‘The best spring we’ve seen’: Canberra farmers, winemakers and nurseries ready for a change | The Canberra Times

news, latest-news, Canberra weather, spring covid-19, Canberra spring, Canberra wineries, Floriade, Mt Majura, Lamb season

Farmers and wine-makers are hoping their properties will spring to life this week to help ease the pain of drought-stricken years, smoke-destroyed vineyards and coronavirus restrictions. The transition from winter to spring will be different this year. Events coming to grips with COVID-19 changes, with some already forced to cancel, while nurseries are trying to keep up with a surge in lockdown gardeners. There’s also reason for hope on farms in the surrounding regions, with Gold Creek Station’s Craig Starr saying the recent rain has been a perfect boost for the lambing season. “I’ve got a good friend at Yass, his family’s been on that farm out there since the 1800s,” Mr Starr said. “He reckons the last six months of last year were the worst we’ve seen, and the first six months of this year are probably the best we’ve seen. “You just couldn’t predict what 2020 was going to be like.” Merino sheep are the most common breed in the region and because merinos don’t produce much milk, green pastures are imperative to a good start in life for their lambs. “Most people in the district will start lambing now, the first week of spring, and this is when you want the grass to grow,” he said. “Lush green grass is what gets those lambs going.” The only problem was foxes. Mr Starr said they were monitoring his sheep. “We’re right on the urban edge now, and the foxes are coming out of the suburbs,” he said. “Especially last year when it was a bad year, the foxes didn’t have anything to eat as well, and if there’s a newborn lamb that looks really good.” Canberrans may have to wait a few weeks for the weather to fully bloom. The Bureau of Meteorology has warned chilly temperatures are on their way later in the week after a string of days in the high teens, with a wetter-than-average spring expected. September was generally the wettest month for the ACT. Though that mightn’t be a good sign for al fresco dining, farmers were reaping the rewards from moist ground. Wineries and breweries were gearing up for high demand as warmer weather beckoned customers to flock outdoors. Mount Majura Vineyard sales manager Fergus McGhie was looking forward to a stellar grape harvest after strong rainfall this year. “The vines are in great shape and we’re looking forward to the start of a good season,” he said. With coronavirus restrictions in place, the vineyard is running a booking system on tastings to keep a cap on numbers. With room for 20 customers inside, McGhie has already been under the pump at the cellar door, and is looking forward to spring temperatures allowing him to open up bookings for customers on the veranda. “The warmer weather is going to see people getting out and about and we definitely feel as though people are holidaying here,” he said. “I think a lot of people have been cooped up, all through winter and feeling fairly negative about things and so it’s really lovely to see some warm weather and people coming out.” Mount Majura is keeping a lid on large events for the spring season, though it is allowing people to do self guided “walk through the vines” tours with maps instead. “You don’t often get led into vineyards, because they’re restricted areas and they’re quarantined,” McGhie said. “So you can come out here and have a lovely walk through the vineyard which is a great thing to do, particularly in spring because you can see the vines are starting to shoot at different times. “You can physically see where the tempranillo is planted compared to the graziano, because the graziano looks dormant and the tempranillo is raging.” Capital Brewing is expecting high volumes of bookings for the Taproom, where the majority of seating is outdoors in the courtyard and beer garden. “Warmer weather always invites people to drink a little bit more, but drink responsibly,” said Drew Preston. Nurseries have already experienced heightened demand, with some suppliers running out of stock before the planting season after months of coronavirus restrictions led to a surge in green thumbs. Theo Cassidy of Willow Park Nursery predicts this spring, always a bustling time for nurseries, will be so busy they may run out of seedlings before the season ends. He said seedlings for tomatoes, persimmons and pomegranates were particularly in demand, as were fruit trees. And if you’re looking for the ideal springtime flower to plant this weekend? “Petunias,” Cassidy said. Over at Cool Country Natives, manager Sally Blakeley-Fook is also busy preparing for a demanding spring season. The nursery, which specialises in local plant varieties, is gearing up for National Wattle Day on Tuesday, always a big springtime seller. Ms Blakeley-Fook said natives like grevilleas, westingrias and callistemons were also starting to come into flower. “Now it’s starting to warm up and there’s moisture in the ground, it’s just full steam ahead,” she said. In garden beds all over the city one million tulips and annuals planted by the Floriade horticultural team, with the help of more than 90 community groups, have begun to break the surface. Floriade is synonymous with spring and in a normal year the tulip festival would attract more than 500,000 visitors. But this year the festival has transformed into something more personal. Floriade head gardener Andrew Forster said this is the first time Canberrans have been able to see the plants transform in the lead-up to the event. “Experience a touch of Floriade: Reimagined at over 130 locations along the tulip trail when you’re on your way home, grabbing a coffee or reconnecting with friends and family,” he said. “We’ve even planted some pansies for Kambah’s famous sculptural sheep to graze on.” A map of the Tulip Trail shows plantings spread from Tharwa to Gungahlin and some of the flowers are already growing strongly. The festival will run between September 12 and October 11 and include a variety of virtual events.


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