Monthly Archives: February 2015

February 16th


Hi All,

Another weekend of two halves but for some yesterday the sun broke through the fog and pushed the temperature up to just a shade under double figures and once again you got the distinct feeling that spring is around the corner 🙂

That said our weather is on the change and this relatively settled and dry spell is not going to last as originally hoped. We have some very deep, Arctic low pressure systems pushing down on us from the north so that means much windier and wetter weather is on the way, especially for the north of England and Scotland for the early part of the week and everyone as we progress from mid-week onwards.

On a housekeeping note, there won’t be a blog next Monday as I’ll be sitting in classes at GIS2015 in San Antonio, Texas, so hopefully some interesting topics to chat about the week after…I’ll also be Cold Turkey from Costa coffee after a week of Starchucks 🙁

General Weather Situation

For the start of Monday we have a band of rain currently sitting along the west coast of the U.K and moving slowly eastwards with the first rain due to arrive in The Midlands mid-morning. This rain may fall as sleet and snow over the higher ground of north England and Scotland. Ireland which had a wet day yesterday starts off relatively clear with some sunshine. That band of rain is really slow moving and doesn’t reach the south east to the rush hour, so a wet and dull end to the day here. Once that rain is through, it looks like a mixture of cloud and some sunshine, more chance of this the further west you are. Winds will be light and from the south surprisingly and temperatures mid-single figures typically, maybe a degree or two higher if the sun breaks through.

For Tuesday, we have a much better day, dry with plenty of sunshine for just about everyone UK-wise, save for some light rain into the north-west of Scotland p.m. Ireland looks like having more cloud cover but still some morning sunshine over east Leinster and Munster. Later in the day cloud will build from the west as a new band of rain approaches, pushing into the west of Ireland later on Tuesday evening. Winds will be light and temperatures will be lovely in the sun, up to high single figures and we may just break into the ‘doubles’ down south. Clear skies mean temperatures will drop markedly when the sun sets so a cool night, but hopefully just frost-free.

By mid-week we have a cloudier day for the north and west as that rain that crossed Ireland overnight reaches the north-west of the U.K. Further south another nice day with sunshine early doors, giving way to more cloud cover as the day progresses. Slightly stronger winds from the south-west on Wednesday which later in the day push heavy rain along the west coast of Ireland and the north-west of Scotland. That heavy rain will push across all of Ireland overnight into Thursday, accompanied by fresh south-westerly winds.

For Thursday we have that heavy rain clearing most of Ireland, maybe some showers still affecting east Leinster but it’ll have moved on into the north-west of England and Scotland, so a damp start to what is turning out to be a damp week for you chaps. At present the rain is projected to affect a line from The Humber down to the south-west initially, but as we move through Thursday, it’ll sink south and east to reach The Home Counties. Cooler temperatures due to a strong south-westerly wind, mid-single figures at best for most folk.

Overnight into Friday we have that rain clearing the south-east and moving off to the continent with only an isolated area of rain affecting Wales. As we move through the morning, some rain, sleet or snow pushes into the north-west of Scotland, Ireland and Wales quickly moving eastwards. Again falling as sleet or snow over higher ground. By mid-afternoon this rain is likely to affect pretty much all of the U.K and Ireland, so a pretty wet end to the week for all of us. It will however be milder with temperatures up in the high single figures, pushed on by a strong south-westerly wind.

The weekend looks like one of two distinct halves, Saturday being mild, breezy and dry but with strong westerly winds and rain moving in for Sunday across Ireland and the bulk of the U.K to give a more unsettled day. Those westerly winds will really push temperatures up so they are likely to give low double figures for Sunday which means that rain will be nice and warm 🙂

Weather Outlook

The start of next week looks very unsettled to say the least with a really deep low pressure system coming into play. This means rain, sleet and snow for Scotland and the north, accompanied by driving winds. Further south it will remain drier, longer, with a brief interlude on Tuesday as that low moves off, but not for long as another one takes its place and pushes heavy rain through on Wednesday. The south may end up being not so bad, as the centre of the low is over Scotland, so lower amounts of rainfall the further south you go. It will feel cooler in those winds though, which will swing round to the north-west at times and make it fell really chilly. Those packed isobars look to be in situ for all of next week, so that means unsettled, cool is the theme for the week, maybe getting a little milder towards the end of the week. At least they should get me home from Houston nice and quickly if the pilot hitches a ride on the strong west-to-east jet stream 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Late Winter Aeration

For all of you guys who sent in pics of their hollow coring last week, fair play, you were able to take advantage of the settled, dry conditions we had. I know a lot of courses and pitches couldn’t because they were still frozen or sitting wet with a thawed surface sitting over a still frozen rootzone. It just goes to show how irrelevant the calendar is when it comes to this kind of thing. That window for aeration is closing now with the arrival of today’s rainfall, but will remain open on Tuesday and Wednesday in the south of England particularly.


Nice Granular Fertiliser Window Coming…

With the soil temperature sitting at 6.4°C here, that’s just high enough to start a little bit of growth going and with much milder conditions due over the weekend, I think we will see our first positive GDD of February, particularly as we know that warm rain tends to raise soil temperature quickly.

So if you have areas that really need a kick because they’ve taken a lot of play over the winter like winter tees, sports pitches (particularly Rugby), Tuesday and Wednesday this week is a great window to get a granular out before we get too windy and / or too wet to take advantage of the weather.


The same goes for tees, approaches, complexes, outfields, etc from a moss perspective whether you’re applying a high Fe granular or have a chance to spray a high rate of iron to green up areas early in the season. You should have a nice window for this during the week, except of course for the north and west, particularly Scotland where it looks pretty wet on most days of the week with maybe only Tuesday an opportunity.

This will work doubly well if you’ve already aerated because the low rate of top-growth will mean good root growth potential over the coming 10 days or so….

Grub Activity

I’ve had lots of pictures of grub activity sent to me over the last week with Bibionids – the larvae of Fever Fly and St Mark’s Fly, high up on the list. These caramel, brown grubs tend to sit right in the surface and in clusters (see pic below)



There is no labelled insecticide to treat them and although some people have reported activity from Chlorpyrifos when they’ve been spraying Leatherjackets, I think the shallow depth and the fact that they tend to cluster in organic matter makes them hard to hit. That said, although I’ve seen leaf tipping from their activity on outfield areas I don’t think the grub itself actually does that much damage to the grass plant. It is usually the activity of Corvids, Badgers and Foxes digging for them that presents the issue.


Chafers are also being spotted under turf at varying depths and in varying sizes. These are particularly an issue on and around bunker banks because of the sandier nature of the soil and the fact that like most grubs they tend to prefer feeding on freely-draining sites (contoured areas) The advent of warmer soil conditions kicked off by that forecast of mild rainfall at the end of this week and over the weekend will see these grubs start to move towards the surface to feed on newly developing roots.

Microdochium Nivale Activity (Fusarium to you and me 🙂 )


I think the milder and wetter weather forecast will kick in some activity from Microdochium nivale, in particular around the edges of old scars where the population is likely to be highest. It may not yet be mild enough for brand new activity, but around old scars is always the favourite starting place in late winter, early spring.


Ok, that’s it for now, remember there won’t be a blog next week because I’ll have my head down in classes at the GIS, no doubt trying to keep my eyes open from the reverse jet lag 🙂

I’m doing a real mix of classes from maximising soil oxygen levels to nematode management, with plant stress management and foliar fertilisation thrown in for good measure, should be a grand time 🙂

All the best…

Mark Hunt





February 9th


Hi All,

Yesterday was the first day of the year when the sun rose and had some real heat in it. I knowcellandine other areas were under a bank of fog, but here in sunny Market Harborough, Leics, the temperature pushed up to 8°C and I was able to do a lovely (but very muddy) walk in a T-Shirt and top.  Such a contrast with Saturday when it barely got to 4°C and we never saw the sun at all. (I froze my nads off in a boat casting a very cold fly into even colder water !)

A first for me this year was the sight of Lesser Cellandine or perhaps more aptly named by some, “The Spring Messenger” poking up from amongst the leaves next to banks of Snowdrops, lovely to see. As we all know February is traditionally the coldest month of the year so we are not out of the woods if you pardon the pun, but every week that goes by during this month though without bad weather is a bonus and such is the coming week….

General Weather Situation

A pretty straight-forward weather forecast for the U.K and Ireland this week, certainly for the first 3-4 days as we have high pressure in charge, so that means dry and settled. Daytime temperatures will really be a feature of cloud cover, when you’re under it, then temperatures will be held down to mid-single figures, if you see the sun, they may push up to 8-9°C. So Monday looks dry pretty much everywhere with plenty of cloud cover, which may manifest itself in the form of fog and be reluctant to clear. There should be some breaks over The Midlands and east of England and here it’ll be a thoroughly pleasant day. Winds will be light for everyone, from the south and no rain on the radar except for some light drizzle on the north-west coast of Scotland. If you have cloud cover, you are unlikely to get a frost and that goes for all of this week.

Tuesday pretty much follows the same pattern, maybe some more breaks in the cloud cover over the west coast of Ireland and Scotland later in the day. Elsewhere it’ll be cool, dry and dull if the sun doesn’t break through. Again winds will be light so even though it’s cool, there shouldn’t be much in the way of windchill.

Wednesday sees some light rain showers moving down over The Lakes, The Pennines and across Wales first thing, these may fall as snow on higher ground. Elsewhere it’s another repeat of dry, dull or sunny depending if you happen to get a break in the cloud cover and light, southerly winds.

Thursday again sees some rain, sleet, snow showers moving down country and affecting The Border Counties and possibly the county of Leinster over in Ireland as well in the morning. Through the afternoon these may also work down the west coast of the U.K over The Lakes and down through Wales, again falling as a mixture of drizzle, sleet or snow over higher ground. By Thursday evening we see the arrival of some rain into west Munster and that will push up over Ireland overnight into Friday. We also see some more concentrated snow showers across Scotland and the north of England, again more confined to the higher ground. The wind will start to pick up strength, particularly across the west of Ireland and western coastlines of the U.K, but it will feel milder with temperatures up to high single figures. (golly gosh)

Overnight into Friday that rain front pushes east across Ireland, so a soggy start to Friday morning for you guys and girls. By the morning rush hour it’ll be into the west coast of the U.K in a line stretching from the south-west of England all the way up to Scotland and this rain may be heavy initially, particularly over Scotland. By late-morning, the band of rain will reach central areas and slowly progress across the whole of the U.K in a vertical band leaving behind it showery interludes. As we go through Friday afternoon that rain should have reached all areas, except the far east of England (Norfolk, Suffolk). It’ll be noticeably windier, but mild from the south-west with again temperatures in the high single figures for many.

Saturday promises to be a dull day, mild initially, but dropping cooler as those winds swing round to the north-west. They’ll be some rain around as well possibly tracking down the east coast of England and more likely, the west coast as well, with some heavy bursts first thing Saturday morning. Sunday looks to be a quieter affair with more in the way of sunshine for many. Temperatures still in single figures, but then it is February, so we can’t complain.

Weather Outlook

A tricky one to predict because the low that will bring us rain at the end of this week is due to depart slowly south and either side of it is stable high pressure, one system over The Atlantic, the other over the continent. The projection is that these will two high pressure systems will form to provide a huge, blocking high. If this is the case it’ll be good news for all as we will have less risk of snow. The tricky bit is what happens early doors next week as that low departs, there’s a risk of some rain, possibly heavy, but it depends on that linking up of the high pressure and how quickly this occurs. As projected next week looks to remain dry, cool with light winds and maybe more in the way of sunshine and so pleasant, high-single figure temperatures are to be expected.

Agronomic Notes

Now before I start writing this part of the blog I appreciate that some of what I’m about to say won’t be practically feasible for you because either you’re still frozen or maybe too wet, so bear with me on that front 🙂

Early Aeration

This weeks high pressure and potentially next weeks, if it occurs are great opportunities for aeration on many surfaces. Whether that’s vertidraining on fairways and outfields or slipping in that extra hollow coring that you know areas need but management and / or the already burgeoning fixture list won’t allow.

I’ve made the case for early aeration many times in the past but I think it’s worth repeating. This time of year, golfers in particular are just happy to be out, you’re on winter rounds in terms of revenue so little to lose in terms of reduced profitability, so putting holes in the surface isn’t a problem. Whether those holes come from a vertidrain or a hollow coring operation are neither here nor there, (to them) but the reality is with so little opportunities to do the work, this week and next week may present a great window to aerate and remove organic matter. It may even be dry enough for a light topdressing though with the absence of growth, this should only be light. The same is true of collars, surrounds and aprons, the latter of which are often some of the wettest areas on a golf course and logic would dictate that you won’t get much lateral movement of water off a surface if the surrounding area is wet as well.


No top growth = good root growth

At present there is little growth around or so it appears on the surface, but in these days of late winter when light levels are still low because of short day length and air temperatures are restricting new shoot growth, the grass plant is busy making roots. Anyone who has turfed recently will know that root development will be taking place at a much lower temperature than shoot growth and this is another reason why you can experience some great gains by vertidraining, solid tining or hollow coring at this stage of the season. Of course as I pointed out earlier, you do need ground conditions to work with you, so if you’re sitting wet then I accept it isn’t an option (from a smearing and non-ejection of cores perspective).


Image courtesy of

The old schematic above showing root development in the spring, a loss of roots in the summer and new rooting in the winter is not really applicable to our situation in the U.K and Ireland because of the widely-fluctuating seasons we now have. For instance we typically have a dry April and I believe we can lose roots during this period, particularly if irrigation strategies aren’t in place, whereas the schematic above shows this is almost the optimum period for rooting.

I think when we have little shoot growth conditions are optimum for root development and typically that’s in late winter / early spring, so for me I’d be moving spring aeration earlier in the year to take advantage of this. So get a good hollow coring in early, let the greens recover and then maybe scarify in the traditional March / April period to remove upper surface fibre (provided conditions are conducive for growth) and thereby avoid the usual bumpy greens and Augusta syndrome we are all so familiar with.  Next we have to keep an aeration slot in mind for late summer (August – mid-September is the ideal) to target more organic matter removal.

The same applies in a sports pitch scenario, not in terms of the type of aeration, obviously that’s different from a golf green, but the potential time frame to do the work, don’t be afraid of aerating early if ground conditions allow.

Thawing Cycles and Root Shear

As surfaces come out of being frozen we face what is perhaps the trickiest scenario for a golf course manager / groundsman alike. That is allowing people to play on greens that are thawing on the surface but still frozen below. In my mind this is a hard call but for me the worst period from a potential damage perspective is when the top 0-10mm has thawed and is then capable of slipping over the frozen rootzone below.

Not only will this cause root shear and damage to the green but it also represents a big health and safety issue for the golfer because it’s very easy to fall and of course the impact will be hard. Once the top 25mm or so has thawed then the surface is stable, now this depth will vary depending on the type of rootzone you are managing. In essence you need to determine when the surface has thawed out enough for it to be stable.

This will vary across your site so it’s key to go out and monitor the situation, measure the depth of thaw and frozen rootzone and decide on the course of action. Then communicate this to your management in a written form supported by data. It will be a changing situation so I’d suggest monitoring it through the day of thawing to give frustrated golfers an update. The problem of course is that as they sit in the clubhouse sipping Cafe Latte, snug behind warm reflected sunlight, they cannot understand why they’re being kept off the greens. Communication is everything. Best of luck to you.

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt




February 2nd


Hi All,

As we move into the what is traditionally the coldest month of the year from what was a pretty Wintery end to January, we should all console ourselves with the thought that we only have one more month of winter before spring should make an appearance. 🙂

Not that it’s a given nowadays with our changing climate that spring starts in March, maybe this year will be a late one?

Last night I watched the latest episode in an excellent series called “The Coffee Trail”, on Beeb2. This week it came from Vietnam, home of Asian coffee production and producer of the vastly inferior (IMHO) , Coffea Robusta bean, the harsher tasting, less smooth coffee bean that goes into most of our instant stuff. What caught my notice was the question of unsustainability of their industry due to over-fertilisation and more relevantly, climate change. The farmers remarked on ‘more extreme weather’ as a threat to their industry: heavier, more intense rainfall, extremes of heat and drier periods of weather / drought. It struck a chord with me how our weather patterns are working against the sustainability of golf in particular.

Unless you have a USGA-spec rootzone, (and a well-built one at that) then greens become tricky to maintain from October to March, due to our pattern of high rainfall at the back end of the year and elevated levels of disease. Even if you have this, without sand-capping the whole site, how do golfers get to them without splashing through heavy fairways and approaches.

Looking at the weather this weekend, you’d have to be mad to want to go out and play a game of golf, wouldn’t you?

ThorntonFeb15Shortly after typing this I mused on the fact that yesterday was the start of the Midlands fly fishing season at Thornton reservoir, near Leicester and yes there were plenty of mad people, myself included, sitting in boats in a negative windchill, just hankering to get out there and fish again, after 3 months of abstinence. Our generation are much hardier though than the one following us and less connected by an electronic umbilical chord to the latest PlayStation or I-Pad, god knows how you get those guys outside, without using a Cattle Prod! 🙂

So what do we have to look forward to this week ?

Well, a spell of settled, cold, but crucially dry weather is on the cards for most of us once the Atlantic high moves in from mid-week.

General Weather Situation

Starting off the week we have a dry, cold Monday for many after a hard frost. We aren’t totally out of the woods yet from a snow perspective as on Monday we have some snow showers over south west Munster and east Leinster, so I expect a nice Christmas cake topping on the Sugar Loaf 🙂 Those snow showers are also working down the west coast of the U.K, so a mixture of rain, sleet and snow expected for western and central Scotland, north west England, Wales and over the higher ground down in the south-west. Away from this it promises to be a settled, dry day, with hazy sunshine and a much lighter, north-westerly wind. Temperatures will remain at or just above freezing for most of the day.

Onto Tuesday and those bands of rain, sleet and snow have pushed into Ireland overnight, moving down from Co. Sligo to affect most of the country. For the U.K, it’s now the east coast of England and a band down The Midlands that looks to get this mixture of winter moisture, together with central Scotland. As we move through late morning, the weather clears to give a sunny day for most, except where those showers promise to linger, that is central Scotland and a band down the south-west of Ireland and England (straight down the M5 like). Temperatures will be similar to Monday, low single figures, with a stronger, north-west / northerly wind, so feeling distinctly chilly in a predicted -5°C windchill and another hard frost 🙁

By mid-week, we have that Atlantic high pressure beginning to push in and that will push the wetter air away to our east, so a much-reduced risk of snow from mid-week onwards. Wednesday promises to be dry, clear and sunny, perhaps more in the way of cloud cover down the eastern coast as a legacy of that low pressure system that brought the snow. Again there’s still a risk of some snow showers pushing down the east coast of Ireland and the U.K. Temperatures will remain very cold in a brisk, northerly, north-westerly wind and another hard frost for most.

For Thursday we have a very similar picture, though with a reduced risk of snow showers along the east coast of Ireland. In Scotland and the east coast of England, that threat remains though and some may push inland later on Thursday as the wind shifts round to the north-east, driving moisture off The North Sea. Again it’ll be pretty bloody cold, with a negative windchill. Brighter initially, but as that wind changes direction it’ll blow cloud in off The North Sea.

We close out the week with a settled, dry, frosty start and more in the way of cloud cover because of the wind direction. Still the risk of snow showers for the north-east of England, but away from this area, it’ll be dry and settled, perhaps more in the way of sunshine in the 2nd part of the day. Still cold mind.

That’s the way it looks for the coming weekend as well, less in the way of sunshine, certainly for Saturday, so dull, cold and bracing in that north / north-easterly wind. More in the way of sunshine on Sunday for the most areas, though westerly coasts my stay dull all day 🙁

Weather Outlook

As you’ll see from the Unisys Weather animated-GIF at the top of the page, we have high pressure sat right over us for the start of next week, so that means dry, settled, remaining cold, but perhaps a little milder than of late, with a lower risk of frost. From mid-week, next week onwards, we have a change in the wind direction to a more milder southerly, so a tad warmer and still settled. We have a new low pressure heading our way for the end of next week, but it may not even get to us till next weekend, so dry, cold and settled is the outlook. I’ll take that for Mid-February any day of the week 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Stats


Thanks for that late flurry of stats last week, Paul has updated the interactive version and the pdf has also been updated ready for downloading. Looking at the pattern of rainfall, I put together this rough schematic (above) showing the areas affected least and most by our meandering jet stream. It makes sense to me because when we have a southerly-orientated jet stream, the south-west of England is the first landfall, whereas when it’s a more northerly-orientated, the north / north-west of Ireland and the U.K (Scotland) is in the firing line.

The central and eastern areas of the south of England / Midlands are consistently the driest, however there’s a dividing line, south of Milton Keynes where you are more likely to be affected by rainfall pushing up from the continent during the summer, so this is why you often see higher rainfall totals for the south coast for example than The Midlands. As I intimated last week, I don’t think it’s a surprise that the Romans built the Great North Road up the eastern side of the country because it’s consistently the driest area, along a dividing line east of the M11 / A1.

Ok, I accept these are generalisations from the 100 or so stats we got, but the patterns are pretty stable, even if the totals vary from year to year. Thanks again for all the time and effort taken to submit stats.

Cold Temperature Dessication


Now this obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but in the drier areas of the U.K and Ireland, I think we will see some cold-temperature dessication starting to show by the end of the week / beginning of next week if the high pressure holds in situ. This primarily affects shallower-rooted grasses, so Poa annua in particular, both the annual and perennial biotypes. You may start to see (after a week of frosts that is), bleaching of areas in a pattern synonymous with Poa biotype distribution, especially on sandier rootzones and / or areas high in organic matter where rooting is shallower.

With many clubs operating an ‘open-even if frosty’ golfing policy (out of economic necessity), the effect of day-to day-play in a fixed pattern without the ability to move holes (because of the frost) tends to exaggerate this phenomenon. As I intimated above, it won’t be everywhere but I think it will appear this February because of the cold, dry high pressure that’s coming into play. Nothing you can do about it, it’s just worth noting that’s all.

Growth-Degree-Day Stats


January’s GDD data showed a month of 2 halves really, mild in the beginning with rain and then cold at the end as the jet stream sunk lower. The total for The Oxfordshire, Thame shown above was 22.5 growth-degree days, whereas down on the Costa Del Bournemouth the figure was double that at 47, in other words, good growing for half of the month ! You can download the pdf here

If we drill down into the growth potential and rainfall stats we can see clearly the majority of growth was achieved in the first half of January.


Growth Potential and Rainfall – January 2015 – The Oxfordshire

Great for recovery, but unfortunately we can also see we were consistently wet throughout the month in this location, so areas really didn’t get an opportunity to dry out. Better this coming month on that front but I have a feeling February will be a little or no growth month in 2015.

 Grub Activity


Despite the cold weather, there has been a few reports of Leatherjacket and Chafer activity, but I’m hoping this cold spell will knock that on the head. That said it’s often the case that Badgers, Corvids, etc are at their hungriest at this time of year, so you have a higher potential for damage on managed-turf this month when food is scarce as they search for grubs.

Ok that’s it for this week, the in-tray beckons….

All the best and wrap up well….

Mark Hunt