Season summary for my food garden in Ballarat (Victoria), Summer 2022/23. This is mainly of relevance to food gardeners in the Ballarat area, but it might be a useful comparison for those living further afield.
I think most people reading this summery would have thought it was a cold summer, I certainly did. But in fact at just -0.1 below the maximum and .2 degrees above the minimum long term averages temperatures were pretty well average. The big anomaly was the rainfall, having had over 200% of the average rainfall in spring we plunged to just 50% of average in summer. Though nothing to worry about yet, it takes a good year of below average rainfall to have a significant impact on water supplies. We are a long way from the implementation of water restrictions.
The cold wet spring meant that a lot of the vegetables were late and some didn’t have a large crop. But overall most vegetables have done well. And while the low rainfall meant more watering new inline drippers that I installed in the spring meant that watering was not that big a chore. Some highlights (both good and bad) were: –
- LETTUCES: I had good lettuces up to the start of February (summer can often be bad for lettuces as it is more of a spring and Autumn crop)
- BEETROOT: Excellent, though not that many planted.
- TOMATOES: Thus far it is the worst season I have had in many years. The harvest was extremely late to get going, but we have had late starts to the tomato harvest in the past, the difference this year is that the number of tomatoes coming on is way down, very few flowers. I also had a larger than usual number of budworms (tomato caterpillars) attacking the fruit. Though the numbers reduced as the season went on due to spraying with pyrethrum.
- CLIMBING BEANS: Great crop, particularly due to the new permanent trellis I put up for them which allowed me to grow more bean plants.
- EGGPLANT: Reasonable, though I lost two plants to some sort of fungal wilt.
- CAPSICUM: Good, but the plants are smaller than usual, which means I probably won’t get as many fruit as normal.
Apart from the budworms attacking my tomato fruits there was relatively few pest problems. Earwigs and slater numbers were well down, which I attribute to the wet spring, they seem to do better when the conditions are drier. And despite the wet spring snails and slugs were not a problem this summer. There were also very few aphids and whitefly around. I did have a late attack of fusarium wilt on some of my tomato plants, probably caused by me giving them too much water. Fusarium wilt thrives in warm moist soil.
Terrible Season for fruit. Primarily due to the possums being much more active. Lost almost all my pears and all the quinces. Apples fared a little better but still some loses. Even when I netted I still lost fruit. I had netted my Corella pear tree but possums appeared to have pushed their way through a small gap and eaten the lot. It is so frustrating to do all the work required to maintain a fruit tree only to have the fruit nicked at the eleventh hour! The one redeeming thing is that the citrus trees are all doing well with what looks like a bigger than average crop on them.
EGG PRODUCTION: Now well into their second year my five Hi-Line hens averaged 4.6 eggs per day for the summer, which is unchanged from the spring average, a rate which I am very happy with.
GENERAL HEALTH: At least one of the hens is producing some thin shelled eggs. Three broken eggs in February, though the thin shelled eggs are intermittent. Not sure why, no coccidiosis or lice, though I haven’t wormed them for a while.
While many gardeners grow cabbages, cauliflowers and Broccoli in summer I prefer to plant them from February through to early April for harvesting in late autumn, winter and early spring. This is to avoid the worst of the ravages of cabbage butterfly caterpillars and because these brassicas vegetables take up space that I think is best used to grow summer vegetable crops that can’t be grown in winter.
The only exception is Brussels sprouts which need to be planted as seedlings by mid-January to give them enough time to grow large before the cold weather sets in around the start of May. These Brussels sprouts were planted as seedlings at the start of December. They were sown in a seedling tray on the 3rd of November. I grow Kale in summer only because it handles the ravages of the cabbage butterfly caterpillars better than any of the other brassica varieties.
Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seedlings planted in the last week of February. Many of these will be ready by late Autumn. I will plant more brassicas seedlings in March and early April for harvesting in winter and early spring.
The next batch of brassicas seedling already in production.
Bush and snow peas planted in the third week of January. Already the first flowers are forming. The harvest will be completed before the weather becomes really cold in May.
LEFT: Black Beauty eggplants. RIGHT: Californian Wonder capsicums. Both are being grown in my main greenhouse.
Blanched and frozen corn cobettes from this year’s corn crop. These frozen corn cobettes usually keep us supplied with corn through to July.