Monthly Archives: January 2015

January 26th


Hi All,

After a pleasant weekend with some milder temperatures, this brief respite from winter will only last till mid-week before we get another winter snap and one that looks pretty chilly from where I’m sitting. We have a cold, low pressure heading our way and it’ll will bring a change in wind direction and the increased likelihood of snow, particularly for Scotland and the north of England, but later in the week, this could spread southwards.

So how is the week shaping up ?

Monday is looking to kick off a bit on the dull side, with a band of rain stretching from the south-west of England to The Humber. This slowly sinks south through the morning, dissipating as it does so. Another band of rain is sitting over the north west of Scotland and this behaves in a similar fashion, fizzling out through the morning. Ireland looks to have a nice, bright start to the week, with cloud cover slowly building through the day. As the rain clears, there’s a good chance of sunshine breaking through and if it does, temperatures may just hit double figures. Winds will be light to moderate and from the west / north-west.

Into Tuesday and we have another reasonable day, if a bit on the dull side, with the best chance of sunshine along the east coast of the U.K. Further north we have a light band of rain still lingering over north-west Scotland, but nothing dramatic. The same for Ireland, a dull day on the whole, with some light drizzle pushing in from the west later in the day. A little cooler than Monday with those winds still in the north-west. By dusk we have some more heavier rain into the west coast of Ireland and Scotland and this will slowly push east overnight into Wednesday.

Overnight this rain intensifies and begins to push south, so Wednesday looks like being the change day this week, especially for Scotland where the outlook is pretty wet I’m afraid. By the morning rush hour that rain is also into Ireland and pushing south down the west coast, into the north of England and Wales as well. By lunchtime the rain should have reached most of the U.K, lightening in intensity as it does so and in between the rain we may also see some sunny spells across The Midlands and further east. The big change will be the temperatures after this rain has moved through, substantially lower and accompanied by a brisk, westerly wind.  So mild initially, but cooler later for Ireland, Wales, the west and the south of England, whereas Scotland will be cool all day. That rain continues to affect Scotland and Ireland, but away from these areas, it should be a clear and cold night with the risk of ground frost.

By Thursday that rain is still around, sitting over Ireland, the south west of Scotland and the western coastline of the U.K, right down through Wales and into the south west of England. The showers will also move inland into northern England and The Midlands during the morning. Some of the moisture may fall as snow over Scotland and the higher ground of the north of England and Ireland. Further south and east, it’ll be a bright, chilly day with plenty of winter sunshine as that rain becomes isolated to the west coast of the U.K and Ireland. You’ll notice the difference in the temperatures though, low single figures with a pretty bitter windchill, so not great by any means. As those showers drift eastwards during Thursday evening there’s a good chance they’ll turn to snow, especially over higher ground.

Closing out the last week of January (yippee), we still have bands of moisture around and if anything it’ll be feeling chillier as the wind takes on a northern bent, so there’s a high risk of snow showers for Friday, tricky to say exactly where sitting here on a Monday morning, but I think Ireland, the west coast of the U.K and Wales are in the firing line, but they will push eastwards across The Midlands and southern England through Friday. Some areas may miss them altogether and here it’ll be a bright, but bitter cold day with temperatures lucky to hit 3°C maximum and with the windchill it’ll feel a lot colder than that 🙂

The weekend looks mixed with that rain, sleet and snow still affecting the western coastline of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Occasionally these will move inland to give blustery wintry showers in what now is a strong, northerly wind. That low is sitting right over the Outer Hebrides so we have an increasing chance of snowfall, some significant over Scotland in particular. Away from western coasts it’ll be a good bit sunnier, but still bitter in that northerly wind. Saturday looks a mix of sunshine for the south and east and snow showers, some heavy locally in the north and west, later moving south and inland. Sunday is the same, maybe less in the way of snow showers and these look to be confined to north and western areas on the whole. As we know rainfall and hence snowfall are moving targets so keep an eye on your Weathercheck weather portal for a more up to date forecast. Ireland at this stage looks to be similar, sunshine and the odd blustery, winter shower over the tops, more so in the north-west, Donegal, North Sligo way.

There is also a big chunk of snow that at this moment is projected to push down The North Sea and into Denmark, Scandinavia early next week and this is worth keeping an eye on forecast-wise.

Weather Outlook

The outlook for next week is remaining cold with those bitter north winds still in place for the start of the week. As we approach mid-week we have an Atlantic high slowly asserting itself, so a little milder, winds from the north-west and predominantly dry, save for a band of moisture pushing through on Tuesday p.m. (which may turn to snow as it hits cold air across the east of the U.K) Not a bad week then, frosty at night, but bright, clear days and dry on the whole. I’ll take that for the start of February.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Stats

Looking at what we have got so far it makes for interesting reading though I have to say we don’t have any 2014 rainfall stats from Scotland and a good few elsewhere that haven’t submitted their 2014 rainfall totals, so if anyone is still sitting on their information, please send it on to


The pdf copy is available here for downloading, this is fixed now and won’t be updated, but the interactive version will be updated and is linked to here

Above is a screenshot of how it looks and Paul has even given each location a country flag so we’re nice and politically correct 🙂 Some of the locations have the last 4 years readings so you can also see how it has changed.


At a glance it looks like the east side of the U.K has again benefited from a drier year in comparison to the north, west and south regions. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Romans built the Great North Road to link London and York up the east side, (A1) rather than the central or western part of England ? Ireland looks to be wetter in general 2014 vs. 2013 with the east getting much more of the rainfall.

The west and south-west in particular got clattered again courtesy of a strong westerly jet stream for the first quarter of 2014 and then continental rainfall pushing up from the Bay of Biscay over the summer. As usual the jet stream dictated our weather for the summer and in May and August we sat in a trough pattern that brought cooler temperatures and frequent rain to many. September was the opposite, a strong peak in the jet stream pushed the bulk of the rainfall up and over the U.K and Ireland, so we had our driest September ever in some locations.

You can clearly see the pattern of rainfall and the link with the strength and pattern of the jet stream in the graphic below ;



Early aeration

I know I keep harping on about it and now we have a cold blast coming it may well negate your ability to do some early aeration, be it verti-draining or hollow coring, but you never know. If we do get a stable high pressure system parked over us that gives us some settled weather with low rainfall, take the opportunity to slip in some aeration, particularly if you are fighting increasing organic matter levels and struggling to get the slots in an already-crowded fixture list.

Once the cold blast has passed and that Atlantic low pressure system has moved in, next week may be such an opportunity. A number of people came to see me at Harrogate and said they’d already done a hollow coring in January and it worked great, minimal disruption and no issues with golfers as most of them are happy just to get out and play at this time of year. I reckon for guys in the south of England, January 2015 will shape up as one of the mildest January’s for a good while and if rainfall allowed them to aerate, they would have had some grass growth and recovery to boot because of the mild temperatures. I appreciate this isn’t the same for everyone, you know your facility better than I do, I’m just saying look for the window and don’t always work to the calendar.


Changes to Headland Weathercheck forecasting modules


Those of you who have their location set up on Headland Weathercheck and duly receive your own weather forecast (shown above) will notice a change from the end of this month. We are replacing the Meteogram Agro module with a new MeteoTurf module to try and provide a link between a weather forecast and turf-related parameters such as GDD, Growth Potential and Evapotranspiration (E.T).

MeteoTurf will take your 7 day weather forecast and automatically convert it into ;

Predicted Daily GDD (base temperature 6°C)

Predicted Daily Growth Potential (Optimum temperature 18°C)

Predicted Daily Evapotranspiration (E.T) with threshold levels to show predicted plant stress

Here’s a snapshot of how it will look ;


The idea is that we can start to work proactively, rather than reactively, when it comes to making turf management-related decisions. For instance if we can see a spike in the GDD / G.P for the coming week, we know that we will have good uptake conditions for a fertiliser or a fungicide application.

In the middle of the summer, if the G.P dips and we see high E.T, we can predict that the plant is likely to experience stress and manage this accordingly.

Now you can argue that it’s only a predicted scenario, but that’s what we have to work with in terms of a weather forecast in the first place and we know they’re getting better in terms of accuracy.

So from the end of January you’ll see the new feature on your Headland Weathercheck forecast, please let me know how you get on with it during the year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thanks Karl and his team at Meteoblue for their assistance in turning this from a concept to reality in doubly quick time, cheers to Paul as well on our side.

If your location isn’t currently set up on Headland Weathercheck and you’d like to be, then drop us a line to the usual address ;

All the best and wrap up well from Thursday, you’re going to need to !!!

Mark Hunt








January 19th


Hi All,

I think today is held to be ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year, but looking outside we have a clear blue sky, a touch of frost and a lovely sunrise, so I think we can consign that one to the litter bin of life alongside Black Friday 🙂

I can also see my first Snowdrops pushing through flower heads and another week or two and the Hellebores will be into flower I think, so what’s there to be depressed about ?


Ok it is chilly, my weather station is showing -1°C with a wind chill of -3.3°C, so it’s cold and that’s the way it is set to stay this week.

It’s a tricky week forecasting-wise coming up because we have cold air sitting over us and moist air coming in from the west. Where they meet there’s a good chance of snow and indeed Scotland has already had considerable snowfall at the end of last week. For those of you at or heading up to Harrogate, Wednesday is looking like a possible snow, sleet, rain day, but the forecast has been getting milder, the closer we get to this week. At present it’s a mix of sleet and rain forecast through Wednesday, so we should be grand.

General Weather Forecast

Ok for Monday we have a largely dry start to the day after a keen frost in most places. They’ll be plenty of sunshine early on and a light, westerly wind, so a pleasant and dry day for most. By late afternoon, the first of those tricky-to-predict rain fronts is pushing into the west of Ireland and moving slowly eastwards overnight, dissipating as it does so. It’ll be cold with temperatures only just above freezing for the day.

By dawn Tuesday, it’ll be just pushing into the south west of England and by mid-morning it will be into the south west of Scotland, but aside from this Tuesday looks like being another dry, cold day with plenty of winter sunshine away from the west coast of the U.K and Ireland, where that rain will be slow to clear the south-east corner of Leinster / Munster. As we move through Tuesday, this rain pushes further into Scotland falling as a mixture of rain, sleet and snow depending on the altitude.

Overnight into Wednesday, this rain front is pushing eastwards and by dawn looks to be positioned in a vertical line drawn straight up from the Isle of Wight to northern England. It’s here the uncertainty lies because depending on the temperature at the time, this moisture could fall as snow and then turn to sleet and rain as the morning temperature rises, tricky to call, but as I said above, the trend is for the latter because of slightly higher temperatures. So a pretty wet day on Wednesday for the U.K, but a dry one for Ireland with some sunshine. It’ll still be cold though with low single figure temperatures.

Overnight into Thursday, that band of moisture fizzles out over The Midlands, so Thursday looks like being a nice dry day, cold, bright initially but duller the further east you go, with light winds from the east / north-east. This change in the wind direction will pull more cloud over from The North Sea so possibly only a slight ground frost for Thursday night.

By the time we reach Friday we have another rain front pushing into Ireland for the morning rush hour, so into Kerry, Clare, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal early doors 🙁 For the U.K, it’ll be a dull, dry start to the day, but that rain band will be into Scotland by lunchtime and by the evening rush hour it’ll be pushing across the U.K in earnest, so a wet end to the week for many I’m afraid though a tad milder in a south-west wind. (But nothing to get excited about !)

The outlook for the weekend looks pretty good across the whole U.K and Ireland for Saturday with plenty of winter sunshine, dry, save for some light rain into the west of Ireland on Saturday afternoon. It’ll remain pretty Baltic though as that wind will swing round to the north-west and that’ll keep the chill button firmly in the ‘on’ position ! Sunday looks similar, perhaps more unsettled in the west and over Scotland and maybe feeling a little milder as the winds swing round to a more westerly direction upping the temperatures to high single figures, positively radiant by the standards of earlier in the week !

Weather Outlook

Next week is looking milder, that’s the good news, but wetter I’m afraid with a westerly, unsettled weather pattern kicking off the week. Through the early part of next week this will bring rain into the U.K and Ireland, but by mid-week we have a pretty intense low dropping into a trough in the jet stream so that means mild, southerly winds, gale force possibly at times and rain. So it looks like a wet end to next week with that low firmly in charge. Of course this could change, so let’s wait and see.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Stats

We are still a little way behind last year in terms of locations reporting total 2014 rainfall, so if you can dig out your figures and email them over that would be great. Please send them to, cheers.

Legislation and our industry going forward…

Last week I was over in Holland (Cheers Bart) and I was keen to understand the situation they have with pesticides because the rhetoric I’d heard was for all pesticides to be banned from managed amenity turf from 2017. Chatting through the situation now reveals that this market sector has been able to secure a (perhaps temporary) reprieve to this legislation by presenting the government with a ‘reduced pesticide usage’ option, known as a ‘Green Plan’

I wondered where our own pesticide situation is going ?

Where is our interface is between the legislators, CRD and the industry ?

Aside from the Amenity Forum, do we have this option available to us or will the legislators just keep removing fungicides till we are unable to manage turf effectively from October to April ? The same is true in Ireland, where the range of actives available to greenkeepers and groundsman alike is smaller and so the potential for resistance is higher.  Any of you coming along to my 30 minute fringe talk at BTME (Wednesday 12.00 p.m.) will find out that fungicide resistance is a real issue for us now and the range of effective products is extremely small in terms of Microdochium management.

Turf Management – October to March

Last week I posted about organic matter management and why I believed it was contributory to the poor performance of some turf surfaces at the back end of this year. A lot of people have said that golf greens (for example) have performed more poorly in the back end of 2014 compared to the previous year and as I stated I think this is one of the contributory factors.

Looking at the rainfall stats, this poor performance has been on some locations where they received less rainfall from October – December 2014, than they did the previous year, (this isn’t a universal pattern though as plenty of locations had more rainfall in 2014 than 2013). But monthly rainfall totals don’t tell the total story because there was actually a big difference between how we got our rainfall in the last 3 months of the year in 2013, compared to 2014.

I’ve just picked one location, The Oxfordshire, always towards the drier end of the rainfall stats for the year and graphed out the daily totals below. You can see the rainfall pattern, but if we just look at the monthly totals, this is how they look.

               October          November       December      Total

2013           86                       54                      77               217mm

2014           67                       92                      89               248mm

So in this location they received 31mm more rain over the last 3 months of the year in 2014, compared to 2013, but look at the pattern of the rainfall…



Note that in 2013, there was only one significantly wet day between November 14th and December 14th and this was because a high pressure was in situ most of the time. This allowed surfaces to dry out between the heavy rainfall of October and the beginning of November 2013. Contrast that with 2014 and you can see no such period of extended drying with heavy rainfall at the end of November and beginning of December. The longest period of non-significant rainfall was about 8 days vs. nearly 28 days the year before.

Rootzone Performance

So at the back end of 2014, we had more continual rainfall events and less drying out time, so surfaces have been saturated for longer, hence the problems we are seeing.

You must also look at your rootzone is terms of how it functions in moving water through the profile (firstly through the fibre layer) and down to the drainage layer below (hopefully).


I think it’s a fact that lot of turf managers are maintaining rootzones with poor physical characteristics and poor (in some cases non-existent) drainage and so we shouldn’t be surprised when we receive 10 – 16″ of rain (250 – 400mm) over the last 3 months of the year and they no longer function as we’d like them to. The continual rainfall events will mean that the rootzone is permanently at ‘filled capacity’ with nowhere for the water to go. If at the same time there’s too much organic matter in the surface, they’ll sit like sponges, wet sponges to be precise, until we either get a break in the weather and / or the E.T rate increases in the spring. So in addition to good surface organic matter control we need good drainage characteristics, if we are to provide a consistently good surface through the winter months. No amount of aeration and topdressing to sort the former will make a difference to the latter.

Ok a bit of a short blog today, have to get packed for Harrogate, I hope to see you all up there and if I’m busy on the stand when you come past, bear with me as I do my best to make time for everyone 🙂

Mark Hunt









January 12th


Hi All,

‘Spring has sprung ?’ according to a couple of pics I had sent to me last week from the south / south-west of England showing flowering Daffodils and a flowering Daisy. Well not so fast because we are only in mid-January and for sure winter hasn’t played all of its hand yet 🙂

JanDaffs daisy

We are set for a bit of a rodeo ride, weather-wise, this week, so saddle up and hang on tight !It is due to an extremely strong Jet stream pushing straight over The Atlantic and into Ireland and then the U.K. You can clearly see the strength and path in the animated GIF below ;


Not only will the wind remain strong this week, but as you’ll see from the forecast, we’re going to be affected by peaks and troughs in the pattern of the Jet stream which will whistle through some mild, but also some pretty wintry weather to boot. We got a flavour of this at the weekend, with Saturday morning starting mild and wet for many, by the afternoon, thWST090115e sun was out, but the temperature dropped by 7°C as that warm peak passed through and was replaced by a trough. (Glad I didn’t don my shorts when I was out mountain biking !)

Talking of peaks and troughs, at the end of last week, I measured 14.5°C at 10 p.m.,whilst sitting out in The Fens over Ely way, in pursuit of Zander, crazy, I was almost too warm in my winter fishing gear. By the time I got home it had dropped to a more modest 13.8°C 🙂

General Weather Situation

So for Monday we start windy (after a very windy night) with rain affecting the east coast of Ireland and the west coast of the U.K. Further inland it’s dull and mild. Through the morning, that rain sinks south to affect central and south U.K regions leaving Ireland and the north of England bright and sunny. Scotland remains wet I’m afraid as a new rain pulse pushes into the west coast. The wind will be west / north-west, strong, but temperatures will be up on the weekend as a mild peak pushes through. (Not for long though)

Overnight into Tuesday that rain is still hanging around Scotland and the southern coastline of the U.K, and it’ll be reluctant to clear I’m afraid. Further west another pulse of rain is into Connacht and Wales and through the morning this attempts to push eastwards, though east Leinster and Munster may stay dry. In the U.K that rain succeeds in pushing east and behind it is some cooler weather, so temperatures on Tuesday will be down on the start of the week. A brighter day for many with some blustery showers, possibly falling as snow on higher ground in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. Winds will remain westerly / north-westerly.

For Wednesday we have a clear, dry picture over England first off, but there’s rain sitting over the west of Ireland and Scotland and this will push south-east though the morning into north-west England. Further south should stay dry all day but still feeling cold in those winds, so still the threat of wintry showers. By Wednesday early evening those winds strengthen and push heavy rain into Ireland and Scotland. Later on this rain reaches the west coastline of the U.K and overnight into Thursday pushes across country to give a pretty wet night for most.

By Thursday morning that rain is still sitting over central and southern parts of the U.K, with another front over west Munster, south-west Connacht and north-west Scotland. Through the morning, this rain tracks south and east, so another bright, but blustery day, milder though, especially in the west, with frequent showers. Some places in the central and eastern parts of the U.K may stay dry after that initial rain has cleared. Scotland looks to have a drier end to the week with less rain around.

Another day of sunshine and showers for Friday with again some rain for the north-west of England and Scotland, potentially heavy in the former. Elsewhere it should be bright, cold and windy and by the afternoon those winds will whip around to the north-west and that’ll bring temperatures even lower. Many places will close out the day bright and clear, so a risk of overnight frost for Friday night.

For those of you heading up to Harrogate for the weekend, it doesn’t look at all bad, bright but pretty chilly, so take some good winter clothing with you !  So Saturday and Sunday look dry on the whole save for some rain affecting Connacht, Donegal and the north-west of England. This may hang around most of Saturday I’m afraid. Further south it’ll be chilly, but with weakening winds after the battering of this week as that low pressure pushes through. You may even see the sun as well 🙂

Weather Outlook

Next week looks like starting unsettled with a strong, north-west airflow and that means windy, with a keen wind chill and a risk of snow over Scotland, the higher ground of Ireland, Wales and England. Accumulations may be heavy in places. The main risk is during Monday and Tuesday morning after which the wind strength drops and by Tuesday p.m. it swings around to the west to push in milder weather, so by the latter half of Wednesday temperatures will be on the up. It really depends on the temperatures we get early on next week if it falls as rain or snow. I’ll have a better handle on that at the end of the week, so I’ll do a mini update for the benefit of people travelling to BTME. After this brief cold snap it looks to be milder and unsettled with rain pushing through on Thursday and Friday to close out next week.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Data

Paul informs me that we’re getting rainfall data on a daily basis, but if you want to see at Harrogate how your venue compares, please forward them to us in speedy fashion ! As a reminder, please email them to

So far the wettest data is from the south-west of England at 2438mm, that’s nearly 2.5 metres of rain ! The driest is 595mm from the north Midlands, so it’s clear we’re going to have quite some variability in 2014 !

Wet Greens

I’ve had a lot of feedback through December on how wet green surfaces are sitting, seemingly far wetter than this time last year despite in some cases lower rainfall levels.

What makes it even more intriguing is that many of these clubs have done good aeration and topdressing throughout the year, so why is it happening ?

Water movement through a green profile is affected by a number of different factors, but this week I’m going to start at the top of the rootzone, because that’s where I believe the issues can start. The first barrier to watethatch#r movement is organic matter and its ‘nature’. We know organic matter will retain water, but not only does it retain water, it also impedes water flow even if the depth of fibre is not excessive. It comes down to how well integrated the fibre is by topdressing and it’s easy to determine this. Cut a section of the profile and carefully (mind your digits) push a knife into the profile starting at the bottom and working up until you feel resistance. This point will mark the bottom of the thatch layer. If the resistance to the knife is hard then you know you have a problem, no matter what your organic matter readings in a soil test report say !

MVI_1627 thatchmeasurement

Gently compress the layer above the ‘bite point’ using your thumb and forefinger and measure this layer.

This will give you an idea of the magnitude of problem you’re facing or conversely how well your aeration and topdressing program is working. Typically I’m looking for 8-12mm of well-integrated (with topdressing) surface fibre in order for the roots to be able to penetrate down into the profile.

Finally turn the profile around 180° and then pull the plug apart slowly, looking for the orientation of the revealed roots as you do so.


If the plug is difficult to pull apart there’s a good chance you’ll also see roots travelling horizontally instead of vertically downwards, this is known as ‘bridged rooting’ and is an indicator that the grass plants roots are unable to penetrate downwards because of a physical barrier, usually this is an organic matter layer. Another ‘give away’ sign is where an aeration hole is visible in the profile and you can see a mass of vertically-integrated roots. (see below)

It’s also an indicator that no matter how much dressing you think you are applying, it’s either not enough or it’s not integratingThatch properly into the profile during aeration, so you end up with a layer of sand, a layer of organic matter, a layer of sand and so forth. The so-called ‘Victoria Sponge’ effect !

On the image left you can see the aeration hole on the far left of the profile and the darker, surface organic matter layer that had insufficient topdressing and bridged rooting evident.

Organic matter accumulation – Is it increasing with our changing weather ?

Followers of this blog since its inception will know that I’ve long championed the fact that our weather / climate is changing, the reasons are up to the boffins and politicians to debate, I prefer to work with the facts. You can’t dispute the fact that warmer air is pushing further into the end of the year giving us unseasonably mild autumn and sometimes winter periods (look at the end of last week). The grass plant is still going to grow during these periods, particularly where the cutting height is higher, so we’re talking outfield turf for sure, but also on fine turf if conditions allow.  The growth rate will be lower than the summer of course because it will be light-limited by the naturally shorter day length,

During periods of low light, but mild temperature I think we see both some shoot / leaf growth on fine turf, but more importantly in terms of organic matter accumulation, significant root growth.  I say more importantly because organic matter accumulation is mainly derived from root matter. So is our extended growing season a driver behind higher rates of organic matter accumulation ?

High Daily Rainfall is also another possible driver

Heavy rainfall is another driver for sure because we know that nowadays we tend to get spikes in rainfall intensity. These are often masked when you look at a month’s total rainfall vs. a point in the past. The totals may look similar, but how often do you hear “We got a month’s rainfall in a day” ? Quite often I think nowadays. Of course when a rootzone receives a high level of daily rainfall it becomes saturated and oxygen levels in the rootzone decline rapidly often to the point of hypoxia (oxygen-limiting conditions). So we see the formation of black layer and anaerobic conditions, often right in the surface, where the organic matter is accumulating. Anaerobicity doesn’t just smell bad, it is also negative for healthy fungal and bacterial activity. So where we have low oxygen levels, the rate of organic matter decomposition by fungal species such as Actinomycetes declines (because their activity becomes oxygen-limited) and fibre accumulates. A perfect storm.

So for me surface organic matter is the first place to look at if your greens appear to be puddling quicker than usual or sitting wet under foot. Of course it isn’t the only explanation, life is never that simple is it ? Rootzone particle and topdressing sand characteristics, silt and clay content and of course drainage deeper down the profile all play their part.

I don’t envy you guys out there because as I’ve just explained the weather may be working against us on this one. We also know the economic climate and attitude of many clubs is also a contributory factor. The advent of social media means that a club that aerates when golfers don’t like it (365 days of the year) is sure to get some crap posted on Trip Advisor, Facebook or Twitter, spreading the word far beyond where it used to be confined to a huddle of disgruntled golfers at one end of the bar.

So we see more pressure to ‘skip’ aeration or use microtines, which as you can see from the ISTRC chart below (download here) will only affect just over 3% of the surface area of your green if you are able to hollow core at the closest of spacing’s. Even if you are, it is very difficult to get topdressing into these small tine holes because they soon close up 🙁


Chart reproduced courtesy of ISTRC

It’s tough love I’m afraid, but you are in for the long haul with this approach and I’m afraid the negative consequences will become apparent long before you’ve managed to treat a significant % of the greens areas. Don’t get me wrong it’s very easy for me to sit and type this from the sanctuary of my office, it’s you who have to try and sell this difficult story to upper management and like I’ve already said, I don’t envy you.

Good luck on that one, I hope to see you all at BTME and hopefully I’ll be as busy as usual on the stand, so be patient with me 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt




January 5th


Hi All,

The first blog of 2015 and a belated Happy New Year to you all.

Not too bad a Christmas weather-wise, save for 2 particularly heavy rain periods, one of which turned to snow on Boxing Day and meant that I missed out on my Paddy Power – White Christmas bets by less than a day, Bah Humbug and all that.

December 2014 was also a colder month than previous, with 13 recordedfrost2 frosts, down to -6°C, compared with just 3 milder frosts in December 2013. Good news really when you consider the beneficial effect frosts have on the soil and more importantly on naturally lowering pathogen activity. They also look brilliant. Yesterday it was like someone had airbrushed everything with white, sparkling paint as I was out walking, simply beautiful and a great set-me-up for the coming week and the return to work 🙁

As we start January and trying to be positive, it’s worth commenting that we are officially on the way to spring with the sun beginning to rise higher in the sky, as this pic taken over a beautiful, frosty and misty Eyebrook Reservoir using Sunseeker 3D shows, …the blue is the lowest arc of the sun at The Winter Solstice, the yellow was yesterday’s arc.


So onto the weather…..

General Weather Situation

As we start the week we have a pretty settled day to kick off, with light south-westerly winds, frost-free (if you had cloud cover) and dry. As we move through Monday, the west coast of Scotland starts to pick up some showers and these move south down the coast into England and Wales through the afternoon. By late afternoon, a band of rain is into Connacht and west Munster, pushing eastwards over Ireland, overnight. The rain also intensifies on the western coastline of the U.K during the night and slowly pushes inland. Temperatures will be high-single figures, so not bad really and not dipping much during the night either.

So by the time we start Tuesday we have a wet picture over Scotland, Leinster and the western half of the U.K. During the morning, this rain moves eastwards clearing Ireland and most of Scotland as it does so, to leave brighter, clearer weather behind. The wind remains south-westerly and so keeps temperatures up, just shy of double figures for most, however with those clear skies it’ll be a colder night, with a touch of ground frost in places.

By mid-week we have an intense low pressure system starting to influence the weather, so you’ll notice it’ll get windier for starters, though those winds will remain in the south-west initially. By the morning rush hour we have a heavy rain front into Ireland and Scotland and this will move south and eastwards during the morning, so some heavy rain for Ireland, Scotland , north-west England and Wales by lunchtime. By the evening, this rain has cleared most of Scotland and Ireland, but remains over northern England, Wales and central regions. Temperatures similar to earlier in the week, but it’ll be noticeably windier.

Overnight into Thursday that rain will situate over southern England, so a wet start to the day here.  Elsewhere save for some rain over north-west Scotland, it’ll be a dry start to the day for most, but won’t remain so for long as rain pushes into Connacht, Leinster, Wales and the north-west coast of England in time for the morning rush hour. Some of this rain will be heavy, with blustery showers forming in the strong westerly / north-westerly wind. Temperatures will be a little down on the beginning of the week, as the wind direction changes to the north-west. It’ll still be very windy.

Closing out the week, we have a repeat play of Wednesday’s weather, i.e a dry start, but heavy rain pushing into Ireland and Scotland from the start of the day, to round out a pretty wet week for you guys I’m afraid. Further south we won’t see that rain till later in the day as it pushes across country, but as the wind swings round to the west, it’ll feel noticeably milder, with temperatures up in the double figures by the end of Friday. It’ll still be really, really windy, gale force in places, so take care if you’re out and about.

The weekend looks unsettled and remaining windy at this stage, mild initially on Saturday, but as those winds swing round to the north-west, it’ll turn cooler. Continuing the pattern of the week, for Scotland, Ireland, Wales and western coasts of England, it’ll be wet, with frequent showers or heavier bursts of rain. Further south and east, it’ll be drier and for a time, it’ll feel really pleasant, but expect showers during the day. By close of play Saturday, it’ll be noticeably cooler though as the winds strengthen from the north-west and more rain will push through, continuing through Sunday with the unsettled theme, particularly for the north and west.

 Weather Outlook

As you can see from the Unisys graphic at the top of the blog, we have high pressure sitting to the south of us and a cold, intense low pressure system above. From the start of next week it looks like the low will win the day and that means colder, with an increased risk of wintry showers, especially over Scotland and the north of England. Rainfall-wise, it looks like blustery showers until mid-week, next week when a potentially heavy pulse of rain looks to push into Ireland and the south-west of England, before tracking eastwards over the U.K. The only benefit from the windy nature of the weather is that it will move any rain / wintry showers through quite quickly.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Totals

Just a reminder that we will be collating our usual annual rainfall totals for 2014 into map form, so if you can wang them through, that would be great. The email address they need to go to is ;

We will cut off the data consolidation on Friday 16th January to give Paul a chance to knock it into shape.

2014 – A quick look back



As you can see from the collated GDD data, 2014 turned out to be a reasonably ‘normal’ year temperature-wise with a good start to spring, a hot July, a cool, wet August, a super-dry September and then another very mild end to the year with record temperatures for October in particular. From a GDD perspective, 2014 just shaded 2011 as the warmest year since we started this work.

Rainfall-wise we have greater variability across the U.K and Ireland, but we started extremely wet and then endured two trough events in the jet stream that caused a cool, wet May and August.  When it’s mild at the back end of the year, it’s invariably wet and that’s how 2014 played out and in fact 2015 has started !

Organic Matter Control – Use January if the weather plays ball

We know that there’s plenty of pressure on clubs to minimise the impact of aeration on the revenue stream, the same goes for topdressing. We also know that less aeration is false economy because it will catch up with you eventually.

For example, in the future if we have less effective Microdochium fungicides available, reducing organic matter and thereby providing less of a favourable environment for disease development will be one of the important spokes in the wheel for reducing the impact of disease on your turf. One of the ways to tick both boxes is to try and aerate ‘out of season’ and for me January is a prime month, ‘if’ and it can be a big ‘if’, the weather plays ball.

Back and Front Tees

These are a pain in the butt when you think about it as they don’t get a lot of play, but have to be presented well alongside the ‘in play’ teeing areas. January is a great month to hollow core these areas with some meaty tines, leave them open and give them a chance to breath. You can see from the GDD data above, that there’s only been one cold January (2010) in the last 5 years and often January is milder then February, traditionally the coldest month of the year I think.


If you know that your greens are getting softer and you are struggling to get your club to ‘give you’ aeration slots, then if the weather plays ball (And here we are mainly talking about rainfall prior to and during the work), January presents a great opportunity to hollow core surfaces. Ok I accept it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get a topdressing in, but what’s the difference between making holes with a vertidrain for example or a 1/2 ” hollow corer, the answer is that you’re removing fibre with the latter and that is key.

My experience has been that January coring ticks lots of positive boxes, you remove fibre, clubs and golfers are less likely to complain about a surface in January than they are in March or April and you often have the surface back before things get busy in the spring.

You could then skip a microtine in the spring, (which removes very little fibre anyway) replace it with a good scarification and then try and persuade the club that August is the best month to aerate and gain swift recovery. On that subject we can use GDD data to make a convincing argument on why August is the best month to aerate and gain fast recovery.

Late Summer / Autumn Aeration – What GDD tells us

Taking the GDD data above and averaging it out for August to November over the last 5 years, we can see the following ;

Month                                   August            September        October

Average GDD Total              325.4                 245.0                  180.4

In essence what this shows is that there’s a 25% reduction in growth potential if we compare September with August, so that means it’ll take longer to recover surfaces. If we wait until October to aerate, this reduction in growth potential increases to 45% vs. August.

In plain and simple English, the later you leave it, the longer it takes to get a surface back. In addition, we know the trend is also for milder and wetter October’s, so this makes it much harder to get good aeration done and furthermore, to topdress, knowing that disease activity is at its potential highest.

So bite the bullet, aerate out of season if a slot presents itself and make sure your club sees the benefit of doing so. Who knows it might just convince them to give August a trial as well ? I appreciate that the weather has to play ball and for the west and north this isn’t as likely because of rainfall patterns, but it’s worth a thought.

All the best for the coming year and remember to send that rainfall data in if you could please 🙂

Mark Hunt