Advice on Planting Dahlia's and Begonia's

Hi,
I wonder if anyone can give me some advice. I live in Essex & this year I have 12 Dahlia and 18 Begonia bulbs/tubers to plant.
This is the first time at planting bulbs (I am a relatively new gardener) and have read conflicting arguments on various forums.
I would like to get the best and earliest start to my plants. Currently I do not have a greenhouse or a coldframe. I do however have a 5 tier growhouse (It cost me 30 from the local Garden centre).
I have read that I can start the begonia bulbs indoors about a month before the last frost.
Is this true, and when do I know that the last frost has gone?
I have not found any decent advice when it comes to the dahlia's. When can I start these tubers indoors? On the instructions that came with the Dahlia's it say's 'plant from March onwards' , but then further on, under EXPERT ADVICE, it say's 'for early blooms, start the bulbs indoors in April' ???????
Can anyone give me any advice on when's best to start these two plants indoors and any general advice on planting.
I have already planned my garden plants this year and the Begonia and Dahlia's are a big part.
I was hoping to put each tuber/bulb in a pot, keep it indoors and when I start seeing activity, plant it outside in the final position (obvioulsy as long as it isn't too cold).
Am I wrong in thinking that I can get away with doing this? If I do plant them in pots and keep them indoors, do they need to be on a windowsill, or just is a warmish room?
Sorry about this, but this really is only my second year of gardening, last year I bought all the plants from the Garden centre and it cost me a fortune. This year I'm hoping to save money and also put on a better show of flowers.
Also, I've found some good advice on planting the begonia bulbs (on the surface with the 'hollow' part facing up, but strange advice with the dahlia's.
I've read that they need to be planted horizontally with the eyes facing up. What are the eyes? I don't think mine have them, although they are still in the packets though.
Thanks in advance.
PLEASE HELP.
Regards
--
Bashy


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Bashy wrote:

Bashy,
As to when to start your Dahlias it depends on when you plan on putting them outdoors. I generally start some on mine inside in the middle of March so that they can be put outdoors towards the end of May (6 to 8 weeks after starting them). Dahlias do not like cold soil and around here the ground is warm enough by the end of May to put them outdoors. You need to find out when it is "safe" to put them out in your area.
The "eyes" are at the top of the tubulars. They are where the plant growth comes from. There should be a least one per tubular and packaged plants generally have several tubulars per plant.
A good way to start them inside is to get pots slightly larger than the Dahlia tubular. I use regular potting mix. You want to be sure to not over water them or the tubulars will rot (use the same watering guideline if you start them outdoors). Keep them in a warm area and when growth starts give them lot of light.
My website, http://members.iglou.com/brosen/dahlias1.htm shows some of the ones that I have grown the last few years. I hope yours do as well as mine.
--
Bill R. (Ohio Valley, U.S.A)

Gardening for over 40 years
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I am an amateur gardener so I can't give you much advice. However, I do know that begonias like shade or part shade conditions and dahlies need sun to bloom. Hope this helps.
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I did want to make another suggestion. From my experience there are different types of begonias. Some (like non stop begonias) can be a bit "droopy" and may work best in a hanging pot or tall pot where they can fall over the side of the pot. If you plant them in the ground, you may want to consider some type of trellis to prop them up a bit.
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On Tue, 4 Mar 2008 15:16:50 +0000, Bashy

Sorry I can't advise on the plants, but I will sneak in some unsolicited grammar advice:
Apostrophes do not belong in Dahlia's and Begonia's unless you are using them as a possessive, which you are not; you are using simple plurals.
So you would write "Dahlias" and "Begonias".
That said, I wish you luck with your plantings; I'm sure you will get good advice from this wonderful NG.
[...]
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Hi Bashy,
I live in Connecticut, zone 5. Our last expected frost date is around May 25, I'm told. I start my begonia tubers in March. I place them in flats on a potting mix about two inches apart and sprinkle some more mix in and about the tubers, leaving the tops exposed. Under lights, I keep them moist and avoid watering so that the water pools in the depression of the tuber. When they are about and inch and a half high, I transplants them into their permanent pots in a mix I made up myself of compost, some rich earth from my veg garden, some vermiculite and perlite and Osmocote fertilizer. I keep them under lights until they go outside. If the beginning of May is warm enough, I put the pots outside on my deck and bring them in if the weater is forecast to be too chilly for them. After June 1, I can leave them out all the time until they die off in the fall and I store the tubers for the winter. I hope this helps.
cw in the northwest hills of Connecticut

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ups.com:

can you also give tips for storing dahlias & begonias? that's *my* downfall, i'm afraid. i really love both, but i don't want to murder any more of the poor things. i have an unheated basement & the heated basement which varies between 54F and mid-60sF during the winter (depending on outside temps). i keep a dehumidifier on because it's stone/dirt & the only humid part of the house. lee
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After my begonias die off in the fall, I dig out the tubers, shake and brush off the excess dirt and leave them on a table in an airy place for a couple of days I remove the tops and then I store them either in those plastic mesh onion bags with shavings or peat moss or in a shallow cardboard box nestled in shavings or peat moss. I keep them in my unheated cellar for the winter . . . .just as long as they don't freeze you can do this. In February, I take a look at them, toss the mushy or hopeless ones and start them over again for the new season.

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