Season summary for my food garden in Ballarat (Victoria), Spring 2022. This is mainly of relevance to food gardeners in the Ballarat area, but it might be a useful comparison for those living further afield.
At -1.2 degrees the average spring maximum temperature was well below the long term average, though the average minimum temperature was .8 of a degree above. The rainfall came in at 389.6 ml, which is double the average rainfall for spring.
If I were to describe this year’s spring weather in a single word it would be “Chaotic”! Yes I know, spring weather is often chaotic, but I am talking about extreme chaos. September was cold and wet with overcast drizzly conditions, which was followed by a brief burst at the start of October of well above average temperatures resulting in the grass beginning to grow vigorously a full two weeks earlier than average (normally in Ballarat the grass begins to grow in about the second or third week of October). This was then followed by extreme wet weather for the rest of October, finishing with both extreme cold and wet weather in November. While the November maximum temperature was well below average the minimum was above average (due to extended cloud cover that trapped the heat in at night). Yet despite the warmer than average November nights there was a late frost on the 16th of November. While very mild it was the latest frost I have ever experienced in my garden in over thirty years. Combining this late frost with double the average spring rainfall, lower than average maximum temperatures and the hot weather spike in early October and well, you got weather chaos!
The chaotic spring weather made for a poor start to the growing season with a lot of vegetables doing poorly and some crop failures. Some highlights (both good and bad) were: –
- BROAD BEANS: Were severely damaged by Bean Rust, a disease that is prevalent when the leaves are constantly wet. As a result the crop was only about a quarter of what I would expect.
- CARROTS: My first two carrot sowings failed, something that has not happened for over a decade.
- LETTUCES: Best ever spring crop, which I partially put down to trying some new varieties.
- TOMATOES: Slow to get going but the plants are healthy. Though I doubt I will get any ripe fruit until at least the start of January.
- ASPARAGUS: Worst crop in years. Virtually no shoots in September and the overall crop was way down.
- GRAPEFRUIT: The possums that were ravaging the fruit over winter largely ignored them in spring, probably due to other tastier foods being available for them to eat as the weather warmed. The result being that the spring crop (I can usually harvest grapefruit for most of the year) was good.
- TANGELO: Produced as normal, despite most other citrus trees producing poorly.
- PEARS: A better Packham pear crop than last year’s crop but my mainstay bottling pear (Pyvert) appears to be down a little.
- CHERRIES: Virtually no cherries for the second year in a row due to a severe infestation of black aphids. My usual treatment of pyrethrum and white oil (highly effective against green aphids) is not working that well.
- EGG PRODUCTION: Averaged 4.9 eggs per day from five hens, even though they are only just past their first year you cannot get better than that.
- GENERAL HEALTH: There were no noticeable disease or parasite problems. I put this good health record down to changing from tank to mains water, which appears to have reduced the risk of coccidiosis contamination through sparrow faeces contaminating the water. Though I still regularly dose for coccidiosis and worms as a preventative.
Best ever spring crop of lettuces, which I partially put down to trying some new varieties.
My first two carrot sowings failed, something that has not happened for over a decade. Though this third crop appears to be going OK. I always cover my germinating seeds with a protective cover of shadecloth. For more information on this method see: Germinating Carrots Using A Protective Cover.
The greenhouse eggplant, tomato and capsicum plants are all doing well, though they are a little smaller than I would expect for this time of the year.
My zucchini, winter squash and pumpkin seedlings are doing well, though again a little smaller than I would expect for this time of the year. These pumpkin seedlings were sown directly then thinned out to the two strongest (A). The thinned out seedlings (B) are left in situ as decoy seedlings for snails and slugs, which tend to target weaker plants. The thinned out seedlings will not die straight away but will be much weaker than the two seedlings left untouched.
I have virtually no cherries for the second year in a row due to a severe infestation of black aphids. My usual treatment of pyrethrum and white oil (highly effective against green aphids) is not working that well. This photo shows the worst of the aphid damage, virtually denuding the branches of leaves.