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 https://extension.umass.edu

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