Well, summer came back to remind us of what we’ll be missing in the coming months as temperature’s here peaked at 23.5°C on Sunday, accompanied by blue sky and sunshine, lovely. Of course we also got some extremely heavy dews as well, in the morning it looked like it had rained and this will cause some issues for us going forward. This warm weather is courtesy of a nice peak in the jetstream, but it won’t last as gradually this week, it’ll slip south as cold air tries, but fails to push in.
This warm weather has certainly been kind to insects and this morning I just saw a pair of Hummingbird Hawk Moths feeding on my neighbours Buddleia. These guys are amazing, they look like minature Hummingbirds as they flit in the blink of an eye. Usually I see them in the south of France, but checking on the Butterfly Conservation website, they’re in the area (40 sightings in Leicstershire alone in 2013)
General Weather Situation
OK, back to the weather – a pretty straight-forward forecast for this week with high pressure dominating the weather, so dry, light winds, variable cloud cover and warm days, certainly early on in the week. For Monday we have a dull start for many after a mild night (13.5°C). That cloud cover is thickest over Ireland and the west coasts of the U.K and inland Scotland, but during the morning, it’ll break and we’ll have full on sun in the central and south of the U.K. Later on the sun should make an appearance over Munster and the south-west of England / Wales. Winds will be light and from the south / south-west.
For Tuesday, pretty much a repeat of Monday, except the cloud cover looks like being slightly thicker and a bit more in the way of hazy sunshine. Again a dull start, but the sun will burn off the cloud south of a line from Newcastle (ish). Light winds, no rain and temperatures in the low twenties again in the south. Further north we’re talking high teens as that cloud cover keeps them down a bit.
Wednesday sees more cloud cover and the threat of rain as moisture is pushed up from a south-Atlantic low pressure system. This will affect Scotland and the north-east principally, but amounts should be light. Later on, a weak rain front pushes up the Irish Sea, so a chance of light rain over Connacht, the south-west and north-west of England. Still winds remain light, but temperatures are pegged back to high teens in most areas due to the greater cloud cover. Scotland and Ireland will probably be 3 degrees back from that.
Thursday sees more rain for North Wales and the north-west of England initially and this will slowly push northwards into Scotland through the morning. Further south there’s a chance of a light shower pretty much anywhere, but more likely along the west coast of the U.K. Ireland looks to stay dry on the whole. Winds will be a little stronger than of late and easterly / south-easterly in direction. Temperature’s will be pushed down by the cloud cover to mid teens at best.
We finish the week with that light rain still affecting the north-west of England and Scotland, but further south, the sun will push through and temperatures are likely to pick up to high teens again in the hazy sunshine. Winds will be light and from the south-east.
At this stage the weekend looks reasonable for The Midlands, fine, dry and warm, with temperatures in the high teens / low twenties, with a moderate easterly wind and remaining dry. Further south, there’s a chance that rain will / could push up from the continent early doors Saturday and slowly push north, but at this stage it doesn’t look like progressing any further than the south Midlands. Further north, it’ll be cooler, with frequent showers of rain I’m afraid, so not great. Ireland at this stage looks dry and you’ll see the sun after the cloud breaks during the morning. Sunday looks better, but again that rain may cause issues pushing up from the south, this time potentially affecting south Wales. Continental rainfall is a tricky one to predict as I always say, so let’s see closer to the weekend.
Next week looks like starting dry, mild, rather than warm, on the dry side, but still with that ever-constant threat of unpredictable, continental rain across the U.K principally. By mid-week, the wind picks up from the south / south-east and I expect a low pressure system to push in on Wednesday / Thursday, bringing rain to many areas on the back of stronger south-east / southerly winds.
I can only guess (as I was away in Switzerland for most of last week – Cheers guys and girls for the hospitality) that the combination of heavy dew and warmer temperatures arriving at the end of the week has really ramped up disease pressure. During the night, the humidity levels are running at > 90% so that means a very wet grass plant leaf and coupled with the warm day temperatures, it’s got to result in increased disease, principally from Fusarium and Red Thread. Keeping the leaf dry is key and if you’re out swishing, start with your shadier greens / poor air flow ones first, because these will be the first to get the dew and the last to lose it in the morning.
Red Thread is seemingly very active these days and I think the two contributory factors are the climate (more humidity especially) and the growing use of PGR’s. If you take into account that one of the main ways of controlling Red Thread is to physically remove the mycelium when you are cutting, (that’s why the old advice was always to feed) this doesn’t happen on a regulated plant, so the disease has the potential to be more aggressive. Personally I’d have finished PGR applications a month ago for this very reason and then applied a light foliar feed with iron (to dry, acidify and harden the leaf off)
The last time we saw so many I think was back in autumn 2006, when I then expected to see a lot of Leatherjacket activity through the preceding autumn / winter, however back then we didn’t. Normally you can work on 3-4 weeks after egg laying before the larvae hatch, so that puts us at the end of October earliest before they commence feeding.
One of the many interesting things to come out of my trip to Switzerland was to compare green surfaces and in particular, their percentage of Poa annua vs. Bentgrass (in this case Agrostis stolonifera). Without a doubt on the better managed courses, they are much cleaner, with much less Poa and I think their climate is one of the principal reasons behind this. Their summer’s tend to be more predictable, warmer / hotter with temperatures often running into the mid-thirties and of course their winter’s tend to be a lot colder, with prolonged snow cover (There was already snow on The Alps). It’s typical for them to apply a sand dressing at the end of the year to protect the grass plant from the effects of snow and frost, 4mm would you believe in November. Of course there’s a preventative fungicide down first and they have to be clean prior to this, but I was really surprised on the level of sanding that late in the year.
The reason why they have less Poa is undoubtedly because it stresses out in their warmer / hotter summers and also they close in the winter for snow, so they get no winter play and the grass plant is dormant. Here, our Poa can keep growing sometimes 50 weeks of the year and particularly once we get past late October, with the lower light levels, it out-competes bentgrass (any species) until March, when the pendulum swings back again in favour of Bentgrass (depending on how dry it is of course).
It re-inforces in my mind why our likely scenario is Poa / Bent as a greens surface, but the problem is, “How sustainable is the Poa”, if our fungicide options become limited ? That’s why we have to keep our surfaces free draining (well aerated) and dry to encourage bentgrass. (the problem is our climate doesn’t always oblige:))
Another snippet from the trip was the intention in Holland for all pesticides to be banned from public green in 2017 (I think?) if the current government intepret the Sustainable Use Directive the way they want to. How likely is it then that we are able to manage / produce a good putting surface or sportsfield (free from worm casts, etc) if this comes about here ? (Don’t think it will though:))
On the subject of sports grounds and stadia, how nice it was to see the newly built (2007) Letzigrund stadium in Zurich with sensible stands and no restriction on light availability as this picture from Sun Seeker 3D shows. (the blue line is the traverse of the sun at the Winter Solstice – Dec 21st) Shame it gets mullered when Robbie Williams has a concert there though
Next week’s blog may not happen till later in the week as I’m over attending ETS (European Turfgrass Society) in the South of France from Sunday, so we’ll see……….
All the best