The Gordon Gnohm

Be sure to read my article, Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Spring is coming

It’s just gone August, but already I can feel Winter is passing and Spring is almost here.
Spring in Australia happens on the 1st Sept, an arbitrary calendar date. Fine for the majority of the Australian populace, who live at or near sea level.

But what if you live and grow in our Unpredictable Highland Climate?
How will you know when to start sowing spring and summer vegetables?

In the northern hemisphere USA they call spring on the equinox, for Australia that’s 22 Sept. In fact our neighbours in NZ use the equinox to announce spring as well.

In snow covered countries they count days of thaw, or days without snow to mark the onset of Spring. And historically Spring prefers to arrive early or late, more than it does on time.

So how can you know Spring is coming in your unique microclimate?

For the past 2 decades I have been using garden indicators to get a sense of spring timing. I find Jonquils and Manchurian Pears are great indicators coming at the end of winter, announcing the start of spring. When these two pop it gives a good sense of spring timing each year. The pears have just started popping flowers at my place. Daphne is also a good signal of the end of winter with its scented bouquet flowering now in my garden.

The last few years have been hard to measure, with multiple false springs in the depths of winter and the lack of real frosts. My young Mulberry, mistakenly started to set fruit 3 times last winter, before carking it when spring finally arrived. It had used up all its winter reserves. I’ll be picking early fruit in future events to prevent this. But three successions of jonquil blooms under that mulberry, was ok with me.

Leaves have started forming around the garden this past week too, on Japanese Maples, Chinese elms and raspberries. Frogs have been singing in the garden and the slugs have just appeared to start eating vegetables. They’ve sheltered all winter waiting for spring to attack!

For those of us wanting to grow summer vegetables, the only true indicator of when Spring has sprung at your place, is the Soil Temperature.
Measuring the soil temp in each of your garden beds will let you know when you can get planting with success. Each vegetable has a low temp striking point and preferred soil growing temp. Too hot can stunt growth as much as too cold.

Soil Temp

The soil temp in my garden at sunny Bombay, is surprisingly 12C.
After the hard frosts we’ve been experiencing this year I didn’t expect the soil temp to be so high so early. As a reference point, Tomatoes enjoy a soil temp of 16C+

We haven’t had a frost on our hill for two weeks, until Monday, but it was only a light one before sunrise. Hard frosts have been replaced with heavy dew, and that is almost as good as rain.

I figure two weeks of soil temp above 10C and spring has sprung on my patch of earth. There will still be some frosts and it’ll get cold again, but spring is marching on, so I’m to getting ready and you should too.

Things I’ve planted in the garden this week;
Asparagus crowns, Potatoes & surprise Parsnip seeds are popping
I could have more going in right now, but I’m late, I’ll get there.
And as I write this the first cabbage moth of the season has arrived to feast on winter brassicas. *Joy*
Growing success in our Unpredictable Highland Climate has a lot to do with Timing.
Next week: seeds and seedlings for early spring planting

Stay awesome
The Gordon Gnohm

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