Season summary for my food garden in Ballarat (Victoria), Autumn 2023. This is mainly of relevance to food gardeners in the Ballarat area, but it might be a useful comparison for those living further afield.
Autumn had slightly below average maximum and minimum temperatures when compared to the long term average and slightly above average for rainfall. The coldest month was May, which was minus .8 C° of the long term average and the wettest month was April, with 171% of the long term average. The first frost for the winter was on the 10th of May.
It was one of the most consistently good seasons for vegetables I have had for a long time with almost all vegetable varieties producing well. The one shortfall was that I got my spinach in a little late, so I don’t think it will produce much before going to seed in the spring. Some of the highlights were: –
- PEAS: Excellent autumn crop, I planted it in January and harvested from the end of March to the third week of April.
- CHILLI: The three chilli plants I had in produced a huge crop.
- PUMPKIN: My Grey Crown Hybrid pumpkins produced well again. They come in incredibly early and are extremely good keepers, I expect them to last well into November.
- BROCCOLI: The first crop planted in late summer produced good sized heads, though the heads of the second batch were a little smaller.
Excellent pea crop, producing both bush and snow peas from the end of March through to the third week in April. In the foreground are Massey bush peas. I always grow my bush peas on a small frame as I have found that they are easier to pick and are less susceptible to powdery mildew when grown on a frame.
The three chilli plants I had in this year produced an excellent crop. I made two batches of sweet chilli sauce, plus heaps of dried chillies for chilli powder.
My Grey Crown Hybrid pumpkins and some Golden Nugget winter squash. I store my pumpkins in an old bird aviary as it keeps them both dry and well ventilated.
FRONT: Elephant leek. BACK: Celery. Many gardeners don’t realise that celery is frost tolerant, which means it will continue to grow throughout the winter, though the stalks do become a little hardened as the winter progresses.
LEFT: Broccoli heads from the second batch of broccoli planted in early Autumn. RIGHT: The broccoli plants from the first batch are already producing secondary shoots, arguably these shoots produce as much broccoli as the main head.
While the apple and pear crop were terrible this year the citrus crop is looking good with all varieties heavily laden with fruit. I have already harvested the bulk of the limes and have started harvesting the Satsuma Mandarins.
LEFT: part of the lime harvest. RIGHT: Most of the harvest was used to make lime cordial.
EGG PRODUCTION: My five highline hens produced an average of 3.8 eggs per day. While production is lower than summer (4.6 per day) it is still quite an acceptable rate for hens that our almost two years old.
GENERAL HEALTH: At least one of the hens continues to produce thin shelled eggs, though it is intermittent. No thin shelled eggs in March and April but five in May.
My five Hy-Line hens. I have found this breed to be very good layers with a friendly temperament.