Ann Wright: April updates and amazing dahlias |

Ann Wright: April updates and amazing dahlias

The Master Gardeners of Nevada County have been Zooming, (meaning that we have been “meeting” from each of our respective homes via the internet). With social distancing in mind, projects, although delayed, will be moving forward as much as possible in the upcoming months. Here are a few updates from our Master Gardener Board:

This has been a difficult situation for many, but due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus, the ensuing safety recommendations, and closure of the Elks Lodge, and the NID grounds, our public workshops have been canceled through May. The Demonstration garden at the NID complex is also closed.

The annual Spring Plant Sale May 9 at the NID complex has been canceled.

The much anticipated release of the updated Western Sierra Foothill Garden Guide will be delayed until further notice. We will be sending out notifications as soon as possible to “launch” our new book!

April is a wonderful time to be outside — drink in some fresh air, get to know what’s growing in your gardens, and for those who love flowers, consider the dahlia.

Starting today, the Master Gardeners and Friends radio program will air live on KNCO, 830 on the AM dial. The show will enlist Nevada County Master Gardeners and the wonderful engineers at KNCO to bring you a full show, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon! This is a call-in program, so plan a call to speak with a Master Gardener, and ask your home gardening questions during that time. The number to call at the KNCO studio is 530-477-5626. On dates Master Gardeners are not available for a live broadcast, past shows will be played from previously recorded podcasts (if this is the case, the call-in feature is not available).

The Veterans Memorial Building is closed, therefore so is the Master Gardener office. Since our office is closed, the Hotline will also be on hold until Master Gardeners are able to get into the office to staff the phone. However, for your garden questions, there is a “Got Questions?” link on our website home page (, where you may ask your question electronically. It also allows photos, so if you have a pesky bug you need help identifying, or a mystery plant, email your question with a photo and one of the Master Gardeners will reply as soon as possible.

Follow us on Facebook — this is another way to link with Master Gardeners and questions can also be posted on the Facebook page (UCCE Master Gardeners of Nevada County). Currently, check out the photo of the Clock Tower garden in downtown Grass Valley. This is a garden space that has been tended by Master Gardeners!

Welcome, April! The meaning of the word in Latin, Aprilis, is open. Although many things are closed this beginning week of April, trees, flowers and things of nature are indeed open! Likewise, what are not closed are your home gardens. April is a wonderful time to be outside — drink in some fresh air, get to know what’s growing in your gardens, and for those who love flowers, consider the dahlia.

Grown from tubers, dahlias can be planted in April once the danger of frost has passed. Dahlias are best located in an area that receives morning sun, but is protected from hot afternoon rays. Waiting for the soil to warm before starting growth, dahlias may benefit from raised beds which warm quicker in the spring, hastening growth. Dahlias also grow well in pots.

Dahlias like well-drained soil with higher acidity. Tubers can be planted in holes about 6 to 7 inches deep with an amendment of 1-2 tablespoons of bone meal at the bottom of each hole. Lay the tubers horizontally with the eyes up, leaving about two feet between each tuber. One method of planting is to initially cover the tuber with about 4 inches of soil, place a stake in the ground next to each tuber then cover the hole with more soil as the plant grows. Another method is to cover the planted tuber completely with soil then once leaves are visible, put in a stake for support, being careful not to damage the plant while inserting the support stake.

In general, unless we have a very dry spring, dahlias don’t need water until leaves have emerged and there is at least 2 to 3 inches of growth. If it is a dry spring, water lightly — don’t overwater newly planted tubers. As the plants grow, keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy. Plants will require more water as flowers form, especially on hot days. Once established, a deep watering three times a week should be sufficient.

Once the flowers bloom, allow them to fully open, then cut them if desired for arrangements. However, don’t cut them too early as they will not open further once cut. Harvest flowers in the morning or late evening when it is cooler.

Ranging in size and height, the colors of dahlias covers a full spectrum. Some bloom as early as June in the foothills and some later in the season. Check out online sources and certainly when nurseries are open and it’s safe to do so, shop locally!

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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