|Bill McClaren grows his dahlias|
Lynch Creek Farm: Bill, you mentioned in an earlier conversation that when you began growing dahlias, you depended upon chemical fertilizers. Is that still your practice?
McClaren: No, it's not. I would highly recommend anyone growing plants to grow them organically. To do this one must have healthy soil that is teeming with microbes. I started organic growing in the early '90s.
LCF: Why did you switch to organic gardening?
McClaren: We did not think all the chemicals I was using were healthy for our family. Actually, that was Lois who came to that conclusion, and as always, she was right. Since switching, I grow better dahlias with less insects and in th same soil year after year without any effect on the dahlias.
There are a number of excellent publications on organic gardening on the market for anyone interested. It took me several years of experimenting before I saw success. Since that time I have continually improved my practices so that I am convinced it is the only safe way to grow dahlias.
LCF: Will you talk a little more about organic dahlia-growing?
|Alpen Cherub, another of McClaren's hybrids, is a|
classic collarette with a tinge of green at the base of
the ray florets.
The first year growing organically will be a disaster. It improves somewhat the second and by the third year you can breathe a sigh of relief and begin to see a difference. Read everything you can on organic growing, especially the newer organic books, and also Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web.
LCF: Are there specific techniques you use?
McClaren: I practice no-till gardening. With no-tilling, you do not bring up the seeds that are in the soil so that helps. I also use white Dutch clover between the rows and this controls many weeds since they can’t get started in the shade of the clover. I also use lots of mulch: grass clippings, alfalfa hay, compost. They all keep weeds under control. It does take time, usually several years to see a great improvement.
If you give this serious thought you should be ready to switch next year. Good Luck.