Many gardeners simply feel the weather - experience and instinct tells them exactly what to expect. But unless you live and breathe in a place, the typical weather patterns can come as a surprise. So here are some weather facts about the Moosey garden.
Summer is hot and dry.
USDA Zone 8
Moosey's Country Garden has a climate that falls into USDA Zone 8. However the weather has some peculiarities which provide the gardener with significant challenges. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures range between 22/12 degrees in January to 10/3 degrees in July. Regular frosts are experienced at night in the winter, but it would be very unusual for the temperature to remain below freezing all day.
Average annual rainfall is 650 mm (25.6 inches) and is pretty evenly distributed throughout the year. The actual rainfall in any one year is however subject to wide monthly variation. There can be long periods without significant rainfall followed by a major rainfall event.
Canterbury, New Zealand is also quite a windy place compared to continental northern hemisphere climates. We are located at about 45 degrees south latitude, a small island in the middle of the 'roaring forties' (a belt of strong westerly winds circling the Southern Ocean. The winds between 50 and 60 degrees latitude are known as the screaming fifties - most people wouldn't really want to live there - that's where the round-the-world yachts go to race.
The Southern Alps form a northeast/southwest barrier to the 'roaring forties' and force the moisture laden air which may not have seen land for 10,000 km or more up and over the mountains. As the air rises it cools and the water condenses and forms rain which buckets down on the west side of the mountains. The air, now squeezed dry and warmed by the condensing rain rushes down the eastern slopes of the mountains and heats up dramatically. These hot dry winds are known as Fohn winds from the winds experienced in Italy. The Chinook in North America is another well known Fohn wind.
Autumn Maple Leaves
Moosey's garden is exposed to these hot dry gusty northwesterly winds which can blow with monotonous regularity in the spring and autumn. Although the rainfall may seem adequate, the strong northwesterly winds bring periods of very high temperatures (30 to 35 degrees) with very low humidity (less than 10%) and can dry out the garden in a couple of days.
A Typical Weather Pattern Sequence
High pressure - fine cool weather with northeasterly sea breezes
Approaching low pressure system - high cloud increases and wind swings around to the northwest, increases and becomes gusty - temperature increases and humidity falls - rain in the mountains - 30 km west of here.
Cold front moves northeast over the South Island - wind abruptly switches to the southwest and temperature falls dramatically - the gardener waits hopefully for rain which may or may not come.
Clouds, Sun and Sky
To garden successfully in rural Canterbury, you need two critical components, shelter from the wind and irrigation. Moosey's Country Garden has both!