Urban Food Garden


Season summary for my food garden in Ballarat (Victoria), Summer, 2023/24.  This is mainly of relevance to food gardeners in the Ballarat area, but it might be a useful comparison for those living further afield.

weather summary

While January’s mean average maximum was well below the long term average a slightly warmer than average December and a very warm February meant the summer seasonal average was .5 degrees above the long term average.  The minimum average temperature was even higher, coming in at 1.3 degrees above.  My impression was that while we did not have any extreme heatwaves temperatures were consistently warmer this summer, there were no extreme cold patches.   

After an extremely dry spring summer started with a rainfall burst, with December recording over double the average monthly rainfall.  It also seemed more humid than average.  But while the January rainfall was also above average it slumped spectacularly in February with almost no rainfall being recorded. 

The official weather statistics for spring as recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology’s  Ballarat airport site.    Click HERE to see a higher resolution PDF of this weather chart. 

garden summary

While the summer produced a bumper harvest of vegetables it will be known as the summer of the plague of white cabbage butterflies.  In thirty five years of growing vegetables in Ballarat I have not seen them in such numbers before.  How much damage they do is yet to be determined, even in a normal season they can be devastating to brassicas plants if no defensive measures are taken.  I have been regularly spraying my brassica plants with the biocide Dipel (Bacillus thuringiensis), which should keep the cabbage butterflies at bay.

White cabbage butterflies were in plague proportions, especially over January.

Another pest problem this summer has been blackbirds eating green tomatoes. Blackbirds will always go for red tomatoes, but if you pick them when they get their first flush of red (they will ripen up nicely indoors) you can avoid these damaging attacks. However, occasionally the blackbirds will go for completely green tomatoes, as they have done this summer. I think it is probably due to either a good breeding season for blackbirds (overpopulation) or a shortage of the food that they prefer to eat, possibly a combination of the two Whatever the reason I have had to net my tomato plants this year, something I rarely do.

An example of how well things grew this summer was the size of the onions. I prefer small to medium sized onions but despite planting them closer together than recommended I still grew mostly large sized ones.

As well as white cabbage butterflies there were also unusually large numbers of lady beetles, especially in the second half of summer. They seemed to have kept the aphid numbers in check as I have not had to sprayed for aphids this summer.

fruit trees

Arguably it is shaping up to be the best fruit season in a decade.  Almost all fruit trees have above average crops on them this year, even my Satsuma plum tree which has never produced a crop had some fruit on it.    The one exception being my Chinese gooseberry plants (Kiwi fruit), but that’s because I pruned them way too heavily.

Some good sized Packham pears on one of my espaliered fruit trees. Not only has there been more fruit on my fruit trees but the size of the fruit has been generally larger. Though I had to do some thinning of fruit on a few apple trees to achieve this.


The five pullet hens I bought in mid-spring have now started to lay in earnest.  They averaged 2.6 eggs per day in December when they were just getting going but by February the figure had jumped to 4.8 per day.  Five hens are really way too many for just the two of us, arguably three should supply the average sized family with enough eggs, but I see surplus eggs as social currency to be given away to family, friends and neighbours. and as the chickens age their egg production will eventually fall to a more manageable level.

Some of the eggs that the hens have laid, including quite a few large double yolkers. The hens are Hylines, which I have found to be excellent egg layers.