According to the Climate Glossary on the Bureau Of Meteorology (BOM) website:
“In Australia, the seasons are defined by grouping the calendar months in the following way:
So June 1st is the officially start to winter. A quick count shows that we had approximately 14 frost days in May with the lowest temp being -3.7° and a total of 22mm of rain for the month. A cold and dry end to Autumn.
I took the soil temps in the garden this morning at 8.30. The official temperature (BOM) was 0.9°. The soil temp in an uncovered bed was 6° and the surface air temp was 3°. Under the cloche covered with insulnet the soil temp was 7° and the surface air temp was 6° . While these temperature variations between the covered beds and uncovered beds may not seem great they can be significant. Of the winter vegies there is only a very few seeds that will germinate below a soil temp of 7° (peas 5° and Lettuce 4°). Carrots, radish and members of the Brassica family will germinate at 7°. The reality is at these low soil temperatures germination will be very slow and not reliable. The only seeds we plant in our garden over winter are radish, which we grow under cover and peas at the end of winter (late July). During the winter months you will have greater success in your garden if you plant out seedlings as this gives you a head start.
What you plant now as seedlings you will be eating in Spring (September). The produce you harvest from your garden at the beginning of winter (June) is what you planted in late summer and early Autumn (February and March). We must fully understand this if we are to harvest produce from our garden all year
As I have already noted in a previous blog Colourful Autumn, Frosty mornings…cool season planting guides are not necessarily accurate for our very cool climate region. Often as gardeners we therefore look at information from the Northern Hemisphere (England, Canada, USA) which can experience much colder winter temperatures than ours, for further guidance.
While many countries popularly use the equinox and solstice dates to "start the seasons" this is not the case in Australia. There are two ways that mark the season, one is to by weather, summer is the warmest time and winter is the coldest and secondly by the solstice and equinox dates. Meteorologists around the world use start of the season dates, and this is the convention that we follow in Australia.
The winter solstice is the day of the year that has the least daylight hours of any in the year and usually occurs on 21 June but can occur between 20 and 22 June. This is also known as the mid winter or Yule solstice. The equinoxes represents the two times of the year when the Sun crosses the plane of the Earth's equator and day and night are of equal length. While we may not use the equinox and solstice dates to mark the beginning of the seasons it does not mean that these events do not represent important markers in both the garden and our lives. Many cultures have developed traditions of celebration and thanks around these events for obvious reasons; blessing the crop, storage of the harvest; passing of the shortest day; celebrating the awakening of spring and glorifying the longest day. Let’s face it who doesn’t like to have a party!
If you are interested in some practical hands on experience in a winter produce garden, Wynlen House is currently offering learn / work exchange opportunities. Minimum work is 3 hours a day. Contact wynlenhouse @bigpond.com. We also have our Cool climate All Year Round Vegetable Growing Workshop in Late July. This is aimed and helping you have great produce on your table even in the worst of winter.
Happy gardening and do keep warm out there.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm