Monthly Archives: March 2016

29th March


Hi All,

With March all but gone and April just round the corner you’d like to think that we should start to see some warmer temperatures and more spring-like conditions. As mentioned numejetstream290316rous times so far this year though our friend the jet stream is providing a road block to this type of progress by maintaining its trough pattern.

There are some (weak) signs that this may change in the coming weeks but what needs to happen is for heat to build in southern Europe and effectively push the jet stream higher in latitude. It is this absence of heat that’s the issue and until we see a good, strong heat signature in the Atlantic, we are likely to stay in this cooler weather pattern, though we have some milder weather in store for later in the week and the weekend hopefully…

Countryfile and their early spring…???

I watched Countryfile at the weekend and I was amazeDSC_1303d at the way they kept going on about how early a spring it was because this flower was out in so and so and this tree was in bud in this place. All the references were from February and that’s true, we were way ahead of the game back then, but now ?

If you look at the GDD data in the agronomic notes section, you’ll see this March has been one of the coolest we’ve endured for a long time so any early gains have long since been negated in my mind by this and for sure a cool start to April. My Snakes Head Fritilaries (image right) are later than last year and only just coming into flower whereas this picture was taken on the 2nd April, 2012 and then they were in full flower. All this keeps my mind ticking over about our favourite flowering plant, Poa annua and when it is likely to make an entrance in this topsy-turvy year in terms of seedheads.

General Weather Situation

So how are we looking this week ?

Well after Storm Kate threw her toys out of the pram and blasted her way through the U.K yesterday with heavy rain and strong winds, Tuesday looks a much calmer picture with a dry, bright start for most people. The exception is where we have some heavy showers and these are currently working along the west coast of Ireland, South Wales and Northern England. These showers could well be a mixture of snow, sleet, hail and / or rain with accompanying thunder. As we go through the morning these showers will push north east across the U.K into south east England, north east England and the south west of Scotland. Pushed along by a blustery, cool south west wind. Ireland looks to have a mainly dry, bright afternoon after those wintry showers push off into The Irish Sea. Definitely a day for keeping your waterproofs close by as there’s an increasing risk of showers over The Midlands and Central England as we go through the afternoon. Temperature-wise, nothing to shout about because although the winds are from the south west, they originate from up north and so keep temperatures pegged back to high single figures.

Overnight into Wednesday, the showers slowly fade to leave isolated wintry ones affecting the north east of England and Central Scotland. With clear bright conditions for many, temperature’s will drop to close to freezing for the start of Wednesday so a ground frost could be likely. Wednesday morning sees those wintry showers still in situ over The Highlands of Scotland and also some morning rain is possible for south east Munster, along the Leinster Coast and across Donegal. Aside from The Highlands, it looks like Wednesday will be bright and sunny across most of the U.K with a hazy cloud cover. Any showers look to dissipate by the afternoon to leave a clear fine end to the day for most areas. Temperatures may just nudge double figures on Wednesday but with a clear night beckoning, they will tumble down to close to freezing.

Thursday is the change day of the week because after the hiatus following Storm Kate, a new low pressure is heading our way from The Atlantic (though this one looks to skim over us) and that means a change in wind direction and temperature. So a fine, dry, cold start for many on Thursday. Ireland will see cloud build pretty much from the off and this heralds the arrival of a rain front pushing into the west coast by early afternoon. This rain will move eastwards across Ireland but since it’s pushed along by a mild, south westerly wind it is likely to head diagonally into south west Scotland for late afternoon rather than affect England or Wales. Elsewhere we’ll see another dry, bright day with cloud cover building across the west, but even though the wind will be light, we will struggle to hit double figures across Wales and England. Into Thursday night and that mix of rain and wintry showers (for elevated locations) continues to affect Ireland and Scotland, whereas south of this it remains dry.

For Friday we see that rain sink south overnight into north west England and Wales but it doesn’t look at this stage like it’ll get any further south than a line drawn from Newport (Wales) to The Humber. So Friday morning sees that band of rain still in situ over Ireland and Scotland and slowing sinking southwards. Away from this rain it’ll feel milder in a moderate south westerly air stream. By lunchtime the rain should have cleared all of Ireland save for a reluctant band sitting over Wexford (sort of way) and moved north and east across northern England, Wales and southern Scotland. For central and southern England it’ll be a mixture of sunshine and clouds for the end of the week, but staying dry and feeling milder.

‘Mixed’ is the word for the weekend I think with that band of rain still coming into play but it will feel much milder. Overnight into Saturday that band of rain moves back north and west as the wind swings round to the south and so the east of Ireland, north west of England and Scotland could well see rain on Saturday morning / afternoon. A drier start elsewhere but by late morning a band of rain looks to push into southern England and then move northwards through the afternoon. By close of day Saturday that rain should have largely cleared Ireland, Scotland and most of England save for the north east where it’ll end the day. Temperature-wise I think we should see early to even mid-teens on Saturday with a light to moderate southerly wind. The exception is across the west I’m afraid and that means Ireland where it’ll feel cooler and they’ll be more in the way of cloud cover because of that rain so not a great weekend here I am afraid. Sunday looks less unsettled with a lower risk of rain showers and a nice, mild spring day though the wind looks to shift more westerly / north westerly, but it’ll be light in strength. Ireland should have a sunnier day, but still feeling a little cool I’m afraid.

Weather Outlook

So does April hold the key to the start of spring ?

Well certainly the beginning of next week will feel like spring has arrived because we’ll see a continuation of that mild theme for most places and dry to boot for many areas. The exception may be across Ireland on Monday and south west Scotland, but for the rest it’ll feel nice and mild on Monday with light winds in place. The same for Tuesday, maybe a tad cooler but still dry and sunny for most areas with the highest threat of cloud across the north and west. Wednesday should continue that theme, milder across the west now but I’m afraid it’s all change on Thursday as a new, cooler low is projected to swing down. That means a change in wind strength and direction to south westerly / westerly and a risk of rain across Scotland accompanied by a drop in temperatures. By Friday that rain will have sunk southwards to give a cool and unsettled end to next week. So not out of the woods yet in terms of temperature I’m afraid 🙁

Agronomic Notes

I’m going to carry on the theme from the last few weeks and look at how we’re doing as we progress through to the end of March…So here’s a look at 2016 GDD vs. 2015 to the end of March….


You can see that my prediction for nearly identical GDD at the end of March 2016 vs. 2015 is just about bang on, so I hereby claim the smug prize for GDD prediction  (no other candidates obviously) and promptly retire on the winnings to my luxury Swiss-style villa overlooking Shiskine Beach on the Isle of Arran 🙂

Now I know this is only one location and I’m going to be really interested to see your GDD spreadsheets for the end of March so please email them in to me and I can have a good look and show the difference between different regions of the U.K and Ireland. I’ve already had a glimpse of a 2016 vs. 2015 comparison from Co Cavan (Cheers Peter) and there they are ahead and staying ahead so I think we will see significant variation between westerly locations like Ireland, Wales and the south west of England vs. central locations. Time will tell.

The reason why I take issue with Countrywide is clear to see when you look at how the three months this year have shaped up GDD-wise…


So how does that compare ?

So what we can see is we had more growth in January and February and precious little in March until the last few days. March 2016’s projected total GDD of 16.5 for this location is the 2nd lowest we’ve measured for this location, the lowest being the cold winter / spring of 2013 when we hit 12.5 for the month, so clearly spring 2016 is nothing to shout about !

To put it in perspective growth-wise, a good growth month for March would return around 60 GDD in total for the month so we’ve only had 20% of the growth level of a mild March this year.

If you’re seeing slow recovery from aeration carried out in March or your winter season pitch to cricket conversion is a little lacking, this is the reason why.

The plus side is that you should have seen some growth over the last few days and are destined for more once the milder air stream comes in at the end of the week. I expect for most areas you’ll see the first good greens growth over next weekend with a rise in clipping yield by next Monday morning.

Plenty of purpling going on….


Now I know there’s been some purpling around for a little while now but looking at last year I posted about purpling on March 9th, a good bit earlier than this year for sure.

I’ve created a pdf extract which you can download here but one point that’s worth re-iterating is that this purpling only occurs on the top surface of the leaf because it’s the area on the grass plant that’s exposed to direct sunlight. If you flip the plant leaf over, the underside will be green and that’s why it isn’t a disease or a nutrient deficiency.

Poa annua Seedheads


So where does this leave us with respect to predicting when Poa is likely to seed in earnest ?

Note – I’m talking the Perennial Poa seedhead flush on fine turf here…

That is a very good question and in my mind there are two scenarios ;

  1. An early seedhead flush because Poa annua grew significantly during December 2015 and is therefore in an advanced state of seedhead development
  2. The Poa seedhead flush will be similar to other years based on a GDD total of around 130 (U.K biotype and different from the Irish Poa biotype). So currently we’re sitting on 70 ish for our Thame location (I appreciate other areas will be lower and higher) and April can serve us up anything from 60 – 130 GDD, which means we could see Poa annua seeding in the third week of April if the month is warm and the end of April / early May if it is a cool April.

The question is which scenario is right ?


Danish Sea Scurvy, that opportunist, halophytic (salt-tolerant) plant that’s been exploiting the salted areas of our motorways and other road systems is starting to come into flower already and that is early for sure, so if Poa follows this example we’ll see seeding pretty soon. You can read about it in an old BBC article here.

My money is on scenario 2, that of a more traditional Poa seeding date because I don’t think we’ll see the heat required to really push Poa seeding into top gear anytime soon. Time will tell I’m I am right, but I’d appreciate your experiences on this front if you’d care to drop me an email or a comment to this blog.

Ok have a good, short week..

All the best..

Mark Hunt






March 21st


Hi All,

As we passed through the Spring or Vernal Equinox yesterday, it means that we have officially started spring and marks the day when day and night length are exactly the same (apparently Equinox is latin for “equal night”, didn’t learn that at Welland Park Comprehensive :)).


To coincide with this event, the youngest of my hibernating Hedgepigs came out of hibernation on Friday and was joined by one of his parents yesterday. They have emerged on pretty much the same date now for the last 3 years and it must be day length that is the trigger to end their hibernation, (rather than GDD) because it certainly isn’t temperature !

March continues to plod on temperature-wise, stuck in a reluctant-to-shift trough in the jet stream which looks set to extend into April. Growth-wise I reckon March 2016 will turn out to be nearly as cold as the long winter of 2013, with very little in the way of GDD / GP to help us on our way. Strangely as well and I know some of you may disagree, but I think we could do with a drop of rain to help this along, not much, but  the top of the profile is definitely drying out.

General Weather Situation

I’ll start on Tuesday because by the time you read this you’ll have had most of Monday :). A dull day beckons with plenty of cloud cover owing to that north westerly / northerly wind, Talking of winds they remain on the light side for the start of this week but that is set to change later in the week. With cloud cover it means that there’s little risk of frost however it also means temperatures won’t be as high as today (if you saw the sun that is) so generally high single / low double figures is the order of the day for Tuesday. Nice and dry everywhere so a good work day and temperatures may even creep higher if you see the sun.

Moving onto Wednesday we have the beginnings of change and you’ll notice it first across the west coast of Ireland where the wind will swing round to the west and later the south west. For the U.K, it’ll carry on in a more north westerly aspect as we have to wait to Thursday for things to change, so another dull, dry day with light winds for most of us. That cloud blowing off the Irish Sea may just be thick enough to push some mizzly drizzle onto western coasts, but elsewhere it’ll be similar to Tuesday, so high single figures again temperature-wise. Ireland may see more in the way of sunshine and broken cloud on Wednesday and here it’ll feel a tad milder in a freshening south westerly wind.

Moving swiftly onto Thursday and the first band of Atlantic rain is projected to reach the west of Ireland early on Thursday morning and swiftly push across country in time for the morning rush hour. By mid-morning that rain has crossed the Irish Sea and has reached the west coastline of the U.K. By the afternoon it is has cleared Ireland and is now affecting a line all the way from the south west of England, through Wales and up to Scotland where it may fall as sleet / snow over higher elevations. By late afternoon this rain clears Scotland but will still affect northern and southern England and The Midlands. The east and south east though may indeed stay dry till dusk. Temperature-wise, we should just tip into double figures across the U.K, but Ireland with that clearing rain and sunshine may be even higher. As mentioned earlier, the winds will start to freshen for Thursday so moderate to strong winds are expected later in the day.

No risk of a frost on Friday with a south-westerly wind aspect and pleasingly a dry day on the cards after that rain moves through. It will however feel a little cooler in places as that wind temporarily switches back to a more northerly aspect over the U.K, but further west it’ll hold its south westerly trajectory so here it’ll feel milder. So for most Good Friday could indeed be a good Friday, but don’t think it’ll feel warm because it won’t with temperatures just nipping into the double figure region again, so nothing really to write home about.

Closing out Friday we have the forecast for the all important Easter weekend and ‘mixed and blowy’ is perhaps the best description of what awaits us. As I remarked to a colleague last week, it’ll rain on Easter Sunday because Kelmarsh Hall near me has an Easter event and it always rains for that !

Easter Saturday looks to be a re-run of Thursday with rain coming in overnight into Ireland and swiftly crossing the Irish Sea to reach western coasts by sunrise. Again some of this rain may indeed fall as wintry showers of sleet, snow and hail over higher altitudes. By Saturday morning it’ll have cleared most of Ireland and be into Wales, the south west, north west and Scotland, but all the time it’s marching eastwards, so a soggy fly fishing session awaits the ‘Saturday Sad Crew’ at Thornton 🙁 Accompanying this rain will be some pretty strong winds with gale force south westerlies expected on exposed western coasts. It’ll take most of the day to clear England, but western areas may be better off with a good chance of seeing some sunshine. By dusk this rain will still be affecting eastern coasts of the U.K and a new rain front will also be pushing into Connacht and north west Munster later in the day.

Overnight into Sunday and this low pressure I’m afraid is centred right over us so it’ll be sunshine and showers with the best chance of brightness first off on Sunday morning. Those strong winds though will have declined a tad, back to moderate in strength. So for Easter Sunday we can expect rain in the south west of England first off and perhaps some more for Donegal. This will push into South Wales and then move north east across the middle half of the U.K through the afternoon. South and north of this should stay mainly dry as should the bulk of Ireland. So a mixed day is on the cards particularly when you take into account that temperatures will only just struggle into double figures if they reach there at all. It’s all to do with that trough in the jet stream and it’s reluctance to shift elsewhere. Easter Monday looks to be more of the same with rain across the south of Ireland pushing into Wales, the south west and southern half of the U.K during the morning. Those strong south westerly winds will be back as well, but north of the centre of the low, you’ll have lighter winds, more of the sunshine and possibly drier as well. It’ll still feel on the cool side though I’m sad to say.

Weather Outlook

So a cool and unsettled start to next week beckons I’m afraid and with the low stuck in that trough, that’s the way it’ll stay through Tuesday with rain expected for Tuesday before turning cooler as that low brings down northerly winds for mid-week. That may mean some wintry showers for the end of March I’m afraid and the return of night frosts, gardeners be wary. By the end of next week we’ll be back to a more westerly airflow so a tad milder possibly but you know I can’t see any sign of decent temperatures anywhere on the chart until the start of April and that’s a long way off !

Agronomic Notes

Well I guess the first thing to say is kind of common sense really and it’s that if you’re planning on applying a granular fertiliser to outfield or fine turf then this week before Thursday could be a good time to do it. With soil temperatures sitting around 9°C and that rain falling at a similar temperature (in most places), that’ll be good enough to initiate some gentle, consistent growth. For the south of England you should pick up close to 10-14 GDD this week, but further north across The Midlands, north of England, Scotland it’ll be closer to 7 GDD. Ireland, Wales and the south west of England should tip in around 9GDD for the coming week. So an application of either foliar or granular fertiliser will result in some uptake and a turf response, but importantly that growth will not leave you coming in after the Bank Holiday weekend with clippings around your ankles.

Clippings around your ankles is one thing you won’t have had since December last year and looking at our cumulative GDD tracking for 2016 vs. 2015, the two charts are getting closer and closer so I confidently predict by the time we reach April the 1st, we will be at parity, i.e we will be at the same growth point on April 1st, 2016 as we were on April 1st, 2015.

Now that won’t be the case everywhere I’m sure so why not send me your GDD spreadsheet at the end of March and I can have a look see ? 🙂


Talking of December and looking at growth patterns using Growth Potential as the parameter you can see how different the level of growth was at the back end of 2015 vs. this March.


That’s why there’s no chance of clippings lying around this Easter because our daily growth potential is still pretty minimal when you compare it with the excesses of December last year.

Our inconsistent springs….


It further makes the case (I know it’s that old chestnut again 🙁 ) why aeration in January and February can be beneficial if your ground conditions allow you to do the work rather than waiting till March or April. If you look at the character of our spring weather nowadays, the only thing you can say about it reliably is that it is ‘consistently inconsistent’.

The GDD comparison for 2012 through till 2015 shows how different years provide different GDD totals at two date points in the spring (March 1st and April 1st) with wildly varying GDD totals. So the only thing we can conclude is that spring will be inconsistent and rarely reliable in terms of growth and more to the point, consistent growth. So when your club is allocating renovation weeks (If you are that fortunate) it may be worth mentioning this and the fact that August aeration allows you to remove more organic matter and gain quicker recovery because we do have consistent temperature at that point in the year. If you are looking for another spot then January / February is the one for me rather than March or April.

Rainfall Chart

I realised last week that I have forgot to post the link to the 2015 rainfall chart so here it is, sorry about that 🙁

Updated Link – fixed incorrect Ireland Locations (Sorry – IT Department)

Talking about rainfall, it’s funny but when we had that deluge the other week I’m pretty sure that the ground dried out much faster afterwards than it did compared to when we’ve had far less rain but it’s been more frequent and with no drying days in-between. So when you get significant rain in a day, like the 40mm plus we had 10 days ago, it seems to shed from the soil profile so much quicker (and that’s why areas flood) compared to receiving the same amount spread over 10 or 15 days. The latter seems to penetrate the soil profile and wet up the surface organic matter more effectively. Strange but true…

That’s all for today, sorry for the lateness in the day but it couldn’t be avoided.

All the best and Happy Easter Bunnies to you all…:)

Mark Hunt









March 14th


Hi All,

First off, an apology…

An apology for such an inaccurate rain forecast last Wednesday 🙁

My blog (and the two main weather sites I use) both predicted rain pushing down from the north west of England, it wasn’t expected to amount of much. The reality is that the wind direction changed and very heavy rain pushed up from the continent into the bottom of the trough pattern and then circulated through Wednesday morning, depositing huge amounts of rainfall. You can see the areas worst affected on this radar shot from Netweather.


I measured 40mm here but others were closer to 60mm of rain falling in two bouts. I’ve never seen flooding like it with huge areas of local farmland underwater. In Market Harborough, there’s a car park close to the main railway station and last year it flooded, this year it was even worse and 20 cars were completely submerged. (Note the safety feature where the windows come down if the car is submerged, useful for achieving a consistent flooding height inside and out !)


I decided to try and attempt my normal Wednesday late afternoon cycle and as you can see it wasn’t to be because the flood waters eventually reached waist high so time to abort 🙁


So a lesson to me and I guess many others (weather companies) who failed to forecast this type of event. Most sites picked it up 6-8 hours before it occurred but underestimated the amount of rain by a significant margin.

Onto the forecast for this week and let’s hope we can do better eh ?

General Weather Situation

As projected last week, this week we were due to have high pressure in charge and that is the case but it’s tilted on it’s side so some of us will pick up a cooler airflow than originally forecast.

Monday looks a lovely settled day with less in the way of mist and fog first thing (a blessing there both for visibility and temperature) and this will allow the sun to push through earlier in places. If you have the fog / mist, it’ll be the usual mid-morning till you start to see an improvement. There’s no rain anywhere forecast today. The warmest part of the high pressure sitting over us is across the north of England and Scotland so here you’ll see some lovely warm temperatures, up to 14-15°C, buoyed by a nice southerly wind. Further south it’ll be cooler with a light to moderate south east wind so low double figures elsewhere.  The night temperature should hold about 4-5°C, so a low risk of frost.

Tuesday sees another dry picture but this time we will see more cloud cover pushing in off The North Sea overnight, so a duller day is on the cards. The north west of England, south west of Scotland and across central Ireland should see some gaps in the sunshine during the morning, but elsewhere it may stay dull all day I’m afraid. Again the warmer temperatures are for the north with low double figures the order of the day, whereas further south and west, that moderate south east wind will peg them back to high single figures, maybe just breaking 10°C in sheltered areas. Later in the afternoon we may see some breaks in the cloud across The Midlands and North Wales. Again I’d expect temperatures to hold above freezing at night.

Moving onto Wednesday and we have another dry day on the cards, but continuing the pattern of starting off dull pretty much everywhere as more cloud has spilled in overnight from The North Sea on that easterly wind. This cloud cover looks less stubborn to clear on Wednesday so a brighter day for many areas from mid-morning and plenty of sunshine. The exception may be along the east coast where the cloud cover could persist through to the afternoon. Temperature-wise it looks to be high single, low double figures, again warmer for Scotland than for the south of the U.K. Winds will be light to moderate, easterly for most areas but as they’ll be lighter it may just give temperatures a chance to riser higher than forecast.

For Thursday we continue that dry picture with very much a carbon copy of Wednesday. Overnight cloud cover keeps temperatures up above freezing and by mid-morning the cloud cover breaks to give long periods of unbroken sunshine across the U.K and Ireland.  The latter could therefore enjoy a very pleasant St Patrick’s Day 🙂 Temperature-wise, similar to Wednesday with light easterly winds allowing high single / low double figures to be the order of the day and 2-3°C higher in Scotland possibly.

As we progress through the week the night temperatures drop away and this increases the chance of a ground frost on Friday morning. So closing out what has been a pleasant week on the whole, Friday sees the pattern continue with early cloud cover burning off to give a lovely sunny end to the week. The exception to this may be north east coasts and particularly north east Scotland, where the cloud may persist all day and be thick enough for some mizzle.  It may be as well that eastern areas pick up a more northerly air stream so this will peg temperatures back a degree or two compared to Thursday.

Unfortunately the outlook for the weekend isn’t as good, not from a dryness perspective, but because there’s likely to be thicker, more persistent cloud spilling over from The North Sea so that means duller and cooler for Saturday and Sunday, especially for Scotland which has enjoyed the better temperatures. The wind direction will also be more northerly and that’ll keep the damper on things I’m afraid temperature-wise. Over to the west of the U.K and Ireland, you should have a much better chance of seeing the sun and therefore a nice day on the cards for you. Now cloud cover is a fickle beast so let’s hope this is wrong and we continue the pleasant outlook through the weekend 🙂 Temperature-wise, more of the same really, high single figures, maybe a little lower due to the northerly wind aspect, but dry for all areas.

Weather Outlook

So does the dry outlook extend into next week ?

In a word ‘yes’ it appears to with the high pressure system sitting out in The Atlantic and preventing low pressure systems from pushing in. So next week looks to start in a similar fashion to how this week finished with a northerly wind aspect, dry and in places bright and sunny. We won’t however be seeing anything to shout about temperature-wise and so the prognosis of low temperatures and northerly winds looks set to continue. Towards the end of next week a low pushes down from the north and this may introduce more unsettled weather to eastern areas along with a much stronger northerly wind.  That could mean a chilly Good Friday for some 🙁

Agronomic Notes

Cool and Dry, Good for Roots, Poor for Shoots

With some pretty good day air temperatures since last Friday and looking to continue this week, especially for the north and Scotland, we will pretty soon be in a situation where we’re drying out thankfully.

Now whilst the combination of warm day temperatures and cool nights isn’t great for top growth, a drying soil profile and a lack of top growth means the plant can focus its efforts on developing roots. So if ground conditions allow (and I know after last Wednesday’s rain, it’s a big ‘if’) this week would be a good tine to do some non-intrusive aeration, compact vertidraining, solid or star tining will all produce benefits in my mind. Hollow coring of tees and other areas where organic matter may have accumulated over the winter will also be beneficial, even if you won’t immediately see recovery. When the air temperature warms but the soil temperature stays cool it’s often the case that the grass plant cannot develop significant shoot growth and so it does not partition energy towards the top of the plant. This means it can divert those reserves for use in developing roots provided the plant has sufficient oxygen available in the rootzone and that’s where the aeration comes in.

What if I need some top growth for recovery ?

All is not entirely lost especially if you’re in an area that’s likely to see more of the sun this week. During the warm part of the day I do believe you can initiate a response by applying light amounts of foliar nitrogen which is immediately available. This means ammonium and nitrate forms of N of course but also amino acid (which contains it’s own nitrogen). Many biostimulants are formulated with amino acid so applying a small amount of nitrogen (4-6kg / N/ hectare) in combination with an amino-acid based biostimulant can give you a small amount of top growth. Since the outlook is to remain dry through this week and well into next week, it is worth making a couple of applications a week apart if the need is to try and initiate some recovery. The higher the height of cut, the more likely you are to gain from this type of practice so tees, fairways, sports fields and the like will all show benefits. If you just want colour, tank mixing in a little iron at the same point in time will tick this box as well.

 Winter wear areas…


There are a lot of areas showing wear from the winter and none more so on golf courses where you have that familiar ‘rat run’ from green to the next tee. I think with drying ground conditions it’s worth working those areas, hollow coring, overseeding, topdressing and fertilising. I prefer hollow coring when it comes to seed establishment, particularly early on in the season because you’re dropping the seed into a core hole full of good quality rootzone sand (hopefully :))

The seedling has no impediment to develop a root system (no surface organic matter layer to try and develop roots through) and it also sits under the height of cut a little as well because it’s in the core hole.

You can argue that with the cool temperatures nothing much will happen until they pick up but if it is all in situ, then the jobs done and all we need is Mother Nature to comply and the job’s a good un…

Where we are this year…(continued)

Continuing the theme from last week I have updated the GDD stats comparing us with last year. I think I said back in February that it wouldn’t surprise me after experiencing a winter with autumn-like temperatures, that we then experience a spring with winter-like ones and this appears to be true with a pretty cool March to date.


As you can see from the chart above we are very rapidly approaching the point where we draw level and potentially fall behind last year. All the gains made during the mild weather in late January and early February 2016 will have soon been negated by this years cold March which has demonstrated pretty much no growth in terms of GDD this year.

Ok that’s it for this week, a bit of a short one I know…

All the best.

Mark Hunt








March 7th


Hi All,

After a taste of winter last week and over the weekend with plenty of frost, snow and hail showers, I am very pleased to say that by the end of this week many places will start to experience a taste of spring. That’s going to help dry areas out and commence some decent grass growth as well to boot if only for a short (ish) period.

Out walking yesterday it was noticeable how the land had ‘wetted up’ again and still has that grey and brown tinge of winter about it. From the end of this week we should all start to see that change and although it hasn’t been an overly cold winter, it does feel like it has been a long one doesn’t it particularly from a rainfall perspective.

General Weather Situation

Monday sees the bulk of the U.K start cold, bright and dry with another sharp frost whereas Ireland has more cloud cover in situ. This cloud will be thick enough for some rain over the east coast of Leinster and Munster through the start of the morning but it’ll dissipate later. That cloud cover is also likely to be thick enough to give some wintry showers feeding down into North Wales through this morning. There’s also a risk of continuing snow showers feeding off The North Sea into Norfolk through the morning. By lunchtime the picture looks dry and bright for most areas of the U.K and Ireland and that’s the way the day finishes off. In that sunshine temperatures will rise to high single figures, especially out of the cold, northerly wind which will be mercifully light 🙂

Overnight into Tuesday we see rain move into Ireland and the north west of Scotland and as that moisture butts up against the cold it will readily turn to snow even down to low levels. By the start of the morning rush hour that band of weak moisture has cleared Ireland and is pushing slowly south into The Borders and northern England so by lunchtime it’s into North and Mid-Wales. Here it’ll be falling as rain, sleet or snow. Elsewhere it’ll be a duller day over the bulk of England but still with a sharp frost to start the day. That cloud cover will steadily build through the day and eventually as we approach the afternoon that mix of rain and wintry showers will be down to The Midlands to finish off the day cold and damp. By Tuesday night we see a heavier, more concerted band of rain pushing into Ireland and north western Scotland, again turning to sleet and snow over the latter. Temperature-wise, mid to high single figures are likely with that cloud cover and the wind will be light to moderate and from the west for a short time.

By early morning Wednesday that band of overnight rain is pushing into northern England and Wales and will be wintry in nature over higher ground. Scotland will miss the worst of this and so by the morning rush hour the main area affected will be England and Wales with Ireland starting dry and bright after overnight rain. Through Wednesday morning a strengthening north west wind will push that mix of rain and wintry showers south east across England and should clear most places by the afternoon with only the south east hanging onto the rain till darkness falls. Temperature-wise, similar to Tuesday with the stronger and cooler wind pegging temperatures back.

Thursday is change day for Ireland as the wind swings round to the south west and brings milder air through the day after a cool, bright start. Further west for Scotland and England it’ll be a cold and dry start to the day with cloud cover holding temperatures above freezing. Any cloud will soon dissipate to give long periods of sunshine for the U.K, but it’ll remain on the cold side here because the wind has yet to change from its north westerly orientation. Ireland looks to have a dull Thursday with constant cloud cover and showers throughout the day. Temperature-wise we should see double figures for Ireland even with the cloud cover pushed in on light south westerly winds, whereas the U.K will be down in the familiar single figure territory I’m afraid.

Closing out the week for Friday we see that south westerly wind make it across the Irish Sea and so a milder start to the day everywhere. It won’t be a dry start though because the rain that affected Ireland on Thursday will push into western Scotland overnight I’m afraid. This band of rain and cloud cover will stretch across Ireland and into South Wales and diagonally up into the north east of England so anywhere above that will be dull with some light rain through the day. South and east of this line it’ll be dry and bright and feel much milder in light south westerly winds. That line will hold through Friday so a country of two halves on Friday. In that sunshine for the south and east of England temperatures will rise to double figures in a light to moderate south westerly wind. Lovely.

Looking ahead to the weekend and that diagonal split from Ireland up to Scotland stays in place for the first part of Saturday so dull and damp across Ireland, northern England and Scotland. South of this line it’ll be a bright start with light winds and warm sunshine breaking through from the off and I can’t wait to consign my bloody fishing thermals to the bottom drawer never to return. (Wishful thinking maybe) Through the day that moisture dissipates across Ireland and the north of the U.K and the cloud cover may break in places later into the afternoon. Sunday sees the centre of the high pressure right over us so for the west and north that will pull in warm, light westerly winds, but for the south, it’ll be slightly cooler, north easterlies. Regardless the outlook is dry and mild with some hazy sunshine for most places. A very long walk beckons.

Weather Outlook

So the end of the week and weekend suggests spring may have started, but will it continue into next week…??

Well as you can see from the image below this is the projection for the start of next week…


So we have a blocking high in place (As predicted a week ago 🙂 ) and that means dry and settled next week with very little in the way of any moisture. Temperature-wise it won’t be super warm but I’d expect double figures through the week, but possibly declining towards the end of the week as the high gets squeezed and introduces cooler winds. The wind will be markedly different depending on where you’re located with easterly winds in the south of the U.K, southerly winds for the west and westerly winds for the north. (There may even be a touch of northerly winds for the east just to complete the set :)) So a fine dry week in prospect for next week.

If I look further than that I think the high pressure will get squeezed out of the way for the start of the last week of March and we’ll be back to cooler and unsettled weather with a northerly air stream. (So maybe we’re not finished with winter yet)

Agronomic Notes

So we have a little taste of spring on the horizon and that means we should be able to get some good work underway and hopefully some recovery from work already undertaken. It’s worth stating at this point that March 2016 hasn’t been a good growth month and even with the pick up in temperature’s it won’t be tearing the houses down from this perspective.

Consider 2016 vs. 2015 in terms of GDD and here I’ve projected the figures for next week onto the graph so you can see what I’m on about..


You can see from the graph above that for in the first three weeks of March 2015 we added on 20 or so GDD, so in other words we had nice consistent growth. If you compare the actual and projected figures for March 2016, we will probably have added on 8 over the same time period, which means only 40% of the growth of last year.

So although we are ahead of 2015 in terms of GDD-to date, the fact is that most of this growth was gained in January and February, not March.

Again this hammers home why early aeration is key to getting good spring surfaces, but of course it can only be carried out if you have the resources, the ground conditions and are not tied up trying to complete winter projects. I think the penny is beginning to drop in this sense and I see more and more surfaces that have been aerated already.

Tine size and sand fill

Last week I looked at some greens that had been hollow cored, some with 8mm tines, some with 10mm and it was interesting to see the surfaces and the level of sand fill after topdressing.

This brings me onto that perennial debate about tine size vs. surface / golfer disruption vs. organic matter removal vs. recovery.


Consider the excellent ISTRC displacement chart above in terms of surface area treated by the respective tine sizes and rather than just look at the %, I think the notes at the bottom are probably the most pertinent. (Download here)

Note 2 states 3/8″ minimum for ease of topdressing fill if replacement of material is required.

This is what I saw last week in that the greens which had been hollow cored with microtines had very little sand down in the core holes because they close up so quickly after tining that it’s difficult even with a Sweep and Fill or similar to get sand down the profile. (particularly if there’s moisture about)

So you are left with a small tine hole with no sand down the profile and this means for me the surface is softer (because there is movement in the tine hole) and more disrupted. You also remove less fibre as a % of surface area treated even at the closest spacings.

I think we can all agree that if you manage to get sand packed down a core hole you are ticking a lot of boxes at the same time. Firstly, you are creating a free-draining channel through the surface fibre which will facilitate faster water movement. Secondly, the surface will feel firmer so you have less disruption to the golfer and lastly packed core holes will recover quicker than ones that are left open.

So for me if it’s possible I’d opt for a tine size which you can fill efficiently with the sand and equipment you are using and that means I think 10mm minimum. Now we know that recovery is slower, the larger tine size you choose but I think that once you go beyond 12mm there is a marked step in terms of time taken to heal over, up to that you’re grand. This is common sense of course because you are effectively waiting for the plant to tiller over a significant lateral distance.

Longer Growing Season = More Organic Matter Generated



Of course it’ll come down to your situation, budget resources, club expectations and the like but what we must all be aware of is that we have definitely carried over more organic matter from 2015 into 2016. With a longer growing season stretching into November and December there is no way we can’t have done. I’ve put these up before but looking at the monthly G.P for 2014 and 2015, you can clearly see the year-on-year difference.

Even if your rootzone has good infiltration properties, it won’t be worth a jot if it is covered over with surface fibre.

The week ahead…

Over the next 10 days for some areas moisture will be limiting, I know it seems ridiculous to write in terms of recovery but when I say limiting, I don’t mean in terms of grass growth, I mean in terms of fertiliser breakdown / response. For the south of the U.K we are only one moisture event in mid-week in order to get any granular fertiliser broken down, so let’s hope you already have laid out your stall in this respect. For Ireland, the north of England and Scotland there is more in the way of moisture around so actually you’ll have more consistent growing conditions and a wider application window.

Foliar’s will work nicely too…

Unusually for the U.K and Ireland, we do have some choice though because with light winds, warm air and dry conditions forecast for many at the close of the week you will also get a good response from a foliar treatment applied in a low water volume (400 litres or lower). So let’s use this opportunity to get the turf moving and presentation levels up even though we know that the growth window will only be 6 days or so, starting from Friday / Saturday.

As usual with either application type, cold-temperature nitrogen will be the order of the day. so that means primarily ammonium and nitrate nitrogen forms.

Winter Sports to Cricket Outfield Conversions

I know a number of you are just about or already embarking on this tricky transition when you have to ‘convert’ from winter season pitch to cricket outfield in time for the first matches to be played. This combination of drying soil and warmer temperatures should help in this process and provide consistent growing conditions at your height of cut. I know in many areas just getting out and being able to get good clean and dry cuts in will work marvelously whether its cricket outfield or semi-rough that is the area tackled.

OK that’s it for this week, Tempus Fugit ! and all that….:)

All the best

Mark Hunt





1st March


Hi All,

Just typing the 1st of March makes me feel like winter is finally on the back foot, but unfortunately as last year autumn took the place of winter, I think they’ll be a certain amount of winter taking the place of spring in 2016…

The problem is we have a jet stream that has formed into a series of peaks and troughs across The Atlantic and currently we are sitting in a trough. To the left of us, out in the Atlantic is a high pressure system and that’s blocking the traditional south westerly, mild air stream that used to typify our springs. This then channels low pressure systems into the trough from a northerly orientation (read cold). Once they are in the trough, they aren’t going anywhere quickly so they rotate in situ and pull in either cold northerly or potentially colder, easterly winds, which can mean wintry showers and snow.


So that sets up the start of March to be cold and unsettled I’m afraid, but let’s put some detail on it….

General Weather Situation

Tuesday sees that rain that I forecast yesterday (much easier to forecast a day out you know 🙂 ) sitting in a vertical band over the southern half of the U.K clearing Ireland during the morning (though leaving behind showers). This will slowly move eastwards into south east and eastern England through late morning and the afternoon bringing some heavy bursts of rain in places. Scotland will miss the worst of this today with only lighter rain affecting the west coast and some wintry showers over The Highlands. By evening rush hour that rain has largely exited stage right to leave a dry, mild picture over the U.K and Ireland, with the only blemishes being some rain over Donegal, north west Connacht, the west coast of Scotland and the north west of England. Winds will be moderate and from the west which means the air will be mild and we’ll see temperatures in the low to middle teens by the afternoon, but they won’t last unfortunately.

Overnight into Wednesday those mild temperatures quickly become a thing of the past as the temperature drops markedly overnight, so we start Wednesday cold and unsettled with rain, sleet and possibly snow showers affecting the north and west of Ireland and the U.K right from the off. As westerly moisture meets colder continental air I expect some of these showers to turn to snow over the higher elevations of the south west of England, Wales and The Lakes. As we progress through Wednesday morning this band of moisture sinks south east over Ireland and the U.K, pushed along by a cold north westerly wind. By lunchtime we see more moisture pushing into Scotland, Ireland and the north west of the U.K, falling as a mixture of rain, sleet and snow and this slowly moves south and eastwards through the afternoon. So a wet, cold day with some wintry showers for most places on Wednesday. Temperature-wise you won’t get much change out of mid-single figures I’m afraid, pegged back by a raw and strengthening north-westerly wind.

For Thursday we have a drier picture, but they’ll still be a band of predominantly wintry showers stretching down from the Scottish Highlands all the way to Northern England. These will tend to sit along central and eastern areas. Further west and south it looks a dull, dry and cloudy start to the morning, but by lunchtime we start to see gaps in the cloud and the sun breaking through. The winds will move round to bracing northerlies so you can guess temperatures will be nothing to write home about I’m afraid, struggling to mid-single figures in places, maybe a tad higher in the west.  For Ireland the afternoon brings a new band of moisture pushing into the west and rapidly moving across the country during the afternoon evening. By dusk this rain will be into the south west of England and West Wales and it’ll slowly push eastwards. As it does so the rain will turn to sleet and snow in places, particularly across The Highlands and north east of Scotland, so a cold, damp end to the day.

Overnight into Friday, that band of wintry rain, sleet and snow moves across the south of England so by dawn we have a reasonably dry picture over the west and north, but wetter south of a line drawn down from The Midlands of England. As the moisture moves away it’ll leave a drier, brighter picture behind it for all areas, save for a small amount of wintry showers affecting North Wales and the north east of England. The wind will be northerly, lighter than of late, but still temperatures will be very low for the start of March, barely able to move into high single figures I’m afraid. Later on Friday we’ll see light rain cross Ireland from the north west to the south east.

Clearing skies suggest Saturday morning will start frosty and reasonably bright and that’s how it’ll stay for most of the day save for some wintry showers affecting the north east coast of Scotland and England. Some of these showers could feed down over The Midlands through late morning, pushed along on a light to moderate, northerly wind. Temperatures will stay low, mid-single figures if you’re lucky so that suggests I’ll be needing my full thermals for my weekly fly fishing trip :). Sunday looks very similar, dry and bright after a frosty start, especially in the south of England with the occasional wintry shower pushing down the north east coast of the U.K. Later in the day, it’ll cloud over in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England, heralding the arrival of some more moisture I’m afraid which affects the north west coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England during Sunday evening.

Weather Outlook

So is there any chance of this succession of Rossby Waves (definition here) in the jet stream moving off and giving us some milder air as we progress into March  ?

Well yes but it’s going to be a slow process that if it happens will take most of next week so we won’t be transitioning into milder weather overnight 🙁

Next week looks like starting cold and unsettled with north westerly winds holding the fort and that’ll push down a mix of wintry showers predominantly into the north and west of the U.K, with Ireland largely missing the worst. As we move onto Tuesday the wind becomes more westerly, intensifying and that will do two things, it’ll raise temperatures a little, but it’ll also push more rain into Ireland and the southern half of the U.K through Tuesday and into Wednesday. That wind will alternate between northerly, north westerly and westerly through the latter part of the week so that means we’ll remain unsettled with blustery, wintry showers pushing through and then drier interludes following. The latter part of Thursday looks to bring more rain and then Friday looks to finish the week dry, but cold. Temperature-wise I think we’ll be looking more at high single figures and with persistent cloud cover we should lose any frost for most of the week anyway. No mild March on the horizon yet then 🙁

Agronomic Notes

As I sit typing this it’s currently yakking down, but it is mild and I’ve watched the soil temperature bounce up from 5°C to 10.5°C in a few hours because the rain is coming from mild air so it’s warming things up quickly. (Warming in the truest sense of the word that is :)) Hopefully you all got my mini update yesterday and were able to use the last dry day to get some good jobs sorted before a more moisture laden week. I did the same, out spraying trials at 5 p.m. last night ahead of the rain 🙂

So first off I’m going to look back at the year so far because it’s interesting to look at where we are this year vs. prior year.

Would you say we are ahead or behind the curve at the end of February, beginning of March vs. last year eh ?

GDD Analysis of the year so far….

So let’s look at the y.t.d and compare it with last year in terms of growth patterns and rainfall…


What we can see from the stats above is that on both sites where we compare 2016 y.t.d vs. 2015 at the same point we are significantly ahead growth-wise, we will look at how and why later. Of course that growth comes at a price because we know milder winters = wetter winters and you can see this at both sites, but particularly at Thame where the rainfall is 86% higher in the first two months of 2016 and the growth 98% higher.

Looking across the Irish sea, the case for milder air = wetter air is even more convincing…(and bear in mind these guys get it first when the jet stream is strong as it has been)


Across all of the sites we see a 20-30% increase in GDD for 2016 vs. 2015, but with that increase in air temperature comes a significant increase in rainfall with some areas like Cork showing a 135% increase in rainfall over the prior year. It’s clear that the south of Ireland lay straight on the path of the prevailing jet stream during January and February. (as did Wales, the north west of England and the west of Scotland 🙁 )

Impacts on Grass Agronomics…

Wet and mild means a number of things but from a practical perspective it’s meant that winter projects have been delayed significantly and to that end I see a lot of facilities still trying to complete these ahead of the spring season (For you guys a slow start to March isn’t a headache I guess…)

It also means the maintenance of outfield turf has been a real headache and don’t forget this continues a theme that started last November with high air temperatures and heavy rainfall. So many clubs are only just getting some areas of outfield turf under control at the moment and I hope you used last week and yesterday to good effect because it’ll be wet under foot again by the close of play today.

Disease-wise I think we’ve mainly seen new outbreaks confined to older scars and I’ve had less reports of aggressive new Microdochium nivale on my travels. This fits in with the theory that Microdochium spores don’t like sitting wet and their viability suffers longer-term, so they are less likely to germinate and develop into pathogenic populations. Where we have seen disease has been on drier areas and again this fits in with the theory above.

Poa annua seeding

Now this will be an interesting one because our GDD figures reset on January 1st whereas Poa was growing strongly during November and particularly December.

The question in my mind is whether this strong end of year growth will cause the Poa seedhead flush to start earlier this year. And yes I know you can all send me pictures of Poa flowering on some area of your facility on any given day of the year, but I’m talking about the seedhead flush on fine turf when it really gets motoring 🙂

We are ahead anyway when you look at the stats above so you’d think it’ll be earlier but the prognosis of a slow start to March may just hold it back, so we will see. For sure it will be an interesting question to answer and please bear in mind we have never experienced December growth like we did last year so it could turn out to be a game changer.

When did the enhanced growth of 2016 take place ?

I’ve chosen two locations, one in Ireland and one in the U.K, now I know it doesn’t represent everyone but I’m limited with time and comparable data, so forgive me if it’s not in your ball park.


The first thing that strikes me looking at the growth pattern over the first two months of 2016 is there is very few points when the turf was dormant. Secondly there were some strong periods of growth through February which is unusual and almost certainly caused by peak patterns in the jet stream pulling warm air across the country. Rainfall-wise we had some periods of heavy rainfall (for the south of England) and not a lot of drying days till the end of February.

If we look at Ireland and here I’ve used Wexford as a location (so I don’t get slagged by Dublin, Cork or Kerry for favouritism, instead you’ll all moan that I’ve chosen Wexford 🙂 ) the pattern is similar, but different…


You can see a similar pattern in terms of growth with some strong periods of growth through January and February, but of course not as strong as it was in Southern England mind. Rainfall-wise, the pattern for Wexford is far more rain days and I only counted 8 truly dry days out of 60 in their data, not much fun lads 🙁

Finishing off on the comparisons, I’ve added the year-on-year data from The Oxfordshire prepared by Wendy and provided by Seanicus (cheers me dears)


Somewhat bizarrely we are tracking identically to 2014, which was a great spring in terms of consistent growth, but somehow I don’t think we will replicate March 2014 this year….You can see though that we are much of a muchness so far this year, not the coldest, not the mildest…

Looking Ahead..

I’m very aware that many of you face maintenance challenges in March, whether that be scheduled aeration on fine turf or converting your winter season pitches to cricket outfields..

Looking at the weather prognosis we are likely to be cool for March with alternating periods of cooler, wetter weather in the early part of the month and then possibly dry, cold at night, warm in the day periods from Mid-March (Mystic Megging somewhat here..) so how do we set our stall out for a cold March ?

The main area is nutrition and for me it’s going to be granular products that continue the theme of January and February in terms of providing a more consistent turf response.  With respect to  nitrogen sources, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate and potassium nitrate are likely to be the order of the day if you need to push recovery because you’re in the maintenance camp. If you’re not, then fine for you, but I don’t think this will be a March where you’ll put holes in your turf and they’ll grow over naturally 🙁

If we do run into high pressure sometime this month and we have cold nights and warm days, the boot will be on the other foot with foliar applications the order of the day, but that’s a little way off yet possibly. So for the time-being I think we should stick to what we know works at low soil temperatures with minimal reliance on microbial conversion and that’s the N sources I’ve listed above.

Ok that’s all for now, Tempus fugit !

All the best..

Mark Hunt