Winter temperatures were very near the average for Ballarat but with so many days of rain – 21 days in June, 26 in July and 23 in August – the grey skies often made it feel colder and drearier that it actually was. The average maximum temperature was .6 of a degree above the long-term average while the average minimum was .5 above. I recorded five frosts over winter, which was well down on last year. This would be due to the often overcasts conditions we experienced. Cloud cover traps heat at night, it is very rare to have a frost when there is cloud cover.
EARLY START TO THE ASPARAGUS SEASON
Perhaps the most striking thing in the garden this winter was the very early start to the asparagus season. My first asparagus shoot began to emerge on the 1st of August. Last year my first shoot did not appear until 21st of August. But even that was early, I normally don’t get my first asparagus shoots until around the 1st September. This is odd as the average maximum winter temperature was not significantly above the long term-average, though we did have a temperature spike in early August which might have been the cause of this very early start.
DEATH OF MY PASSIONFRUIT VINE
The big failure this winter was the death of my passionfruit vine. I planted it last spring. It grew well over summer and survived a spate of frosts in June relatively unscathed. However, a combination of frost and wind (quite a rare event) in the second week of August literally killed it overnight. Very frustrating as this was my fifth attempt at growing passionfruit!
They can survive in Ballarat’s climate but they are susceptible to frosts when young. If they are reasonably well protected from frosts and you can nurse them through the first winter they generally grow big enough to withstand Ballarat’s winters.
Overall, it was a pretty good season for vegetables. The broccoli and cauliflower crops were poor, though I still got a good crop of broccoli side shoots. The Brussels sprouts also did well. The stored potatoes and onions have only just finished, and we still have a number of Grey Crown pumpkins left. I have just started harvesting the greenhouse planted peas, which is on time.
Winter is the time for citrus fruit, and my citrus trees did not disappoint. All did well, but the biggest success was getting both a large and good quality crop of Lanes Late (variant of Washington Navel) oranges. In the past this tree has produced fruit with little juice, however in the last couple of seasons the fruit has been much juicier. With two Satsuma mandarin trees, two Washington Navel orange trees, a Lanes Late orange tree and a Tangelo tree (fruiting in that order from late May through to late October) I am able to squeeze a 700 ml bottle of orange juice every second or third day for about five months.
Chart of what was produced in my food garden this Winter and how well it went. Click HERE to see a .PDF of this harvest results chart. Note that this is probably too specific to interest most gardeners, I produce it primarily as a record for myself. Keeping a record of when things were planted and how they went is a useful garden management tool.
LEFT: The first asparagus shoot coming through at the start of August. RIGHT: By mid-August I harvested my first batch of asparagus.
Peas coming up in my small greenhouse. Note that these are bush peas, arguably bush peas are really low climbing peas as if you provide them with something to climb on they will grow up to 1.5 metres tall.
Pak choi in wet pots, Pak choi seedlings growing in single cell seedling trays (under and electric heat mat) and coriander in a self-watering pot (foreground). I plant pak choi and coriander in pots on a regular basis throughout the year.
LEFT: Brown onion seedlings growing in a styrofoam seedling box in my main greenhouse in late July. The seeds were planted on the 25th of April. RIGHT: The same seedlings in the ground in late August.
My very dead passionfruit. It was killed off with a combination of wind and frost in mid-August.