Spring already?

Do you find yourself saying every year about now, ‘Gee, flowers blooming already – Spring is ages away yet’.

Whilst European poets, storytellers and garden books hold us to a September Spring, anyone in Australia will know that it doesn’t really fit in practice.

There really are more than 4 seasons in Australia.

Look at First Nations’ insights into movement of seasons across the country, and it makes sense – there are more than just four seasons. They are right on the money, as you’d expect with a shiptonne of lived experience, and observations of seasonal change varying widely depending on where you are in Australia.

Here where we live, south of Ballarat, we are on Wadawurrung country, in the western Kulin nation. July here is a period of change from the Waring (wombat) season, to the Guling (orchid) season.

Waring to Guling

Waring, from about April to July here, is about cold and wet, short days, longest nights, with wombats appearing from the burrow to search for sun (though the Common Wombat are these days mostly found in Eastern Victoria – numbers in the west are very low and declining all the time.

Think wet; think fat bardi grubs turning into rain moths; think fungi.

Guling is a short season full of change, beginning around late July through to August. Our local wattles burst into their full yellow spectacular, local orchids pop open and if you have koalas in your area, you may well hear the males assert their magnificence to local females at night – an awful loud grunty bellow that sounds part way between a bear growl, a pig grunt and a cow! (captured beautifully HERE by Marc Anderson) We tend to keep our dogs inside before bedtime when we hear them in the trees out back, so curiosity doesn’t bring doggos too close to manly koalas that might get tetchy if caught moving between trees. After all, the koalas were here first and it settles down in a few weeks.

GULING is koala mating season, wattles are blooming, caterpillars on the march, and serious frost.

We can see GULING in the garden

For us, growing food in the garden, awareness of this local season of rapid change just before the western notion of Spring is really important. It means that in practice, we can’t wait for when all the books say Spring begins.

  • Late July is really the latest we should be pruning fruit trees here, because many will already be breaking bud. If you are planting bare-rooted trees, then get the first prune done right away as you plant.
  • If you are planning to spray a Burgundy or Bordeaux mixture on your stone fruit trees, then it’s your last chance right now, for the same reason. Buds are breaking. It’s true – go take a look 😉
  • Guling is prime time when local caterpillars feed at night, so if you didn’t net greens during the May butterfly mating season, you will now notice eggs have hatched and first munch-holes appeared. The caterpillars are go! If you can brave the cold, get out at night on squish-patrol (disclosure – that’s too dedicated for me 😅). Now is the time to hone in on what’s eating your plants. If you don’t get out there before Spring, it’ll be too late and the horror munch-fest will have already happened.
  • The wettest time is in Waring; Guling is the coldest, but don’t mistake cold for wet. Watch the weather forecast, as you will likely notice periods now without rain. That means possible heavy frost.

Thank you to Andrew Ferguson in Ballarat for this extract from weather stats locally, showing Frost Days across the year.

If you are located within the Kulin nation, enjoy Guling – a time of change – cold with sparkles of sun.

Over the years of migrants calling Australia home, we have brought cultural notions of season with us from other places. To really connect with our place, and adjust what the seasons describe, it is helpful to understand what is really happening across the country we are on. To do that, local indigenous seasons are super helpful. They and the influence of climate change together surely give us the best guidance about growing food and gardens where we live here in cool temperate western central Victoria. These local indigenous insights are not mine, and I do not seek to make them so, but I want to learn about my soil, the weather, and the timeless experience they offer. If you have local season stories about our place here south of Ballarat, I’d be stoked and privaleged to here them.

Wherever you are in Australia, please do seek out knowledge of local seasons. There are links here to great sources of information, and we have included those seasonal signs we observe here at our place each year.

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿