Each year in the garden brings a greater depth of knowledge about the rhythms, the cycles, the seasons and the weather. Autumn is when we can experience the full weather cycle in one day, and the frosts begin. In Braidwood we had our first frost for the year on 27 March.
While it is a widely held view that our frost season starts on Anzac day and ends on Melbourne Cup Day, this is not actually true. According to Roger Hoskins our local weather expert, (Author - All about Braidwood’s Climate) the average date for the first frost of the year is 23 March, and the last frost is 22 of November. Last year, (2017) the first frost didn’t occur until 29 April. Is the occurrence of the first frost in March an indicator of a colder winter for this year? Last winter (2017) was one of the coldest winters we have had for some time with the number of frost days and the number of frost hours below zero for June, July and August being significantly greater than the long term mean. According to Roger “the 2017 winter was very much colder than normal by several measures”
We have had our first frost in late March, an indicator that this is an average year. However we seem to be experiencing some very warm April temperatures. Last years highest temperature for April was 21.9 This year we have had much higher temperatures than this for 10 days out of the 12 days of the month so far, with the highest temperature being 31.8. The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) seasonal outlook April to June, states “Days are likely to be warmer than average for parts of southeast Australia” This is certainly true for Braidwood so far. Minimum temperatures have also been higher.
What does all this mean for the gardener growing produce? The change seasons (Autumn and Spring) are very busy in the garden. Autumn is the time when the garlic gets planted and when a great deal of planting and growing takes place to ensure produce is available through winter and early spring. The root vegetables for winter eating, carrots, parsnips and turnips, need to be planted. Lots of Brassica seedlings also need to be planted (from late Summer through Autumn); broad beans, a range of Asian greens (its the perfect time to plant wombok - Chinese cabbage) and other greens particularly English spinach. Autumn is also the time for harvesting, storing and preserving. Pumpkins are harvested and cured for winter storage. Fruits can be stored or preserved. Late plantings of potatoes will be dying off now and in our cool climate, will store well in the ground for eating over winter.
The warmer April weather provides an opportunity for extra plantings and more importantly increased growth before the cold sets in.
Happy gardening and keep an eye on the minimum temps and lets hope that we get some Autumn rain.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm