‘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 🙂
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, the 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 🙂
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 !
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 water 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 !
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 integrating 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 🙁
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.