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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Masterton

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The weather was a world away

For those in the northern hemisphere, Easter is a time of rebirth – they are leaving the dreary, cold winter behind, and they are delighting in the arrival of spring. Daffodils are reappearing, and tulips are preparing for their annual display.

In the southern hemisphere, things are a bit different. We are entering the shutdown period – autumn leaves are turning colour and starting to fall, we are harvesting our pumpkins and other autumnal treasures, and instead of looking to the season ahead, we are reflecting on the season that has just passed.

And what a season it has been – I cannot remember a summer like it. The Times-Age reported at the weekend that our soil moisture is above average – that surely must be the understatement of the year. We have had a sustained period of increased rainfall right through the summer, with some obvious, and other less obvious effects.

Normally, it would almost inconceivable that we could almost get through a summer without water restrictions. Usually, we would have had months of restricted hose use, but not this year. The irony is, of course, that the ground was so well supplied with moisture that we hardly needed to unravel our hoses and irrigation systems at all.

As you would expect, our lawns kept growing. In a usual Wairarapa summer, by February we are only mowing about once every ten days, and even then it is only to knock the heads off the dandelions and plantains. Not this year – the growth has been almost spring-like right through the summer, and that has meant mowing has been about very four or five days, with catcher load after catcher load, until the compost bins are overflowing.

Needless to say, when the lawns are growing like that, so is every weed known to humankind, and there has been a lot of hand weeding this season. On the bright side, the moist soil has meant that most weeds have been easy to pull out.

The vegetable garden has been interesting, with some plants relishing the season, while others have not performed up to their usual standard. We have had a problem with zucchinis, with blossom end rot taking out many of the fruit almost as soon as they form. We have had to resort to flicking the flowers off the fruit as they form, but even then, the fruit do not grow very well. Similarly, the sweetcorn didn’t fare very well either, with very incomplete pollination meaning smaller cobs.

On the other hand, the Head Gardener was delighted with her success with cucumbers. I thought the soggy summer might have led to an increased chance of mildew, but the cucumbers kept on coming right through until recently. The dwarf beans did well too, once they had got a start, but we had poor germination on several different sowings of this family favourite. The garden peas were even worse – terrible germination, and then sustained attacks from the birds meant the crop never really got growing at all.

We had a great year with tomatoes last year, picking fruit through until June, but this year has not been so good, with poor growth through most of the year, and some of the vines just collapsing as we got into March.

I know others have had the same experience, but others, especially those growing with a bit of protection, have been pleased with their crops.

We grew radishes this year, for the first time in a long while. They did very well, but I had forgotten how quickly they come ready, and how a succession of very small sowings works best if there are only two of you in the house. A good learning for next year.

The feijoa tree is also having an off year, with the fruit quantity well down on last year. The fruit are not as big as last year either, when I thought the extra moisture might make then swell a little.

Things were not that flash in the flower garden either – the cool spring and a late frost or two played havoc with the Pacific Coast Iris, with much fewer blooms that usual, and then the wet summer caused one or two clumps to rot out and collapse. That’s the first time that has ever happened.

On a whim, I planted some cosmos and tall asters in one of the beds in spring. The cosmos plants were prolific enough, but grow so tall – nearly two metres – that they fell over in one of the strong southerlies we had.

On the other hand, the asters were a delight, with a long succession of very pickable flower, meaning we had vases filled with them in the house for months on end. They will certainly be coming back to the garden next year.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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