Hi All,

It always strikes a note in my mind when I type the first blog of December, firstly that as usual I haven’t thought about Christmas at all and secondly that we’re only less than 3 weeks away (21st Dec) from the Winter Solstice, thereafter we begin our slow transition towards the Spring 🙂

Looking at the weather, we’re in for a mixed bag this week, with some low pressure systems rattling down the side of our trough pattern, so you’ll notice the wind for one and there’s a bit of rain / moisture associated with those weather systems, but not too much. The one I’m watching is a low pressure due for next weekend that depending on temperatures may bring some snow to eastern coasts. Thereafter is intriguing because there’s a suggestion that the trough pattern is shifting eastwards, so this may mean milder air for the west and cooler air for the east, the key determinant is mid-week, next week.

General Weather Situation

Most of you will have already noticed the much milder temperatures today, with 6.5°C early doors vs. -3°C,yesterday morning. (but wasn’t it beautiful) and this is due to a low pressure system pushing milder air (briefly) and rain into the west of the U.K and Ireland overnight. That rain band gave 4.5mm here and is now set to push away from the east coast this morning to leave a scattering of sunshine and showers behind it for everyone. As the skies clear later, temperatures will drop close to freezing overnight, but we may just avoid a frost. As we go into Tuesday, that low is swirling more showers into Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, pushing south and westwards, with a band of showers projected for central England and Wales. The wind will strengthen and push cool air down from the north-west. The cooler temperatures will also mean that the rain will fall as snow over Scotland and The Pennines.Overnight temperatures will again sit on or very close to freezing, so a ground frost is likely. Wednesday looks to be bright and clear and cold, with a band of wintry showers breezing down the east coast of the U.K, currently they’re projected not to make landfall, but we’ll see. For Thursday, we see another low pressure system pushing moisture into the north and west, arriving as rain in Connacht early doors, but becoming increasingly wintry in nature in Scotland and The North of England, as that moisture hits cold air and altitude, so again, further snow is likely here. During the morning that rain pushes south and eastwards, so all areas are set to get rain through Thursday, maybe 8-10mm for some areas. The extreme south-west may escape the worst of it, and let’s hope so, because they’ve had their fill down there. As skies clear, I expect another ground frost for Thursday night and a drier day for Friday. During the day, the wind will strengthen and later in the day, a new band of rain will push into Connacht, across Ireland and into the U.K overnight. The interest in this weather system is whether the rain falls as snow as it hits the cold air sitting over the U.K, at this stage it looks like giving us a soggy Saturday, with sleet and rain for the U.K and Ireland, particularly first thing, pushed in on strong north-westerly winds, so take the rain gear if you’re out early chasing some Christmas shopping 🙂 . For Sunday, those north-westerly winds will still be with us, but perhaps lessening in strength, and are set to push showers of rain and perhaps sleet across the country.

Weather Outlook

Next week will be an interesting one to see how the weather develops because we have a high pressure trying to push in from the west and a low pressure resisting it. This may represent a shift in the trough-peak pattern eastwards, or if it’s just a temporary blip, before a new trough forms. At this stage, next week looks like starting with strong, cold, northerly winds pushing wintry showers into the U.K, with the risk higher along the east coast. Ireland should be sitting on the edge of a peak of high pressure, so more settled and dry here, but still cool. As we go into the week, the low pressure is set to push off eastwards, so if that happens, winds will drop and we’ll settle into a drier period of weather, with night frosts., but still feeling cold, in lighter north / north-westerly winds. It’s the period after that I’m interested in, if the peak prevails, we could have a dry, cold run into Christmas, if the trough re-asserts itself, we’ll have an increasing chance of wintry showers for the Christmas period…let battle commence…

Agronomic Notes

It’s at this stage of the month, I start looking for upcoming spray windows to apply the traditional pre-Christmas tonic, with or without a preventative fungicide to cover you over the Christmas period. This week will have a couple of days potentially (Tue and Wed), but it’s still early yet. If next week’s weather pans out with the high pressure winning the day, that should represent an ideal opportunity to apply, I will of course, keep you posted.

Walking round my local recreation ground yesterday morning, I took this picture that graphically illustrates the effect at this time of year of shade and it got me thinking into how difficult it is to manage shady greens during the winter. Grass, as we know needs light to photosynthesise, to make energy, to grow, but at this time of year, light availability is at its potential lowest, with the sun sitting so far down in the sky. This means shady greens get less light through the day and the intensity of that light is also lower and that means problems for growth. It is also the case, that less light = lower temperature, so dew and frost stay on these greens longer and this further decreases the ability of the grass plant to grow.

It is often tempting to try and push these greens on with fertiliser, but ultimately all this achieves is to use up the grass plant’s carbohydrate reserves even quicker, so you get a weaker, elongated plant, susceptible to wear. The grass plant wears away and the thin areas are replaced by moss and algae.

Of course as we know, there’s no easy answer, other than providing more light and this often means, removing trees….perhaps one of the most emotive issues encountered at a golf club. If you’re in this position, always employ a good third party to advise you on this matter, because at the very least, it won’t be your backside on the line 🙂 From an agronomic perspective, there isn’t a shed load you can do through the winter, other than raise the cutting height, maintain colour (iron+magnesium) and try and mitigate the effects of wear, by regularly moving the pin position, missing the clean-up strip and the like.

It is also a fact that shady greens have less potential to produce organic matter, so the type of aeration you’ll likely to be employing on a shady green will / should ultimately be different to that which you employ on more open greens on your golf course. Broadly speaking, that means less use of practices focused on organic matter removal – verticutting, hollow coring, etc and more solid tining, vertidraining.

All the best for the week ahead..

Mark Hunt