Summer’s splendour

Now is the time to get dahlias started, whether from tubers or seed. Dahlias love warm conditions and grow into large plants. They produce flowers in many different colours and styles, and range from dwarf to varieties that may reach up to two metres in height.

Gardeners should consider the actual flower type as well as the plant size and weather resistance when choosing varieties for the garden.

DELIGHTFUL: Dahlias thrive in warmer weather and are true summer blooms.

DELIGHTFUL: Dahlias thrive in warmer weather and are true summer blooms.

Dahlia varieties are named according to the shape or style of their flowers. More common varieties that are generally available include; cactus, decorative, anemone, miniature, pompom and nymphae (water-lily like).

The bulbs will be stored in a light-weight material, such as sawdust shavings. Bulbs should be checked to ensure they are plump before purchase.

Cactus-flowered dahlias have petals that radiate from the centre in a multi-starred shape. Individual petals are curled over and form a point at the end. Single-coloured flowers and those that graduate from dark to light are available. Plants may grow between one and two metres in height, depending on the variety.

Decorative dahlias generally grow to sizes similar to cactus-flowered varieties. However, the individual petals are flatter, tapering to a point at the outside extremity. Decorative dahlias have fully double blooms.

Miniature dahlia flowers are similar in shape to the larger-flowered varieties, except that they are much reduced in size.

Plants grow up to 70cm high and range between 30cm and 70cm in width. Miniature dahlias are most suitable for growing in containers.

Pompom dahlias also have small growth habits, although individual plants can reach up to 100cm in height.

However, the flowers are very distinctive. Flowers are beautifully sculptured pompom shapes and make excellent cut flowers as they have a very good vase life.

Dahlias start to flower between Christmas and early January from plantings in October and November. To prepare the garden before planting, dig in well-aged compost or aged cow manure and Dynamic Lifter.

If the soil is acidic, sprinkle lime or dolomite on the surface and then rake it into the soil. To determine if the soil is acidic or alkaline, testing kits are available from nurseries.

Gardeners who have selected tall growing varieties should place a stake, about two metres in length, next to the tuber before placing soil around the tuber. This will avoid damaging the plant at a later stage. As the plants grow they can be tied using strips of old stockings, as these allow for some movement in the stems during windy weather.

Encourage bushy growth in plants, and, therefore, more flowers, by pinching out the growing tips in the earlier stages of growth. Snails enjoy the young growth.

Best Beans

Beans are a very satisfying vegetable to grow. and if grown well, plants will achieve quite high yields. The flavour of home-grown beans seems far superior to commercially produced crops and fresh beans are palatable and nutritious.

Plants generally require minimal attention and will commence cropping from eight weeks after sowing seeds.

Beans can generally be divided into two groups, French beans and Dwarf beans. The main sowing season extends from mid-September to February.

It is preferable, if space allows, to sow a new row of beans each fortnight, to ensure a continual supply over an extended season.

The generally-acidic soils of our area will benefit from a light dressing of lime, applied at a rate of two cups for each square metre. A cup of complete plant food can also be scattered over the sowing area, prior to planting the seeds.

Beans enrich the soil with nitrogen. This means that, following a crop of beans, planting of leafy vegetables such as cabbages and lettuce will benefit greatly from the rich soil.

Dwarf beans grow well in most areas of Australia. Preference is stringless types such as ‘Tender green’.

Some varieties do not produce well in the hotter months, and brown-seeded varieties should be selected when cropping is likely to occur at these times.

Varieties like ‘Brown Beauty’, ‘Royal Windsor’, ‘Windsor Long Pod’ or ‘College Pride’, butter beans, ‘Bountiful’ and ‘Startler Wax’ would be suitable.

Red-seeded types such as ‘Hawkesbury Wonder’ and ‘Canadian Wonder’ are best grown early or late in the season, when their maturity is unlikely to coincide with heat wave conditions.

Runner beans and climbing bean varieties need some form of trellising or should be grown on the sunny side of a fence, supported by string, twigging or wire netting.

‘Purple King’ beans produce pods with a strong purple colour. However, when they are cooked, the beans lose their purple colour and result in a flavoursome green bean.

Scarlet runner beans feel quite coarse when they are mature. However, they will be quite tender, with a very good flavour. They will produce better when there are cooler nights.

Borlotti beans are a bush-type, producing pods that can be eaten as a pod, fresh or allowed to dry.

Beans should be picked regularly, as they mature, as this will ensure a longer season of production. Allowing the beans to stay on the bushes without picking them will stall production of more beans.

Maitland and District Garden Club