read it says to plant the same shape dahlias in a line so the bees can pollinate the row and not mix pollen from different shapes. This is called a Bee Corridor. I don't believe it one bit. Do you? I've watched the bumblebees in the dahlia patch, and they do not fly in straight lines. They do however 'bumble' all over the place. 

To test this, we experimented a little. Last year we planted our international tubers in rows of different forms. When we collected our seeds, we kept each row separate in different paper bags. We had a bag of cactus seeds, a bag of pompoms etc. We have planted each seed bag back in the same rows. If our experiment goes right and the bumblebees do fly in straight lines, then our cactus row should mostly grow to be cactuses, and our pompom row should mostly grow pompoms. Anyway, we have planted them all out now and will have to wait and see. What do you think will happen?

What? More Cuttings?

We had this great idea at the end of last summer when our excitement was running high, that lots of plants of the same flower planted together would look fab. This way you can actually see the flowers in bulk rather than a mass of different colours and shapes. It also helps when making bouquets as you can pick lots of one flower at once. But we didn't think it through very well! It is so much work and tubers don't all grow at the same time. And some died. So, we needed to fill the gaps with cuttings from the plants next to the big hole. Unfortunately, now there are some gaps, and lots of lovely cuttings growing really well in the compost heap. But Mum says we will get there in the end. And if not, Simon said he will build a bench or a bridge or something interesting for the gaps. We are nearly there, just a few more to go.


What a month! Busy, busy, busy. Goals are flexible, right? We didn't quite make our goal of finishing our planting by the end of October. It is now November, and we still have some cuttings left waiting to grow roots in the tunnel house. It is taking forever to make enough of the right cuttings because some tubers took a long time to wake up, yet other tubers have sprung up and given us ten or more cuttings already and were desperate to go in the ground. Totally mad. It's interesting to see the difference in growth and we definitely need to think about this when we choose which varieties to keep for next year. No one wants to wait until November for a tuber to wake up and start growing.

I think we have taken on a little bit too much this year (especially since mum just had a baby) but we will get there in the end. We do love Barnaby so don't mind a few gaps in our rows!


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