Author Archives: mark.hunt

February 12th

Hi All,

So we’ve reached the mid-way point in February but you know this winter is really starting to drag on a bit. (sorry Adi bit it is) Out walking yesterday I endured lovely sunshine, horizontal hail, sleet and lovely big snowflakes, it really was a lottery. Lovely to be out though and I happened upon this intriguing carving on a public footpath waypoint….It did appeal to my Danish heritage 🙂

So are we set for a continuation of winter or do we see the first signs of an early spring, remembering that last year the end of this week signified the arrival of mid-teen temperatures and the start of growth ?

General Weather Situation

So we start the week with a cold, bright day after a hard frost and some overnight snow for Scotland, the north west and south west of England and Ireland. During the morning the winds will swing round to the west and that will herald in slightly milder air pushing temperatures up to 6-7°C at best. Now they’ll be some wintry showers around, chiefly in the west of the U.K with more than a smattering across Scotland, the north west of England and Ireland and the odd one moving across South Wales and The South West. For most though it’ll be a lovely, cold, bright and settled winters day with nice afternoon temperatures. Late on Monday night we see a rain band push into the west of Ireland and this will fall as a mix of rain and wintry showers as it crosses Ireland overnight.

Overnight into Tuesday and that band of rain and wintry showers has largely cleared Ireland and makes landfall along the west coastline of the U.K butting up against colder air and falling more as wintry showers than anything else. Further south across South Wales and The South West this may manifest itself as heavy rain unfortunately. This vertical band will move eastwards across the U.K so if you start dry it won’t be for long with more wintry showers than anything over Scotland and the north of England, really anywhere where there’s some elevation. Ireland should start clear, dry and sunny after the rain moves through but still with a risk of wintry showers across the west and north. By lunchtime that band of rain is across to the east coast of the U.K clearing westerly and central areas as we approach sunset. Clear skies at this time of year mean frost and that’s what I think we will see on Tuesday night. A really miserable day, dull, wet and cold with temperatures lucky to hit mid-single figures.

Mid-week beckons and with it another front of rain and wintry showers crossing Ireland in the early hours of Wednesday morning and moving into western Scotland and the west coast of England and Wales close to the morning rush hour. With cold air sitting over us it is likely this moisture will again fall as snow at elevation turning to rain as the temperature rises through the morning. Most of this moisture front will stay firmly rooted to the western coastline but I think we will see some rain move inland later in the day. A wet day for Ireland then with wintry showers turning to rain as it moves across country clearing the west during the morning and the east of Ireland by tea time. Wednesday afternoon sees that band of moisture turn increasingly wintry again as it moves eastwards inland across the U.K, so another wet day beckons I am afraid for many of us. It may take till dusk to reach the east coast of England and here it’ll be falling as rain I think. So another dull, cool and to be quite honest, crap day with plenty in the way of wintry showers and rain around. 🙁 The only plus point I can make about Wednesday is that the wind swings round to the south and this will usher in some milder night time temperatures I think, so no risk of forst on Wednesday night.

Thursday sees another band of rain, sleet and snow past eastwards across Ireland and the U.K overnight so by the time the sun comes up on Thursday morning most of it should have cleared through with the exception of the east coast of England and western Scotland. Thursday looks a much better day for most of us with dry, bright conditions, a brisk westerly wind and better temperatures pushing up close to double figures in the south of England though cooler across the west. They’ll still be some wintry showers around across Donegal and more intensely, the south west / north west of Scotland but on the whole, a much better day.

Friday sees another dry start, although colder at night with a risk of ground frost. They’ll be a band of moisture pushing into Connacht and south west Scotland from early doors and this will move diagonally (/) across Ireland and the west of Scotland during the morning and afternoon clearing behind it. For the areas not affected by this band of moisture, it’ll be a sunny day with some hazy sunshine and light to moderate south westerly winds and crucially, dry again. Temperature wise I think we will be 6-9°C, with the lower temperatures under that cloud and rain in the north and west and the highest down south.

So how does the weekend look ?

Well some good news possibly…

I think we will see an Atlantic high pressure edge in during Saturday and that will bring dry and slightly milder air across the U.K and Ireland. Owing to the fact that it’s coming in from the west I think we will see Ireland warm up first with double figure temperatures likely to be on the cards. There is a risk that Friday’s band of moisture will sink south on Saturday morning across The Midlands and East Anglia but it may just fizzle out by the same token, one to watch closer to the weekend. It would be warmer but we will have northerly winds in situ and they peg back temperatures to the high single figures on Saturday and Sunday, but crucially I think it’ll be a pretty dry picture for nearly all of us with perhaps the north west of Scotland still hanging onto some wintry showers.

Weather Outlook

So next week looks like that Atlantic high pressure will be sitting over us, albeit perilously with a strong low pressure system sitting north of Scotland. So there’s a risk there of moisture pushing in between the two weather systems next week but I don’t think it’ll amount to too much in the way of rain (famous last words). It is quite a complicated weather picture because although high pressure is projected to sit over us, it will be squashed between other weather systems, so it’s not a dominant high. When this happens it is my experience that sneaky low pressure systems can slink in and affect things so although I’m forecasting a pretty settled and dry week, next week, we will know more closer to the event. I don’t think it’ll be particularly warm either because I don’t yet see signs of warm air pushing up from the south as it did this time last year.

Agronomic Notes

I’ll start this week with a picture that dropped into my intray last Tuesday morning from a certain Mark Todd. The title of the email was “Extreme Coring” and I just couldn’t stop laughing. Mark, I take my hat off to you and your guys 🙂

So this brings me onto the perennial debate about spring aeration and whether we are missing a trick in some instances. I think I’ve talked enough about trying to aerate early in the season and use the weather windows if and when they present themselves (Although Mr Todd’s interpretation of a ‘weather window’ probably leaves something to the imagination :)).

I do wonder though whether the whole subject of spring aeration needs a re-think.

Traditionally we aerate in March and April and then again during the autumn with many clubs pushing the latter back past the last significant fixture. Sometimes that might be October or November and to be honest I’d question the wisdom behind this.

First off why are we aerating ?

Joining the dots….

Now I know we have lots of different approaches to aeration but essentially we are interested in controlling organic matter in the surface, facilitating water movement through the profile, decompaction and maximising oxygen availability to the grass plant. Nowadays we have a myriad of machines and techniques to help us achieve this in a fraction of the time it would have taken to do the job 20 years ago and that can only be a good thing.

There are though two sides to every coin…And it’s a hard call in this day and age of increasing competition between clubs, increasing expectation on behalf of the golfer and a more nomadic end-user who is more than happy to ditch the booking if aeration (or look for a discount) has been been carried out recently or is planned.

By the same token I also think it’s a hard call in terms of communication on behalf of greenkeepers and groundsman alike, the surface is good but we have to aerate to keep it that way and of course alot of our work is aimed deeper down the profile where the results aren’t readily apparent. Putting that over from a communication perspective isn’t always straight-forward.

So lets look at March and April in 2016 and 2017 and see what the potential was for aeration and most importantly, recovery.

Spring Statistics 

So I thought I’d haul up some stats and look at a ‘typical spring’ if such a mythical creature does indeed exist. I have collated and recorded the number of wet and dry days, the number of frost days (defined as a minimum air temp < 1°C) and the number of good growth days (defined as a daily G.P ≥ 0.4)


In spring 2016 we can see that at the Bristol location they had a very hard spring with no days of good growth in March, yes that’s no days at all and a whole 7 days in April. That doesn’t tell the whole story though because April 2016 was very dry with no recorded rainfall on 22 days, so it is a possibility that even when it was warm enough for growth, moisture may have been a limiting factor.

Indeed if we graph out rainfall and Growth Potential (above) we can see that on the days when day and night temperatures were high enough for growth, there was little or no rain, so certainly moisture availability was a potential issue. We then have the other perennial debate, when to get the irrigation system fired up !

This is a common feature of the month of April, dry conditions and also cold, because we recorded 4 frosts in April with the majority in the last week of the month.

Moving across to The South East of England and we can see a different picture at the Guildford location with more growth in March and April as we would expect. More growth yes, but only 27% of the days in March and April were conducive to good growth and again the same pattern of dry days in April albeit with less frosts at this location.

It would be wrong to ignore the north of the country and here we can see how truly hard it was to generate consistent grass growth in the north of England (York) in spring 2016. So on only 3 days out of a maximum 61 during March and April was it warm enough for good growth and again we see the pattern of frosts continuing into April with 18 frost days recorded for March and April combined. Less dry days as well because most frontal systems in the spring tend to affect the north and north west rather than further south and east when we look at the U.K.


I think alot of people would rate spring 2017 as a good spring in terms of grass growth, so let’s see how it shaped up across The Irish Sea in Cork.

So again we see the same pattern  with only 25% of the days in March and April conducive to good growth (from a temperature perspective). We also see the same pattern of a high number of dry days in April and frost though admittedly only on a single day :).

From a revenue perspective though you’d probably look at it completely differently with less risk of closure, a majority of dry days and more chance of getting golfers round.

Closer to my neck of the woods is this Northampton location where we see a pretty good picture for March in terms of growth, but still only 30% of the days available mind. April 2017 again shows more dry days and more frost with coincidentally most of the frost days in the last week of the month, the same as 2016.

How much growth do we need for recovery ?

Off the top of my head I think you need 10 days of G.P ≥ 0.4  (so a total accumulated G.P figure of 4.0) to get recovery from a hollow coring using 10-12mm tines at close spacings. Now of course there are plenty of variables circulating around this comment, not least adequate moisture, good nutrition and a grass species that grows well at low temperatures.

So if I hypothetically cored on say March 1st, this is how long it would have taken to get recovery at the locations above assuming the Growth Potential figure is accurate and moisture / nutrient levels were sufficient to promote growth.

Bristol 2016 – 34 days

Guildford 2016 – 28 days

York 2016 – 34 days

Cork 2017 – 18 days

Northampton 2017 – 15 days

So in a poor spring we can bank on a month before we gain sufficient recovery if we aerate in March or indeed April I think and in a good spring this figure drops to 15-18 days odd in the locations I have analysed. Obviously as we go head north into Scotland this will extend even further.

Lots of questions really generated from this, not least why are we aerating at a time of year when recovery is a minimum of 2-3 weeks and in some years you can 2X that ?

Well, it’s traditionally been the time we aerate, but of course now it’s the time when golfers are coming out from winter hibernation and expect good surfaces because after all Augusta or some other tournament course is on the telly and their surfaces are excellent….More often than not it is the only aeration slot provided in the calender where significant organic matter removal is planned for.

Is this a good state of affairs for our industry  going forward ?

I think not.

I think going forward golf clubs, sports clubs, greenkeepers and groundsman alike have to sit round a table and work through the aeration that they know they need to do (obviously backed up by organic matter figures and the like) and look at when is the best time to achieve it rather than the only time available between fixtures. We also have to look for those windows and exploit them and that requires flexibility (and machinery) because if aeration goes out the window, it’s going to be harder and harder to provide good surfaces, particularly from a disease perspective. We also know you can have the best rootzone in the world, but if you have a 10mm layer of compact organic matter above it, your surfaces will sit as wet as puddings regardless….

I’ll leave with the same picture I started with and joking aside at the end of last week this club had a big tick in the box of organic matter removal on greens and approaches, as daft as the picture looks…I know this isn’t workable for everyone in terms of ground conditions, machinery, resources and the like and I’m not daft enough to think it is. I am just making the point that we have to re-think when we do the work (rather than if we do it) and play to our strengths rather than in some years, our weaknesses.

The above rhetoric is also based on the benefit of hindsight and I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this with an aeration date already in the calendar for March or April. All I’d say here is closer to this date look at the 7-10 day forecast and work out your total G.P figure, if it looks very low then maybe a change from hollow coring to solid tining should be in order with a committment to hollow core later in the year or perhaps a change to smaller tines at closer spacings ? (Although I readily accept this has a finite limit when filling the holes with sand becomes impossible to achieve)

All the best for the coming week and fingers crossed that high pressure comes our way and gives us some nice respite from the frequent rain and wintry showers 🙂

Mark Hunt



February 5th

Hi All,

Beautiful to see the first signs of spring out walking yesterday though there won’t be much spring-like about the weather this week as we pick up some pretty cold air across the southern half of the U.K in particular.

February is traditionally our coldest month of the year as we all know so I had to admit to a smile when I saw a headline proclaiming “coldest week of year coming up” in a tabloid yesterday. Wow that must have taken some thinking about….It’s not a straight-forward case of cold and dry this week because we have low pressure sitting north of us and that will push some moisture into Scotland and the like through the week.

Ok onto the detail…

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts pretty dry everywhere but with a north east wind we are likely to see some snow showers pushing in from The North Sea into eastern and south eastern parts through the day. Areas most likely affected are the South East, East Anglia and Humberside. Otherwise a calm, dry and settled day just about everywhere with sunny intervals breaking through later in the day and a quiet, north easterly wind. Those snow showers look to drift in to eastern coastline of the U.K throughout the day but they’ll be pretty hit and miss so best to check your rain radar to see if any are coming your way. Later in the day we will see a band of moisture pushing in from The Atlantic bringing rain and wintry showers to the west coast of Ireland overnight. Temperature-wise 3-5°C is all you are likely to see on the old thermometer with a hard ground frost overnight leading into the day. (We were -1.6°C here)

Overnight into Tuesday and that front of wintry showers will be sitting across the east coast of Ireland, western and central areas of Scotland and north west England by the start of Tuesday morning rush hour with a lot of snow wrapped up in that moisture. As we go through the morning that band of wintry showers will sink south into Wales and eastern, northern England, however south and east of this it’ll be a dry, cold and bright start after a sharp overnight frost where temperatures are likely to drop to -3°C. We may just see some showers push further inland into The Midlands but we’ll see, currently this isn’t forecast.  As we go through the afternoon those showers will sit in a band stretching up from Wales through northern England and across to The North East with Scotland clearing to end the day with a nice, bright, cold, clear afternoon and evening. Ireland will have a dry, bright and clear day after those wintry showers depart the east coast during the late morning but we may well see them make a return into Connacht and Donegal later in the afternoon. So another bright, cold and dry day away from those wintry showers and with the wind turning more northerly I’d expect it to feel even colder with temperatures barely breaking freezing in the wind, maybe 2-3°C tops.

Mid-week already, how time flies when you’re freezing your nads off and Wednesday promises another largely cold, dry and bitterly cold day with a penetrating ground frost overnight perhaps down to -4°C in areas. With the light wind swinging round to the north west, it’s the turn of western coasts to bear the brunt of wintry showers with Wales, The South West and the western coast of Scotland at risk through the morning. Dry, bright and cold everywhere else so a great week to crack on with winter project work if you are able. Cloud cover may persist over Scotland and northern England through the afternoon and this will thicken to bring some more wintry showers along north western coasts as we close out the day. Ireland looks to start dry, bright and cold but cloud cover will thicken through the afternoon, it should stay dry though.  Again 2-3°C tops temperature-wise across the U.K and maybe 6-7°C across Ireland.

Moving into Thursday and overnight a weak band of rain and wintry showers has pushed into western Scotland and north west Ireland moving south and east by dawn. This moisture will likely fall as rain across Ireland as a change in the wind direction heralds in slightly milder air temperatures. As that moisture over Scotland and Wales meets the cold, continental air expect it to turn more wintry in nature. Through the morning that rain crosses slowly over Ireland and into the north west of England and Wales falling as snow over Scotland. This band of moisture is persistent and although it slowly clears Ireland during Thursday night it will turn more wintry in nature across the north and east of Ireland, Wales, the north west of England and Scotland pushing cloud before it. So a dry, bright and cold day for central and southern areas of England but through the day it’ll become cloudier as that band of wintry showers pushes moisture ahead of it. Similar temperatures to Wednesday with 2-3°C tops across the U.K and maybe 6-7°C across Ireland again.

Friday sees the highest threat of moisture to the southern half of the U.K this week with that band of rain and wintry showers moving south and east overnight so we may start Friday morning wet with a mix of rain, sleet and snow extending all the way down into The Midlands. The boot is on the other foot on Friday because after a soggy Thursday, Ireland and Scotland look to have a bright, cold and dry end to the week. Through Friday morning that band of moisture will sink south and east affecting all areas before it eventaully moves off into The North Sea by the late afternoon. Another cold and dry end to the day and that means a penetrating frost for all of the U.K and Ireland on Friday night I reckon with a risk of wintry showers still for the north west coast of Ireland.

The weather at the end of the week pretty much shapes the beginning of the weekend because with a bright, cold and dry night we will all have a penetrating ground frost to start the weekend. So Saturday looks cold, dry and sunny across all areas with a really cold northerly wind dragging temperatures down towards a negative windchill. So it’s a winter walk, wrap up warm sort of day if you feel disposed to do so, except for Ireland where I think you’ll see a dry first half of the day but increasing wind and cloud will push rain in for the 2nd half of Saturday. Sunday sees the wind swing round to the west and gather strength, particularly over the north of England, Scotland and Ireland so milder but more unsettled with an increased risk of showers for the 2nd half of the weekend.

Weather Outlook

So next week looks like it’ll start with a North-South split in the weather with the south hanging onto that cold, dry, high pressure for a few more days. The north and west will come under the effect of another Atlantic low pressure system which will bring unsettled, windier weather in from the off and a milder westerly airstream. At present it looks like this low pressure system will sink south and exert its effect across all of the U.K and Ireland as we approach mid-week settling into a strong westerly wind, milder temperatures and some rainfall of course.

Agronomic Notes

As it’s the first blog of February it gives us a chance to look back at January and see what hand we were dealt.

GDD January 2018 – Thame Location

So we can see at this location we put on 30.5 GDD which is pretty normal really as January’s go and reflects some positive growth periods during the month, more on that later. No real point in doing a cumulative so we’ll cast our net around the U.K and Ireland and look at both GDD and rainfall.

UK Locations – GDD & rainfall data

The first point that is very obvious about the above chart is the huge amount of variation in rainfall levels with the Northampton location, the driest and Okehampton, the wettest.

The difference between the two is a rather mid-boggling 163mm !

There’s a clear west – east divide for the U.K when it comes to rainfall and as you’ll see from the Irish data, this is true there as well. Growth-wise we have evidence of a pretty cold January in Scotland with a GDD of only 6.8 recorded for Fife compared to our Thame location which showed 30.5 total GDD for the same period.

Looking at the growth patterns for the month we can clearly see the difference between 3 UK locations as we cover south to north…

All 3 locations show similar patterns of growth but not magnitude with the most southerly location warmer as we would expect. The phrase “No one size of hat fits all” is clearly true when we look at the potential for taking advantage of this growth by carrying out early organic matter removal / aeration. Clearly although Fife and Thame shared similar rainfall totals it’s obvious that whereas we would have seen some growth and recovery in the Thame location from any January work, we would have seen nothing in the Fife location.

Ireland Locations – GDD & rainfall data

Ireland follows a similar pattern in terms of GDD and rainfall but you can clearly see where the rainfall bias was !

So the east / south east coastal locations of Dublin and Wexford came off lower rainfall-wise, some 50-60% less than the west of Ireland that got clattered I’m afraid during the month of January.

Growth-wise we have the shining star that is Valentia with a GDD total of 67.4 compared to the lowest GDD in Claremorris and also Dublin of around 20. With temperature in January comes rainfall though and so the highest GDD location is also the wettest with nearly 10″ of rainfall 🙁

Again the same dynamic in terms of growth would have been present but with so much rain falling in January over most of Ireland I’d be doubtful if anyone managed to get some aeration done successfully even if there was some good growth windows evident as we can see below ;

Growth Windows

In some locations, the period from Jan 22nd to Jan 29th showed some good growth albeit with a drop off on the 26th and 27th and this window was enough to provide some great response from early season-applied granular and foliar fertilisation.

I think granular nutrition is often more effective at this time of year because you have better resistance to leaching (particularly if the formulation is slow release, controlled release, organic) and better longevity as well.

You may ask “What’s the point of fertilising so early” but for me if you have such a growth window (and clearly not everyone did) then why not get the plant growing or ‘primed’ in readiness for growth ?

Any growth benefit gained now means less growth requirement once we reach the spring good and proper and with a propensity to have drier springs, using these windows now can be more reliable than those later into the spring, particularly from a moisture perspective. I’m going to guess that in the latter part of next week we will pick up a milder airstream and a return to growth and so if the grass plant is ‘primed’ it can take advantage of this whereas trying to kick start it during the window means an inevitiable lag.

There is a counter-argument I know that the grass plant growing the most at this time of year is Poa and by encouraging this plant to grow, you tip the balance in favour of it vs. other grass species. Of course on a lot of surfaces, Poa annua IS the dominant grass and so I could chuck in another counter argument which would be that growth at this time of year from Poa means better recovery from autumn disease scarring and a tendency to out-compete other plant species like moss. Like so many things in life it is horses for courses….

Ok that’s me done for another week, wrap up well this week with all that cold weather around and let’s hope that next weeks milder weather signal does indeed manifest itself.

All the best…

Mark Hunt


January 29th

Hi All,

Yesterday could have been a very nice spring day with temperatures here in The Midlands topping 13.8°C during the day and barely dipping below double figures at night either. What’s more we had a drying wind as well so that was great and the sun came out. I took upon myself to have a nice yomp around Grafham Water and it was great to see everybody out cycling, running and walking, plenty of families as well. Be aware though of the dateline on this blog, we are only just tiptoeing out of January and have what is traditionally the coldest month of the year ahead. Still it’s a shorter month and then we will be into Spring. Last year winter sort of finished around the middle of February and we had a great 6 weeks of growth until we got to April and then things dropped back as they invariably do. (more on this later)

Last week was BTME, Harrogate and it was a cracker, I don’t think we have ever been busier so hats off to BIGGA for making it a success.  I was well and truly cream crackered on Thursday night though 🙁

A big thanks to Kate Entwistle who kindly supported me during our talk at the Turfgrass Managers Conference on disease management, cheers Kate and doesn’t 5 minutes feel like an age when you’re stood up in front of 140 people !

Onto the weather and will this mild spell continue or is winter due to make a reappearance ?

General Weather Situation

So Monday looks to start wet for some with a heavy rain front stretching from the south of Ireland across The Irish Sea into mid-Wales and across to The North Sea. This is set to move south and east through the morning so a bit of rain due today in these areas. South of this rain front we dawn dry and mild with temperatures already in the high single figures but it will be the last day of mild for everyone I’m afraid as colder air is due to make a reappearance. Mainly dry north of this rain front over The Borders and Central Scotland with just some scattered showers around through the day. By lunchtime this band of rain has sunk south over The Mildands, South Wales leaving Ireland, the north of England and Scotland bright but noticeably cooler. The reason for this temperature change is that the wind swings round to the north west later on Monday heralding a return to single digit temperatures. By evening the rain has cleared the south of England and we have a clear, dry but cooler night on the cards, it should be frost-free though.

Tuesday sees a largely dry day after the rain of Monday, bright, dry and cold mind. The only fly in the meteorological ointment is the north west of Scotland which sees wintry showers in from the off really. These will drift south along the coast and into central areas through the morning with some reaching The Lakes as well. By the afternoon we see cloud build over Ireland as a rain front pushes into Connacht and Donegal in time for dusk. This pushes south and east through the evening crossing the north of Ireland into Wales and The South West later on Tuesday night. We also see a consolidation of those wintry showers across western and central Scotland moving south down into north west England. South and east of this we see a dry day for The Midlands and Central England with cloud cover building through the day. Much, much cooler though with mid-single figures all that can be hoped for wherever you are.

Mid-week and Wednesday sees a raft of wintry showers pushing over Ireland, Scotland and the north of England extending down to mid-Wales. These will tend to be confined to western coasts though some may move inland. Again it’s a tale of west and east because east of this band of wintry showers it’ll be cold, bright and dry probably all the way from The Tweed down to Kent with the only blip being some rain pushing across The South West first thing. By the afternoon those wintry showers are confined to the north west coast of England and the south west / north west coast of Scotland. Across The Irish Sea we have a band of rain moving across Ireland in the afternoon turning wintry as it reaches the mountains of Wicklow. This moisture will also push into Wales on Wednesday evening and again here it’ll fall as wintry showers especially at elevation, with these showers moving inland overnight and petering out as they do so. Another cold day with mid-single figures on the cards and a keen westerly wind veering north westerly as we go into Thursday.

Thursday sees those wintry showers clearing east into The North Sea as we approach the morning rush hour to leave a dry, cold and bright picture for almost all of the U.K and Ireland. That’s the way it is set to stay all day with cloud cover building over Ireland in the afternoon heralding the approach of another wet front into the west arriving at dusk. Cold everywhere with mid-single figures the accepted norm now and a keen north west wind in situ.

Overnight into Friday and that rain front has crossed Ireland and given heavy rain across Wales and the north west of England before moving eastwards across all of the U.K. By dawn most of this rain has cleared Ireland leaving the west coast of England, Wales and Scotland with the familiar wintry showers. Some rain inland though and this will be slow to clear through the morning with some of it hanging around till the afternoon across the east Lincolnshire coast and East Anglia possibly. Once this rain has cleared Ireland and the west it’ll leave behind a sunny and cold day with an ever-present strong to gale force, north westerly wind in situ further lowering the temperatures with significant windchill. This sunshine will spread eastwards through Friday but it will be really windy particularly p.m.

So how is the weekend looking ?

Well opinions are divided forecast-wise with Saturday looking like a dry start for the U.K but Ireland looks to pick up some rain into the south west on Saturday morning and I think this will cross country through the day and push into The South West, Wales and the west of England later on in the day. So Saturday looks to start dry with a decreasing westerly wind but it won’t be a mild one as it originates from a cold, low pressure system. I think there’s a chance of showers rattling across the U.K for the 2nd half of Saturday and this unsettled theme will continue into Sunday accompanied by strong northerly winds so feeling bitter for sure. As we go through Sunday the wind will swing round to the north east and this may push in some showers from The Wash so it looks like the west will be drier on Sunday potentially.

Weather Outlook

Well next week looks interesting and perhaps delicately balanced weather-wise but if it all pans out we should see high pressure extending its influence from the start of next week so that means calmer, dry and settled through the week with cool, northerly winds initially changing to westerly (I make it) towards the end of next week which may mean some milder air. I think you are more likely to see this across Ireland and the west because you are closer to the centre of the high. Much drier though and settled which after this week will be just what the weather doctor ordered for Scotland and the north west of England / Wales after the battering of this week.

Agronomic Notes

So first up we can talk weather windows and the fact that we’ve enjoyed some pretty mild weather over the weekend and of course last week.

This is how it shaped up in sunny Leicestershire 🙂

You can see from the above chart that the air temperature exceeded 8°C and the relative humidity 90% or thereabouts for long periods of the week. By my calculations around 67 hours and counting, so that means over a 7-day period, roughly 3 days of it was conducive to Microdochium nivale activity in my books. So if you are staring at disease scars that have become active again or possibly some new activity off-green on approaches, tees and fairways, this is why.

It’s not all bad news because this window was also sufficient for new grass plant growth with good air temperature and light levels so you’ve probably also seen a gentle uplift in growth over the last week which is good news if you carried out any early season aeration and / or need recovery on areas affected by disease. Remember also that above ground growth is just one feature we are looking at, root development is just as important or arguably more important if you take into account the subsequent effect on nutrient and moisture uptake.

Bye Bye Growth Window

This growth window lasted a week but after today things will return to winter with cool days and colder nights though we should stay the right side of frost for most of us depending on cloud cover over the coming week in your location.

This will definitely drop the disease pressure well and truly off

It was a popular subject on the stand at Harrogate that of using these windows to optimise growth when moisture and temperature are forthcoming and ‘if’ and only ‘if’ ground conditions allow you to do so, carrying out some early season organic matter removal.

It’s a fact that with our changing climate and its effect on plant and pathogen growth alike we need to change how we manage turf and adapt our methods accordingly. With modern machinery, optimising aeration in these windows is easier nowadays but I accept not every club has the money to afford it.

Deep aeration is key..

The importance of deep aeration using machines like the compact vertidrain and Air2G2 in promoting better root development and ultimately moisture and nutrient uptake is really shown in the pictures below sent in awhile ago now by a course manager in Kent.

You can clearly see the area missed by the vertidrain and the poor drought tolerance that has resulted. Remember that droughting out / browning off of grass is caused by a lack of nitrogen uptake due to low levels of soil moisture (nutrients move in solution so if there’s no solution, there’s no nutrient uptake). Classic pictures that clearly demonstrate a point. (Spot on Marky Mark and thanks again for sending them my way)

It isn’t just soil moisture that is affected by deep aeration, it also enhances soil oxygen levels which in turn allow better plant health and growth particularly during periods of stress.

Die Back from Anthracnose Foliar Blight

I remember back in 2014 calling on a golf course in mid / late August that was badly affected by Anthracnose after a particularly prolonged stress period. A large number of greens showed the disease and it took a lot of hard work to get the areas back, however two greens showed much less disease, significantly less as a matter of fact and I was curious as to why. The only thing different on these greens was a July vertidraining with compact narrow tines and no heave. I remain convinced that the benefits of this work in elevating soil oxygen levels, plant rooting and the ability of the plant to withstand the subsequent stress was the reason the greens showed much less disease activity.

We should always remember that many plant pathogens tend to take advantage of a grass plant under stress and use it as a trigger perhaps ?

Biotroph and Necrotroph…..Two definitions to remember when we talk about plant pathogenic fungi…

During last week’s Turf Managers Conference talk, Kate Entwistle of the Turfgrass Disease Centre, highlighted the different growth phases of the Anthracnose fungus, Colletotrichum cereale.

After spore germination on the grass plant leaf, the fungus (sneakily you might say) enters through the surface layer using a specialised structure called an Appressorium and grows between the cells rather than into them. This is important because in this state it is undetected by the plant and also it can take advantage of nutrients within the plant to grow.

It is kind of in a resting state, just waiting for a trigger. Possibly in the case of Anthrancose this could be a stress-related trigger that activates the fungus and changes it from being a Biotroph to a Necrotroph. In the Necrotrophic phase the fungus actively enters the plant cell, kills it and lives off the proceeds 🙁

Reading up on this further, strictly speaking Anthracnose is a hemibiotroph, meaning a fungus that has an initial Biotrophic phase that is then followed by a Necrotrophic phase. I think Rust diseases and Powdery Mildew are also examples……(cue Kate’s correction if I’m wrong on this :)) I found this fascinating and I don’t mind admitting the terminology was new to me although Bruce Clarke from Rutgers mentioned this phenomenon in his lecture on Anthracnose that I attended last year so I sort of knew about it (but not properly :))

Ok that’s it for this grim January morning, a things-to-do-list of immense proportions awaits..(yikes)

All the best..

Mark Hunt





January 22nd – Mini Blog

Hi All,

Just a brief blog this week as I’m up at Harrogate prepping for the Turf Managers Conference where I’m speaking later today and then of course we have the exhibition from tomorrow.

As you can see from this rooftop pic taken from my luxury penthouse apartment (ahaha) here in Harrogate, the snow is fast disappearing and currently it is a thoroughly pleasant 7.1°C. That temperature is set to climb nicely into double figures for nearly all of us this week peaking on Wednesday before dropping back to more normal temps for January.

So no issue getting to and from the show this week if you’re planning on attending, but bring a raincoat 🙂

So this week I am just going to do a general summary of how we are looking weather-wise for the week ahead and beyond rather than providing more detail.

General Weather Situation

So this week we have low pressure in charge pushing mild, south westerly winds and rain across the U.K and Ireland from today with the mildest days being Tuesday and Wednesday before the wind turns round more to the north west and temperatures drop back a tad.

Rainfall-wise it shouldn’t be a big surprise that with an Atlantic low pressure system, the west and north west will bear the brunt of the rain fall through the coming week but they’ll also be rain inland.

So expect showers through Monday and Tuesday on western coasts, occasionally pushing inland, but the first proper front comes into play across western Ireland on Tuesday evening and quickly crosses The Irish Sea into Wales and Scotland overnight into Wednesday. Some of that rain will be pretty heavy and it’ll be pushed along by very strong to gale force, south westerly winds. By dawn Wednesday that rain will be across Ireland, Scotland and Wales and tracking east into all areas through the 2nd half of Wednesday clearing the west and north as it does so to leave showers behind for the late afternoon.

As skies clear after that rain, temperatures will drop back from their very mild double figures (in some areas) to high single figures.

The second half of the week sees more showers of rain pushing across Ireland, western coasts of England, Wales and Western Scotland through the course of Thursday with some of these pushing inland as well. South and east of this you should stay dry. A cooler feel to the weather but I think frost-free owing to the cloud cover. By Friday we have a clearer, drier picture with longer spells of sunshine for nearly all of us with just a risk of rain pushing into Connacht later in the afternoon.

Weather Outlook

Now some more good news (after the better temperatures that is) for everyone who is busy doing winter project work and fed up with the constant rainfall that January has brought so far. The good news is that there is a (very rare in my experience anyway) Atlantic high pressure system on its way and projected to influence the weather from the end of the week.

Ok it won’t be completely dry because low pressure will still influence the north of the U.K and Ireland so there’ll be some rain for these areas particularly over the weekend but it will get consistently drier for the central and southern half of the U.K and Ireland. It’ll be nice and mild as well I think with temperatures in the high single figures, maybe higher for Ireland over the weekend, before the westerly winds turn more to the north for the second half of the week. When they do so they’ll be just a chance of some wintry showers down the eastern coastline of the U.K and it will of course feel cooler. So some rain still for the north over the weekend and early part of the week but definitely a drier outlook next week than this week / weekend for you guys.

Agronomic Notes

There be some pecking…

Received a few reports of bird pecking last week and with the milder weather this week I would expect this to increase. Out walking at the weekend I noticed some large flocks of Jackdaws, Crows and Rooks grazing on sloped areas of arable land and that’s always a give away that grubs are on the menu. Currently we have no labelled pesticidal control for this pest, but with the advent of newer, safer chemistries coming into the U.S Turf & Ornamental market hopefully that may change in the future and some of them may find their way across here. I could be a tad mischevious here and suggest that you use some of your time at Harrogate to talk to the chemical companies present to see what they have to say on this subject. (Bet you’ll thank me for that one Dan 🙂 )

Mild Weather Window

As predicted last week we have a nice weather window both mid-week and over the weekend / early part of next week as well. Now I fully appreciate it isn’t good news for everyone because for some it also comes with heavy rain as well but for others it is an opportunity. These weather windows are now becoming more and more common through January and February and if ground conditions lend themselves, are there to be used.

I have discussed this before (and will no doubt again) but taking advantage of these windows to make an early start on organic matter removal before we get to spring proper can be greatly beneficial. It’s not for everyone I admit because I’m fully aware there are courses out there at present where simply getting a piece of machinery to the greens is out of the question because of inclement rainfall. This is particularly true across the north, north west and west. Another potential fly in the ointment is that these spells of mild weather and high humidity can also bring with them increased disease activity with often re-activity noted around existing scars. All this has to be weighed up but there are plusses as well in getting the job done now rather than in March or dare I say it, April.

No two greens, sportspitches or cricket squares are alike and so it’s often the case that amongst the ones you manage they’ll be some that have more organic matter than you’d ideally like. So even if it is just these ones that you concentrate on at this time of year and squeeze in that one extra hollow coring, you will have achieved something positive going forward into the spring. The grass plant breathes oxygen and so inputting this vital gas by aeration will enable it to perform better, uptake nutrients more effectively from the rootzone and be healthier. I know a growing number of golf courses that have already carried out their spring aeration and save for some verticutting and topdressing will be nicely set come March for the spring season.

Collars and approaches will also benefit from this approach because often at this time of year it is the higher organic matter content on these areas that is acting as an impediment to water movement off a green. So you end up with an area of localised, waterlogged green immediately adjacent to a collar / approach. Invariably this is on the clean-up strip and so gets twice the hammer from mowers  and being waterlogged, soon loses grass cover as the grass checks out. What tends to volunteer in afterwards during the spring is the annual biotype of Poa annua, the clumpy, coarse, pale and prolific seed producer that ideally you don’t want in your turf surface. Remembering as we must that this type of Poa will produce viable seed 12 months of the year in our glorious U.K and Irish climatic conditions.

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet, hopefully I’ll see some of you at the show and at my talks this week. (no heckling please :))

All the best.

Mark Hunt


January 15th

Hi All,

I’m pretty sure today is ‘Blue Monday’, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year but also a cracking track by New Order, a real toe tapper if ever I heard one….Looking out it’s still pitch dark, the rain is coming down steadily and for sure it’s a gloomy one but I can think of worse days than this.  As predicted we are entering a trough pattern in the jet stream that is pulling in a big, deep, cold and narly low pressure and that’s going to return us to winter this week particularly this coming weekend. Don’t worry though I don’t think it’ll last…..(famous last words eh..)

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts with a rain front sitting across East Anglia / South of England and another one moving across Wales, The South West and the north of England. We also have some more showery weather across Ireland and Scotland to start the week so yes a little bit grim like. Through the morning the rain will move eastwards across the U.K and Ireland and we will start to see the presence of colder air over Scotland as those rain showers will turn increasingly to snow over higher elevations. Now it’ll feel mild today, particularly in the south and west with a westerly wind pushing mild air across Ireland, central and southern regions but across Scotland that very strong westerly wind will have a raw edge to it. Going through to the afternoon we see a continuation of that wet weather perhaps with a clear spell across the spine of England but the wintry showers will spread south across The Borders and into northern England as we go into the evening. A mild, windy day then with plenty of rain but ‘enjoy’ those temperatures which may hit double figures down south and across Ireland because we are in for some raw weather later in the week / weekend.

Overnight into Tuesday we see a continuation of that wet weather across western and central Scotland, north west England, north west Ireland and North Wales. Those showers will increasingly have a wintry feel to them. Further south and east it’ll be a clear start to the day but we’ll see plenty of wintry showers pushing across Ireland, Wales and possibly pushing into The Midlands later in the morning. A much cooler feel to the weather with that strong, westerly wind in situ and temperatures a good 4-5°C lower than Monday making it feel raw with a capital ‘R’. So the bulk of the wintry showers likely across Ireland, Scotland, the north west and central parts of northern England, Wales and The South West with central and eastern areas of England and north eastern Scotland missing the worst I think. With a strong westerly wind in place though there’s always a chance for showers to move inland I think. Much colder as mentioned earlier with 3-5°C the norm in that strong, cold, westerly wind.

Wednesday sees us start clear across Scotland and the north of England as the bulk of the showers have sunk south overnight into The Midlands, Wales and southern England. Ireland will still see plenty of wintry showers across The Midlands and north of the country extending into Northern Ireland. Through the morning we will see more wintry showers move into western Scotland, north west England, mid and North Wales. South and east of this, it’ll be a much brighter day, clear skies with plenty of sun but it’ll feel raw. Through the second part of Wednesday we will see those westerly winds turn milder across Ireland pushing temperatures into double figures through Wednesday night. This milder air will push eastwards to push temperatures up through Wednesday night into Thursday across most of the U.K. That mild air will be associated with rain which will move into Ireland from the west after dusk and quickly move eastwards across the country, across The Irish Sea and into Wales overnight pushed along by gale force westerly winds which could cause damage.

Thursday sees that rain move across the U.K early doors to leave a clearing picture by dawn except for a band of wintry showers down the spine of England extending up from the north Midlands to The Borders. They’ll still be some scattered wintry showers across the north and east of Ireland on elevated ground and across North Wales. Through the morning we will see rain move into the west of Ireland and the west coast of the U.K extending up from The South West all the way to north west Scotland. Again we will see a mix of rain, sleet and snow depending on elevation. That mild air passes with the rain so once you’ve seen this move through early on Thursday we will see the temperature drop through the day with clearing skies, hence the reason for the wintry showers. Come Thursday evening that rain over Ireland will turn increasingly wintry and although the south and east will be clear, we will see a continuation of wintry showers across the higher ground of Wales, the north west of England and western Scotland. Temperature-wise after a mild start (overnight) expect to see 5-7°C as the norm and winds will be moderate to gale force in the early hours and late into Thursday night.

Closing out the week we have a dynamic weather picture with strong westerly winds pulling round to the north west through Friday and that’ll knock the temperatures down even further with a pronounced windchill. A similar picture on Friday as we have seen for most of the week, that is Ireland, the west coast of Scotland, The North West, Wales and The South West feature as the areas most affected by a combination of wintry showers throughout the day. Further south and east I think we will be sunny and dry but very cold with a pronounced windchill. These wintry showers will affect the above areas most of the day on and off and later on another batch moves into north east Scotland and drifts down the east coast of the U.K. Real Brass Monkeys weather on Friday even where you are dry with nearly a negative windchill for most of the day…wrap up well and make sure you take a neck warmer / buff with you, invaluable I find, here’s my favourite one 🙂

Ok so how are we looking for the weekend knowing that some of us will be en route to Harrogate ?

Well Saturday looks fine really after clearing skies across the vast % of the U.K and Ireland on Friday night will likely give us a ground frost first thing. The outlook for Saturday looks dry, cold and bright with a really cold north westerly wind in situ, feeling milder across the west as a warmer air front pushes in. Late on Saturday night we see a return of rain, sleet and snow to the south west of Ireland but everywhere elese I think will have a dry, cold night with another frost. Sunday again looks a pretty dry day. cold in central and northern areas, slightly milder across Ireland and the west. There’s a slight risk of rain across The South West early on Sunday but this should clear through the morning if it actually reaches you. So another pleasant day, cold but crucially dry so no problem getting too and around Harrogate me thinks.

Weather Outlook

So after another blast of winter how are we looking for BTME week ?

Well first off I think we should be fine for snow and ice because from Monday we pick up a south westerly air stream courtesy of a new low pressure system that will come in to play next week. So I think a little milder next week, remaining pretty windy and some pronounced pulses of rain which will push in from the south west and move up country. Monday, Wednesday and the end of the week from Thursday onwards look to be some of the wettest periods of weather but as mentioned above, this moisture will be south west-orientated rather than north west so you guys will get a bit of a break from heavy rain (not saying it won’t rain it’s just you won’t be in the direct firing line as you are this week). I think we will be mid, high-single figures so better than this week and we will be windy for sure.

Agronomic Notes

BTME, Harrogate Weather Link

Ok first off please find the link for Headland Weathercheck for BTME, Harrogate here

Netatmo Weather Station Review and PWS’s

Now I know I promised this feature before Christmas but I’ve been doing some additional work on linking the weather station into the Weather Underground network because I found the Netatmo backend software system pretty unreliable. The weather station itself has worked faultlessly since last August, but I want to find a more user friendly way of looking at the data, particularly historically.

Linking your Personal Weather Station (PWS) to a weather network is a pretty recent development and it’s fair to say that it’s still a work in progress however the advantages are that you are able to view your current and historical data in a comprehensive manner and this allows transposing of data into GDD / G.P calculations a much easier job. Last week I found some new software that works with the Netamo weather station specifically and seems to provide a much more reliable link. Here’s my data so far so you can see what’s available (note I don’t have a wind gauge currently because I have nowhere to mount it and I’m not going up a ladder for awhile)

So you can see (hopefully) you get a tabulated summary view of your data showing minimum and maximum air temperature (which we need for GDD and G.P calculations) and you get daily rainfall totals as well alongside humidity, pressure and if I had it, wind speed. You simply enter the air temperature data into our GDD / G.P spreadsheet and the GDD and G.P readings are calculated automatically. (Note the spreadsheet is available here)

Going forward I think we will be become more reliant on this type of data to make accurate application decisions particularly those related to pesticides like PGR’s and fungicides. Working from the calendar will I think become less and less reliable…

Using Weather Slots..

Talking of not working from the calendar I think this time of year can be perfect for gaining a head start into spring from a plant nutrition pespective. Now granted we don’t have much in the way of GDD’s or G.P’s but we do have some and taking advantage of them through January and February could reap benefits when we come into spring time proper getting you ahead of the game.

If we take a look at our Meteoturf module on Headland Weathercheck for the coming week we will probably see something like this if you are in Ireland, Wales and England (but not Scotland I’ll grant you)

So you can see Monday, Thursday and next Monday show a small amount of growth whether it’s described by GDD or G.P. What’s important about this type of growth at this time of year is that with daylight levels being low (because days are shorter), the grass plant is less likely to be able to flush and produce soft growth. In turn we know that whilst leaf shoot growth kicks off from 6°C air temperature upwards, but we also know the grass plant is developing roots really anywhere up from freezing (how many times have you put a turf down in the middle of winter to see new white roots emerging even though it hasn’t put on any top growth ?). So I think we are more likely to see good root development and more lateral rather than upright growth during the early part of the year as a result of applied nutrition.

We know also that these short windows of growth during January and February are almost a permanent feature of our weather now and that March, but in particular April can be quite problematic in terms of generating consistent growth.

I mention April because for 7 years out of the last 10, it has been a very difficult month for grass growth, often it is dry, often with warm days but cold nights, so the actual growth potential is limited. Dovetail that in with high moisture loss through high Evapotranspiration (E.T) and you could almost discount it as a consistent growth month. Here’s the rainfall vs. E.T stats for April 2017 at our Thame, Oxfordshire location…

You can see what I mean in terms of lack of moisture presenting an issue from a growth perspective. It isn’t just moisture that can be growth-limiting in April, we also have a nasty habit of picking up late frosts with the same location recording 7 frosts during April 2017 and 4 of them in the last week of the month.

If we look at the pattern of growth as denoted by G.P last spring at the same location you can see quite clearly peaks of active growth in January and February…

If we look at the G.P totals for the month, they make interesting reading ;

Month                         Total G.P recorded – Location – The Oxfordshire, Thame – 2017

January                              1.89

February                            5.33

March                               10.79

April                                   9.34

So we can see January and February combined generated 67% of the growth of March and 77% of the growth of April. If I also tell you that the last two weeks of February produced the same amount of growth (from a G.P perspective) as the last two weeks of April, you can hopefully see the value of using early season windows.

So taking advantage of the growth on offer in January and February should perhaps be one of our adapatative strategies to our changing climate from a plant nutrition perspective. It’s not necessarily a case of extra nutrition either because if the greens come into the spring with better grass cover, there’s less of a need to apply as much nutrition come March or (God help us) April…

Type of nutrition – Granular or Liquid ?

I tend to think that granular nutrition is more effective for this period of the year than liquid because we tend to have higher rainfall levels early on in the year so applying a liquid may be problematic (getting to and onto the greens with a heavy sprayer for example) vs. a pedestrian spreader and your lightest crew member (ahahaha). Granular nutrition (of the right type) is also usually more leach resistant ~(than a liquid) and so provides more of a longer-term benefit to the grass plant with one early in the year application often carrying through to March no problem.


You can also kill two birds with one stone at this time of year by using a granular formulation high in iron and in so doing knocking back the ever-present moss populations visible in many swards. I was out walking yesterday across the fields of Leicestershire and I couldn’t help but note how much moss was visible on pasture land, even though some of it was recently drained. Without a doubt the low light and higher rainfall conditions of November through to the end of February firmly tip the growth balance in favour of this species.

Disease Activity

I got quite a few reports of Microdochium nivale on the move last week despite the fact that the air temperatures were nothing to shout about really. If you look at my Netatmo weather station stats at the very beginning of this section of the blog, you can see that the humidity sat at 100% for pretty much all of last week due to the absence of any drying wind and that I think was one of the main drivers. Hopefully with the colder conditions of this week it shouldn’t develop much though it’s worth keeping an eye on it when we have these short, mild spells…

Ok that’s it for this week.

All the best

Mark Hunt