Season summary for my food garden in Ballarat (Victoria), Winter 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.
While there was some unpleasantly cold and bleak weather it was a relatively mild winter. The average maximum temperature was 1.1 degrees above the long term average and the average minimum temperature was .7 of a degree above. We had some frosty weather particularly in August but no recordings of snowfall. Rainfall was 160% in June, which was well above average for June. But rainfall was well below average in July and August, with a result that the winter rainfall was just 82.5% of the average. This is in keeping with the Bureau of Meteorology’s long term forecast of a developing El Nino (dryer period) event.
It was a good winter for food production. The milder conditions meant that growth rates for just about everything was good. The possums that were such a nuisance last year have been noticeably quiet. The one setback was that the water tanks emptied themselves due to a leak when we were on holidays, which has left them only about a quarter full, normally at this time of the year they are completely full. The highlights were:-
Both the main broccoli heads and side shoots were excellent this winter.
These broad beans are twice the height of the broad beans I had in this time last year. I put this down to the mild winter, the warmer the weather the faster the growth.
Photo of my spinach patch (with some self-sown silverbeet amongst the spinach). I had the best spinach crop in years, which I put down to the mild winter.
All citrus trees produced well this winter, Though my Tangelo tree did suffer an outbreak of Sooty mould. The Kiwi fruit (Chinese gooseberries) also produced a good crop. And the feijoa trees produced through to the third week in June. The feijoa crop was huge, as usual.
LEFT: Peeled and chopped up Kiwi Fruit (Chinese gooseberries) ready for preserving. RIGHT: The chopped up Kiwi Fruit after they had been preserved using the Fowlers preserving method. The crop was good this year.
LEFT: Grapefruit that had been eaten by possums on my Wheeny grapefruit tree last winter. RIGHT: The same tree this winter. Last winter I had to net the tree but this winter not one grapefruit was eaten by possums.
I am not sure why. Possibly the local possum population was reduced due to someone nearby trapping or poisoning them. Note that possums can be inadvertently poisoned as they readily take rat baits, which is why it is important that, if you bait for rats, they always be placed in tamper proof bait stations. But equally, the milder winter could have produced more food that possums like to eat, hence the lack of interest in the grapefruit this winter.
My five highline hens produced an average of 3.8 eggs per day throughout the winter, which is the same as the average for Autumn. A great result for two year old chickens.
Sadly I lost all my hens to a fox attack on the 1st of September due to a failure of my automatic chicken door. They will be missed as they were the best chickens I have kept in years; I called them the A Team. I will get a new chicken door and restock this spring.