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  • Begonias, dahlias and garlic

  • You may wonder what these three plants have in common, causing me to group them together. It's just that spring is here, and they all need a bit of your attention.
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  • You may wonder what these three plants have in common, causing me to group them together. It's just that spring is here, and they all need a bit of your attention.
    There are two main types of begonias, tuberous and fibrous. Fibrous begonias — sometimes called wax begonias — have small, reddish leaves, small flowers, and can take full sun as a border or perennial bedding plant.
    Tuberous begonias, however, are quite another story. As the name implies, they grow from a fleshy "storage unit" called a tuber and can be stored and regrown from year to year. Now is the time to start the tubers indoors so they will be ready to put on a show with their large, colorful, saucer-sized blooms in late summer and early autumn.
    Start the tubers by setting them, indented side up, on top of the soil in a pot or plastic-lined box containing damp, rich, humusy soil. They rot easily if too wet, so do not bury them in the soil, and keep the soil moist. The temperature of the soil must be about 65 degrees; do not move them outdoors until nighttime temperatures remain consistently at or above 50 degrees. At that point, they can be transplanted into pots and spend the rest of the summer outdoors.
    Tuberous begonias do not tolerate direct sun. They are lovely as hanging-basket plants in filtered shade, in a shady, east-facing doorway, under a tree or hanging from an arbor or other support. If you have a shade garden, they will be happy there, as well.
    Have you checked on your stored dahlia tubers recently? Are they sprouting? Are they shriveled? Have they rotted from being too wet? If they are sprouting with long, leggy sprouts because of low light, you can trim them, and the dahlia will be fine.
    If you find shriveled ones, you can often save them by dampening the sand or other material in which you have them stored. This depends on how shriveled they are. I always feel it's worth a shot. On the other hand, if you find a rotted one, well, sorry. But now you have a reason to try a new one this year. Dahlias can be started indoors in a fashion similar to tuberous begonias. The only difference is that dahlias will tolerate more soil on top of the tuber.
    Regarding garlic, I find that people often underestimate the amount of water it takes to grow it well. If you planted garlic bulbs last fall, they are no doubt several inches tall by now. Give them a side dressing of blood meal or other high-nitrogen fertilizer now and again in mid-May. Also, despite the fact that we have recently enjoyed some nice rain, keep an eye on your garlic, especially if it is in a raised bed with fast-draining soil. It needs to be evenly moist to help produce a good crop. In June, it will be time to taper off on the watering and think about harvesting the garlic in July.
    Coming up: Stan Mapolski will discuss the varieties of flowers and vegetables that grow best in the Rogue Valley from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 14, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Cost is $10. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
    Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at diggit1225@gmail.com.
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