Come rain or shine

In the final days before I can get stuck into the garden there was one more thing I wanted to know about this new place, so I can garden wisely.   And that is the climate.    We’ve only been here almost 4 months, but boy have we seen some weather!   In the early days it was the height of summer and the heat seemed to radiate from the black sand these hills are built on.  The valley I want to grow the vegetables in seems to hold the warmth captive with a three-sided secure border.

This is the spot for my garden – before we dumped everything on it. The wind can really whistle down through here at times.

Having said that it was a very hot summer and the sea breeze was a bit of a luxury as there was a gentle movement in the air which dropped the temperatures a degree or two.  It wasn’t until we made trips into town and felt the close, muggy heat that seemed so much hotter and more oppressive, did we realise the blessing we had with our natural fan from the ocean.

Temporary container garden
The heat of summer makes it hard to keep plants in pots well hydrated!

We have also experienced the worst of the wind.  Everyone said “ohhh it’ll be windy out there” and I thought “how bad could it be?”  Naively I thought it would be manageable.  It was windy down on the swamp as it was very exposed, and I lay awake many a night worried about the greenhouse or the peas and tomatoes.  There was always a windy storm just went the sweetcorn was at the point of the pollen dropping to the silks, no matter when I started them off!   So, I already have wind proofing strategies.

Wild sea
Even a wild sea has a beauty about it.

But that storm was massive with it’s 213km per hour winds was a great example of worst case scenario.  Everyone around here has said they haven’t seen anything like it in decades.  So, if I set up my garden, then a normal winter storm will be a breeze to prepare for.  Windbreaks around the garden will be essential, but not an everyday thing.   I might create some systems I can rig up when the storms are forecast.

This is a common sight out the front of our place. It is surprisingly restful to watch. And there is the added advantage of detailed weather forecasting!

The other thing I have noticed since I’ve been here is the sea breezes aren’t the only threat.  The winds that come down the valley are funnelled down the hill and pick up a fair bit of speed.  These are more common in the summer and as this is when the garden is most vulnerable, I’ll need to take this into consideration in the garden design.

The best part of being on the wild west coast is it is great for things like surfing and next door is a paragliding site and the weather is very important for these activities so there is some very good, very local weather information.

Will we get a frost? Only time will tell.

The only thing I don’t really know about yet but will do by the spring is frost.  The only historical information I can find that is close to us is at the Auckland airport.  It isn’t that far away as the crow flies, but it is seaside facing, but in the inside of the Manukau harbour so it does offer it a degree of protection from the full influence of the open sea.  But until I collect my own data, it will have to do.

The interesting thing, over the winter months for the last three years the lowest temperature was 1ᵒC in July.  The June, July and August temperatures range between 1ᵒC and 4ᵒC with mostly 2s and 3s.  The maximums are an encouraging 17ᵒC to 20ᵒC.  However, I don’t think this takes wind chill into consideration.  But I think gardening all winter should be bearable if I wrap up warm.

Ocean View
The ocean temperatures could be what keeps frost at bay.

But I’m really not sure about the frost.  Will we get any?  From what I understand, coastal areas are less prone to frost because in winter the sea can be warmer than the land and any breeze from the ocean can protect against frost.   Having said that, frosty air is heavy and rolls down a hill like a liquid.  The house and the wind protection could work against me and trap the cold air in the garden.  I guess there is only one way to find out and that is to go through a winter or two.  You need more than one season to really know as in the swamp I remember one winter with no frost at all and another with so many I lost count.     I would like to see a frost or two – not only is it pretty, but it is good for keeping the pest and disease populations in check and it can help to break up the soil, making it easier to work in the spring.

It is a good idea to have a vague idea of how it will be, so I can make sensible plans for the garden, have strategies for the worst conditions and make informed choices when deciding which varieties to grow.  But to know for sure, I just have to carry on and learn as I go.  So, we’ll have to wait and see.

Come again soon – all my behind the scenes garden prep is almost done.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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