Yesterday we (minus me) began the annual process of digging all of our dahlia tubers. As much as I love digging up thousands of roots, I got a hall pass because I’m building a hoop house for our poppies that need a home in short order.
I’m happy to say that the ladies made smooth work of it and reported the easiest dahlia dig in our farm’s history, despite having the largest quantity (by a factor of 2 over our previous record) that we’ve ever had. We owe much of that good fortune to two factors.
The first is a new implement that acts as an under-cutter of sorts. It’s like a big blade running horizontally that follows behind the tractor as it drives the length of the raised bed and cuts the ground just under the bottom of the dahlia tubers. The soil isn’t inverted, turned or displaced. It’s merely loosened at just the right depth, which releases the compressive force of the earth enough to allow a pair of hands to relatively easily pull the cluster of tubers up without requiring a shovel or pitchfork to dig all around each plant. Eliminating all the hand digging made a tremendous difference in efficiency, speed, and spirits.
The second factor was dry soil conditions. When grabbing a cluster of tubers, the loose soil just fell away. No clumping. No clinging. Most years, the soil is wet, thick, and heavy. We dig and dig and wrestle the tubers from the earth, only to lift 5 extra pounds of earth with it. We have to beat, scrape, and shake each clump in order to get most of it off. This year it mostly fell away like sand. Another time and back saver.
Mandy is pretty ecstatic to say the least. Last year scarred her a bit. I was building the new propagation house and most of the crew were either off on vacation, or involved in other tasks. Mandy and Edwin slogged through the heavy wet fields with pitchforks and crates day after day and barely crawled their limp bodies out of the field at the end of the week. I’ve rarely seen either of them that exhausted and they are two of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.
So, spirits are high out here. 5 of the 7 greenhouses (hoop houses/high tunnels) are fully planted. One is waiting for the remaining mums to move out and the butterfly ranunculus starts to become ready to go in. The other is waiting for me to finish building it and for the poppy seedlings to be mature enough to plant.
On a personal note, we spent the better part of last week with my family in the desert in CA and it was wonderful. That environment is always so magical and otherworldly to spend time in. The opportunity to connect with family, share food, laughs and a few dances is quite rare, which makes it all the more sweet.
If you are in Georgia, hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather! Have a great weekend!