Monthly Archives: April 2016

April 25th


Hi All

Well looking out of the window it certainly doesn’t look like we are only a week away from May as our dismally cool spring carries on, mind you looking at last year’s data, we were still getting ground frosts in the last week of April 2015.


Talking of looking out of the window or more specifically in through a window, one of the bird inhabitants of my garden, a female Blackbird, has taken to landing on the kitchen window first thing in the morning to give me the evil eye whilst I’m preparing my breakfast smoothy (a complicated 7-way tankmix). Almost to say “it’s alright for you but where’s my food ?”

As intimated last week, this week is going to be a cool / cold and unsettled affair because of a trough formation in the jet stream. Looking ahead I can’t see any respite until the end of the 1st week of May, but there is a glimmer of hope there nonetheless.

General Weather Situation

For many places on Monday we have a dull, damp start with frequent showers blown in on a moderate to occasionally blustery north west wind. Most of these showers are over Ireland, Wales and the south of England, in a line drawn down from The Wash. For most of Scotland and the north of England, you’ll have a brighter morning, but across The Highlands and north east of Scotland we’ll see some wintry showers falling as snow at elevation.  In the afternoon, those showers will dissipate across the west and become confined to the south / south-east of England, though the north east of Scotland will remain wintry. Temperature-wise, nothing to write home about with low double figures in most places but as the sun breaks through in the afternoon it will feel more pleasant. ‘More pleasant’ compared to mid-week especially.

Through Monday night into Tuesday we see skies clear across most of the U.K and Ireland and that could mean a ground frost. Those wintry showers across the north east of Scotland will slip down the east coast into the north east of England overnight and we could also see some wintry showers over The Welsh Mountains and Dartmoor as well. Through the morning that wintry shower mix slips south and inland into Northern England and later The Midlands, falling mainly as rain here. North east Scotland continues to see wintry showers and heavier rain through Tuesday morning as will Donegal. Away from these shower fronts, it’ll be a bright day for Ireland and the south / south west of England, but a cool one nonetheless with temperatures barely able to break double figures as the wind takes on a northerly aspect.

Again with skies clearing through Tuesday night into Wednesday we have a risk of a ground frost across most areas of the U.K and Ireland. As the wind turns round to straight north it’ll pull down colder air and more in the way of wintry showers and longer spells of sleet and snow over Scotland initially but these will soon track south into Northern England and Wales by late morning. Ireland will see the same pattern with wintry showers over the north and Donegal tracking south into Connacht, Leinster and eventually Munster during the morning. By the afternoon this mix of wintry showers and rain will be over most of the U.K and Ireland, but there will be some bright spells of sunshine across Wales, the north east of Scotland and possibly East Anglia as we close out the day. A raw one though with that cold north / north-west wind and highs of 6-8°C likely.

Moving onto Thursday and another raw day is in prospect with a ground frost in areas where the sky cleared overnight. Those wintry showers will still be in evidence though, across north east Scotland, the north east of England and Wales. The pattern for Wednesday is repeated on Thursday for Ireland with wintry showers in Donegal pushing south into Connacht and Munster through the morning. Between these blocks of showers they’ll be plenty of sunshine though so not all doom and gloom. Through the afternoon those northern wintry showers are likely to sink south again into the north east Midlands and along the east coast and here they may be heavy in nature. Again another raw one though with that cold north / north-west wind in situ with highs of 6-8°C likely for most places. As we progress through Thursday evening those showers dissipate somewhat but there’s still a risk of more wintry ones across The Midlands late on Thursday night.

Again with clearing skies for a lot of the U.K and Ireland, we’ll see another ground frost, that’s 4 on the bounce for some areas :(, but with a change in the wind to a more westerly aspect it does mean it’ll feel milder on Friday. After a bright start, that change in the wind direction will push showers across Ireland, the north of England and Scotland later on Friday morning and some of these showers will again be wintry in nature across mountainous areas. Across Scotland in particular those showers will extend to longer periods of rain and this may mean some significant rainfall totals I’m afraid. South of this rain / sleet band you’ll have a dry, bright start to the day and with lighter winds, temperatures will pick up nicely in the afternoon. At this stage the line between those wintry showers and brighter, warmer weather looks to be drawn north of Birmingham.

So looking forward to The Bank Holiday weekend (for everyone I think ?), Saturday looks a day of two halves with a hazy start to the day for Ireland and the U.K, away from western coasts. Here it’ll be wet with frequent showers from the off across Wales, the north west of England and Scotland, the latter wintry in nature. As we progress through Saturday, those showers, pushed along by a blustery south west wind will move inland across the U.K for the afternoon so take your waterproofs if you’re out and about. Ireland looks to start reasonably dry but by mid-morning we’ll see some heavy rain into Kerry and pushing up country to affect all areas by sun down. Sunday looks another day of sunshine and showers with that rain band pushing in from the west early doors and quickly moving across the U.K during Sunday morning. The second half of Sunday could be bright, but still feeling cool despite a westerly air stream. Monday again looks a day of sunshine and showers and as for Saturday and Sunday, temperatures only just breaking double figures, maybe a tad higher if you catch the sun and are out of the wind.

Weather Outlook

With low pressure still sitting in that trough, next week starts unsettled with plenty of rain on the radar I think. As we progress through an unsettled Monday we enter a battle between an Atlantic high pressure trying to push warmer air in and a continental low pressure trying to resist it. So the isobars get squashed and that means three things ; a northerly wind aspect, it’ll feel cool / cold and they’ll be strong winds as well. By Wednesday things are looking to settle down a bit and most of the rain should have departed to leave a drier picture, but not for long because another Atlantic low is expected to rattle through during Thursday. That will mean that things will begin to feel milder though and here’s where that glimmer of warmer weather to come enters the picture. By the end of next week we are likely to see a southerly air stream in place and if that comes to pass it’ll push up much warmer air from The Mediterranean for the end of next week, next weekend. Lot’s of things crossed and positive vibes on that front for all of us in this industry.

Agronomic Notes

Year-to date Growth-Degree-Day Analysis

Continuing my theme of how the spring this year compares with last, here’s how the GDD stats look up until and including the 24th April…


So you can see (hopefully) that our graph again flattens out this week and in fact falls behind last year. On a daily basis (below) you can see how the warmer air late last week gave us some growth but because we had cold nights (often with ground frost), this growth wasn’t strong in nature.


To give you an idea, an April with good growing conditions, that means milder days and less cold at night, would typically yield between 125 and up to 175 total GDD for the month. So far we’re tracking at less than 60 for most locations and looking at the coming week I think we’ll be lucky to register much if any additions to that total. So if we close out April with a total of 60GDD, it means we had half as much growth as last April and a third of a really good growth month.

Of course there’s a flip side to the picture painted by the GDD data above and that is on outfield turf where this spring has given nice consistent growth without any flushes. That means less cutting, less requirement for PGR’s and less diesel usage I reckon. 🙂

Unfortunately on fine turf we need this growth, in many cases to pull us away from spring aeration work and it has been a long haul if you cored say in mid-March and we are now 5 weeks down the line with only slow recovery.

Poa annua seedheads


So looking at Poa annua seedheads,  we are just hitting 130 total GDD at a lot of locations, less I know in the north and higher on the south coast, but for the majority I think we are there or thereabouts. It’s at the point where I’d normally expect to see a flush of seedheads, but as you can see from the predicted growth pattern (above) on the Meteoturf module of your Weathercheck, using either GDD or GP, nothing much is likely to happen this week from that perspective.

A total projected GDD of 5 for the next 7 days isn’t worth a jot so I don’t expect much to happen on the seedhead front this week or much of next week actually, but…..

…..If we do get that shift to a southerly airstream later on next week and a rapid pick up in both day and night temperatures, then you are going to see a lot of seedheads pop up very quickly across your fine turf canopy.

Pathogen Activity

Following on from the above, I’d expect to see a very sudden movement on the Microdochium nivale front if we get a rapid increase in temperature however because we should also get a nice hike in growth I’m hopeful that we can grow it out without reaching for keys to the Chemsafe.

Another pathogen that I have noticed out in the field is plant parasitic nematodes, (PPN’s)  especially the endoparasitic ones which have spent the winter safely protected in a root gall or cyst. These have hatched in large numbers during April but it’s unlikely you’ll have seen much in the way of symptoms quite yet.

Plant parasitic nematodes work a bit like Take All as a pathogen in that they do their damage to the grass plants root system in the spring but typically there is little or no expression of symptoms whilst the plant is growing at a slow rate. Once temperatures rise, the plant needs to uptake more nutrients and moisture to maintain growth and replace water lost by E.T and it is then that we see symptoms of PPN damage. Ectoparasitic nematodes, those free-living species that inhabit the soil are usually slower to build population number in the spring but we are already starting to see some symptoms of Spiral Nematode activity on fine turf. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see more in the way of PPN damage by mid-May.

Uptake Windows

If you are looking to apply nutrition this week I’d leave it till the end of the week because the cold, mid-week temperatures will knock back the plant somewhat and this is likely to reduce uptake efficiency, whether it be nutrients, PGR’s or the like. I also think with 4-5 ground frosts within this weeks forecast, it is likely that we will see a loss of colour across turf surfaces this week due to this and a cold windchill, mid-week.

Ok that’s all for now, wrap up well and have a good Bank Holiday..

All the best.

Mark Hunt



April 18th


Hi All,

????????????????????????????????????I spent the weekend back in my Motherland, Denmark and driving from Copenhagen I could see the woods filled with Wood Anemones which I think is late for them and there was plenty of lying water in the fields. Talking to my relatives beforetuborg multiple Tuborg Classics kicked in, they told me that the winter had been wet and mild for the 1st part with much less frost than they were used to. Now it seems that their spring is on hold, pretty much like ours and that’s the way it’s set to continue I’m afraid…..At least they didn’t have snow at the weekend like many of us did over here !

As we move through April and slightly milder weather beckons this week, I’d love to say that the heat building this week will be the nudge up we need to head us towards summer but it looks like it won’t be a permanent one. The trough pattern in the jet stream that has pretty much been in place now for two months looks set to return by the weekend and from then on it’ll dominate for at least another week..So let’s put some detail on the weather picture for this week and next..

General Weather Situation

Monday starts off dull and drizzly in a lot of places, but more so over Ireland, Scotland, The Borders and Northern England. They’ll also be a continuation of those weekend wintry showers over the Western Highlands of Scotland. As we move through the morning that drizzle and rain will sink south into Northern England and the east coast of Scotland will brighten up with some nice sunshine. This area of sunshine will extend down the east coast of England as we move through the afternoon, so Scotland looks to have a nice 2nd half of the day. Elsewhere for Ireland, Wales and England we see a continuation of that dull weather picture. Temperatures will be pegged back to low double figures under the cloud cover in light to moderate westerly winds.

Tuesday sees a similar start to the day as Monday finished, that means dull and cloudy for most places with any breaks in that cloud restricted to the north east coast of the U.K. It will be dry again though and at least that is a bonus isn’t it. As we go through the afternoon that cloud cover will begin to break and give longer spells of sunshine and under these temperatures will rise nicely into the low to mid-teens I think. That’s despite the wind direction shifting round to the north but the winds will be light so won’t influence temperatures unduly. Ireland and Wales will follow a similar pattern, plenty of cloud cover, but light winds and dry so not bad with any breaks in the cloud likely along the east coast of Leinster / Munster.

With clear skies overnight, Wednesday may start with a ground frost in some places but the flip-side is that it’ll soon be gone as temperatures rise quickly in the spring sunshine. At this stage it looks like this may be restricted to England, Wales and Ireland as Scotland picks up the cloud cover. Through the morning though cloud will build again but some areas may stay sunny all day. If you’re lucky enough to have this scenario you’ll enjoy warm sunshine and temperatures pushing up to 15-16°C, whereas under the cloud cover it’ll be more like 11-12°C. Remaining dry though and that’s a bonus.

Thursday sees a milder start to the day with that cloud cover preventing under temperature plunge and with some heat from the previous day it means it is likely to be the warmest day of the week if and only if you see the sun. If you don’t it’ll be similar to the rest of the week, i.e 11-12°C. I think the highest chance of seeing it will be over Scotland and if this is so expect 16-17°C. Winds will pick up from the east through the day and push cloud cover in from The North Sea and this heralds the beginning of the end for those temperatures I’m afraid. Later in the day there’s a risk of some rain pushing into the far south west of England and perhaps along the south coast as well.

Overnight into Friday and we really begin to feel the change in the weather (in the north first that is) especially along eastern coasts exposed to the moderate easterly wind. Here the ‘Haar’ will push in and peg temperatures back to high single / low double figures. That rain over the south west of England may continue through into Friday morning. During the late morning we will see some light rain and wintry showers kick in over Central Scotland and during the course of the morning these will move down into north east England. Ireland and Wales may have a better day with breaks in the cloud cover likely for the former area and since you’re furthest away from those winds it’ll feel a bit milder for you guys than the rest of us. So a dry end to the week for most of us except where those wintry showers are in situ over north eastern England.

Onto the all important weekend and what promises to be an absolute barnstormer of a Moto GP race from Jerez, Spain, miss it at your peril !! 🙂 Staying inside and watching it may be an attractive option looking at the forecast I’m afraid for the coming weekend 🙁

Through the course of Saturday we have two negative processes coming to play on the weather front. Firstly the winds will strengthen from the north introducing cold air and secondly a low pressure will snick down into the trough created in the jet stream and you know by now what that means don’t you 🙁

So Saturday sees the start of that process with a hard ground frost for Scotland (and other areas) in the early part of the night followed by wintry showers pushing in from the off on Saturday. A second front of showers over Northern England will also intensify and push down slowly through Saturday morning into the north Midlands. Ireland sees a similar picture with rain arriving overnight into Donegal and The North and this will track south into Leinster, Connacht and Munster for the start of the day I’m afraid. As this cold air pushes south it’ll feel significantly colder with high single figures the norm I’m afraid, quite a drop from the mid-teens of the preceding week. Some areas of the south of England may enjoy the milder air for longer on Saturday before it’s replaced by the cooler air stream. Sunday sees that cold, low pressure sitting in a trough slap bang over the U.K and Ireland and so that means cool and unsettled weather and a risk of a widepsread ground frost where skies cleared on Saturday night. Sunday sees strong to moderate northerly winds in place and a mixture of sunshine and showers, in the wind it’ll feel pretty parky I’m afraid. It should reasonably dry on Sunday and there will be some sunshine but there’s also a risk of wintry showers pushing down the east coast of England and Ireland for that matter.

Weather Outlook

As you might expect with the weekend forecast, the outlook for w/c 25th April isn’t exactly promising and believe me if I could type something more positive I would, that said these things can change so maybe the peak will win out and prevent the trough from doing its worst 🙂 At this stage though next week looks unsettled with frequent rain and wintry showers at elevation. With a strong northerly wind in place for the beginning of the week the outlook is cool with temperatures in the mid to high single figures I’m afraid. During Tuesday the wind will swing round to the west for central and southern regions but remain northerly for western areas and easterly over Scotland. It’ll be a windy first part of the week. It looks like we’ll see more rain for western areas through Tuesday and this will then swirl inland through the course of Tuesday and Wednesday. It won’t be a total right-off though as they’ll be some sunshine between the showers and that wind will be a drying one to boot. As we move towards the end of the week I expect things to calm down considerably with lighter winds, slightly milder temperatures and less in the way of those sharp showers around.

Agronomic Notes

Ok first off we’ll continue the theme running since the start of the year and get a GDD update..

Growth-Degree Day Update


So looking at the top graph we’re touching 120 GDD y.t.d 2016 which is precisely the same GDD point as last year for this location however how we got there was quite different.


As you can see from the above we had a good growth period through the end of January till the middle part of February and then the wheels came off whereas in 2015 growth didn’t really commence until the end of February. March 2015 was a poor growth month but even so it was much better than March 2016. Our growth didn’t really start until the end of March and as you can see from the chart below it is still not getting to the point where we have good consistent growth, especially on fine turf. More to the point you can see that the cold nights and ground frost of the weekend put paid to any significant growth with a sharp drop in daily GDD.


Now I appreciate that in different locations we have different GDD totals, but essentially the pattern of GDD spread (i.e when it occurred) is I think similar.

Consequences of our GDD Pattern and potential plans for this week….

Poa annua seedheads….

I’ve been growing on some cores taken from a largely Perennial Poa-dominated sward and picked these 4 Poa plants from one of the pots this morning. It’s frustrating because I’m not kitted out to take good, close-up macro photographs but hopefully you get the gist from the image below….

From left to right you can see the stages of Poa seedhead formation ;

Far left, the Poa seedhead is just emerging from the leaf sheath, 2nd from the left, the seedhead begins to extend on the panicle, 3rd from the left, the seedhead is emerging from the leaf sheath and right, the seedhead becomes extended on its panicle above the grass plant.


Now bear in mind these Poa plants have been grown on inside a house on a windowsill but because I’m a tight a**e with my heating I’d reckon the maximum temperature has only reached 16.5°C during the warmest part of the day 🙂

Further ahead than most of you guys though I know, but say down on the South Coast of England, your GDD is running 25% higher than The Oxfordshire shown above (so you’re probably at 150-160GDD y.t.d or thereabouts) and likely to be seeing more in the way of seedheads.


In the real world (away from my windowsill that is…) I think you’re more likely to be at the stage shown above where the seedhead is developing down in the base of the plant and is slowly extended up from the crown. This is I think a bit ahead of where the U.S guys call “In the boot” but nevertheless it means seeding in Perennial Poa is imminent. (Remember I have talked about the difference in seeding between the annual Poa biotypes in previous blogs)

What is required is some warm days to initiate Poa growth and for some areas this week I think we’ll see that and hence a growing number of seedheads in the canopy. Now it won’t be a full-on seedhead flush because we are going cooler at the weekend, but I think from the end of this week you’ll start to see more and more in the way of seedheads across your managed turf areas. The time to act may be upon us pretty soon 🙂

Disease Activity

With the odd mild night / warm day last week accompanied by low cloud cover and drizzle, we saw an increase in relative humidity and this pushed on disease activity, particularly Microdochium nivale. It is perhaps somewhat inevitable now that this seems to mark the onset of warmer conditions in the spring but normally it also provides the opportunity to grow it out. The image below was taken in Germany where I think they’ve hit some warmer day time temperatures than we have had so far in April, but I’ve had lots of reports from the U.K of Microdochium activity. Over here it’s more the copper blotching across the sward and isn’t quite as aggressive as the image below, thankfully…


Nonetheless it may be something we have to think about this week because it offers us plenty of spraying and good uptake opportunities (as opposed to next week which doesn’t). Now I know a lot of you might not want to apply a fungicide, but a light rate foliar with iron may just hold everything in check this week from this disease perspective.

Selective Herbicide Applications

With some growth on outfields this past week we can see the first appearance of our spring broad-leaved weeds, particularly Daisies. Although it’s still a little early yet in my mind in some areas, some of the more advanced locations will have a good spray window this week for knocking back visible weeds whilst the opportunity presents itself.


Although we are looking milder this week in some areas (till we slip back into our cold trough) we shouldn’t delude ourselves that both soil and air temperatures are lagging behind where they’d be in a normal spring. I say ‘normal spring’ but I don’t really know what that represents anymore 🙂

By this stage last year we’d had 10 days where the air temperature was at or above 17°C during April. This year we’ve had 1 in our Thame location.

For that reason it is important that we maintain a cold temperature-bias in our fertiliser usage currently with materials like ammonium sulphate, potassium nitrate, etc making up the majority of the nitrogen input, whether it be liquid or granular. During days when the air temperature rises to double figures you will also see a response from urea-based foliar applications however it will be short-lived if next weeks weather arrives and so a combination with our long-serving friend – iron, will be an advantage. (as this will give you colour even if the nitrogen does not)

Ok that’s it for this week, enjoy the warm sunshine if it makes an appearance with you and don’t put the Buff away just yet !

All the best…

Mark Hunt



April 11th


Hi All,


Image courtesy of

After my Augusta blog on Friday I’d like to claim personal credit for inspiring 3 English golfers to overcome their national Growth-Degree-Day burden and triumph in The Masters 🙂

In all seriousness, congratulations to Danny Willett for lifting the title and donning the green Jacket, brilliant. That course played hard but it looked to me like it hadn’t had a drop of water for quite awhile. According to their local weather station, the last recorded rain was on the 1st of April (70mm!) and during the tournament they had daily temperatures between 9-11.5°C at night and 19-23°C during the day. I think our only similarity going forward may be with the rainfall total as we enter a period of jet stream trough with a low pressure system firmly ensconced in it. We’ve already seen some serious rain over the weekend in the Cork area with widespread flooding reported there I’m afraid 🙂

Encouraging Nature

It always lifts my spirits to see nature at work right under our noses. This morning as I was topping up my bird feeders I watched one of my local Wood Mice pick up some Suet Sprinkles and nibble away at them from barely 2 feet away. They also like to use the Coconut Feeders as a combined feeding station / hammock as you can see in this image below 🙂


Such was the case last week when I was shown two Little Owls sitting huddled up outside an Owl Box put up a number of years ago on a golf course that I visit. The photo below is a photo of a photo and doesn’t do it justice but it was a great sight, particularly as it was 6°C with a 2.1°C windchill and I was freezing my nads off..


General Weather Situation

It’s going to be a very changeable and unsettled week with a mild start and cooler end. Your forecasted rainfall will change almost hourly because of the hit and miss nature of the rain this week so don’t be surprised to have a dry day when there’s rain forecast the night before and vice-versa.

So we start Monday with a south east wind and so if you employ the old adage “Back to the wind, low is on the left”, that puts the centre of the low pressure sitting just off the coast of Kerry. Already we have a band of rain in place stretching from the Isle of Wight up through England, North Wales and across to Northern Ireland and Donegal. During the morning and early afternoon this rain slowly moves north east and intensifies so some localised heavy rain is possible in the south of England, across the west country, Mid / North Wales and across the Irish Sea into Leinster, Munster and the north of Ireland. By late afternoon it reaches The Midlands and then grinds to a halt so possibly some heavier rain going into the evening here. East and north of this rain, you’ll have a dry day with hazy sunshine and light to moderate easterly winds which will allow temperatures to nudge into the mid teens, which is nice.

Overnight into Tuesday that band of heavy rain moves away from The Midlands into Northern England and across the Irish Sea it’ll move into Connacht and later Donegal. By the Tuesday morning rush hour it’ll be tracking more along the east and north east coast of England and into Scotland and Donegal as well. A tricky day to forecast Tuesday because it looks like this rain could hang around in some areas all day but south, east and west of this band of rain you could see some nice sunshine. Through Tuesday morning there is an additional risk of rain across the south and south west of England. By the afternoon the rain is still sitting across England, lighter now in intensity but there nonetheless. Across Ireland it should clear all but northern counties through the morning to leave a nice day with spells of sunshine. For Scotland we have rain across The Borders but it looks to stop there and not move any further north. If you’re sitting under the rain expect temperatures of 10-11°C, but if you catch the sunshine (which Wales and Ireland should at the very least) you could see low teens in a prevailing south west wind.

For Wednesday we have a much drier picture for England and Wales thankfully, but Scotland will pick up that rainfall in a line from The Clyde northwards right from the start of the day. At elevation you can expect that rain to turn to sleet and possibly snow over The Cairngorms. Ireland should start dry and sunny with hazy sunshine but through the morning there’s a risk of showers breaking out over South Kerry and Munster. This risk of showers extends to Southern England and Wales as well and extends into The Midlands and north of England as we progress through the afternoon. In-between we should have spells of sunshine as well and in it, it should feel pleasantly mild with temperatures in the low teens again in places. With cloud cover in place over most areas this week I think we’ll be frost-free and that’ll help grass growth, more on that later.

Overnight into Thursday we see some consolidation of that rain over Northern England and a new band of rain pushing into the south west of England in the wee hours. By the morning rush hour it’ll stretch from the south coast up to The Midlands with another lighter band of rain still persisting over northern England as well. Scotland will see those wintry showers of Wednesday persist over The Highlands through Thursday morning. Ireland should miss most of this rain on Thursday morning. The further north you are, the cooler it’ll feel with that low dragging easterly winds out of Scandinavia so this could mean that moisture over Northern England, The Borders and Highlands becomes increasingly wintry in nature. Further south the orientation of the wind will be more south easterly / southerly and this will mean a much milder feel to the weather for Thursday in those areas. During the afternoon that rain pretty much stays in place across England and Scotland, but Wales and Ireland will miss the worst of it again. Later on cloud will eventually push westwards introducing showers to Wales and the east coast of Ireland during Thursday evening, some of these may be wintry at elevation. Another ‘hit and miss’ day depending on whether you sit under the rain at 9-10°C or in the sunshine at 13-14°C and / or share that with an easterly or southerly air stream.

Closing out a typical April showers (or downpours depending on your location and perspective) week on Friday we see a continuation of those showers right from the off over most of the U.K and Ireland. Over Northern England and Scotland with that colder air stream in place this moisture is likely to be wintry in nature especially at elevation. As we progress through the morning those showers will dissipate over Ireland and tend to localise over South Wales, Northern England and Scotland but that cooler air will extend south so a cooler day for everyone, except the far south on Friday and a mix of rain, hail and sleet in places as well. As we close out Friday we’ll see showers cropping up across Ireland, the south of England and The Midlands. Further north that mix of rain, sleet and snow will continue to affect Northern England and Scotland I’m afraid. Again a hit and miss day with some areas missing these wintry showers completely and catching sunshine and just into double figure temperatures. Under that rain, sleet it’ll feel a more chilly 7-8°C 🙁

So how are we looking for the weekend and beyond….?

Saturday looks to be a mix of sunshine and showers and where you are clear overnight there’s a significant risk of frost so gardeners beware. So for some a bright, cold start and for others you’ll see rain showers from the off, particularly across north eastern areas of England, Scotland and Ireland. Again these showers may be wintry in nature. It’ll remain on the chilly side for Saturday with high single, low double figures if you’re really lucky. Sunday is looking better across the west and it’ll feel a little milder as the wind swings round to a more southerly orientation. There’s likely though to be a continuation of rain across central and eastern areas of the U.K on Sunday morning but this should move off as we progress through Sunday to leave a sunnier and milder afternoon.

Weather Outlook

So after a real trough of a week, how are we looking for next week ?

Well I’m quietly confident that we might see the development of a blocking high pressure push up between the two low pressure systems either side of us and this could well form the beginning of a peak in the jet stream. (Note the caution) The timing is about right as the third week of April often marks the point when heat begins to build in the south and push up into the U.K and Ireland. It was the same in the long, drawn out, cold spring of 2013.  So a drier week is on the cards next week and I think we’ll see some warmer days but possibly keeping those cool nights. I don’t think we’ll be entirely dry though because with a low pressure close to us out in the Atlantic, there’s a risk of rain pushing into southern counties of England and Ireland on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grass Agronomics

GDD – Where are we ?

Well certainly nowhere near Augusta that’s for sure 🙂

Looking at the data from The Oxfordshire up until today and comparing it with the previous year we can see that we’re just nudging into a total of 100GDD for that site.



You can also see that in terms of good spring growth we are still waiting really with growth starting as we progressed towards the end of March / beginning of April. We have only exceeded 6GDD in a day once y.t.d and that was on the 25th January !

Poa seedheads0416That figure of 100GDD is however significant because it’s the point where I would expect to see the first Poa annua var. annua seeding in a fine turf stand. Note the term ‘var. annua’ because this is referring to the annual biotype of Poa that we will see in outfield turf, around but also in fine turf swards. Sure enough I’ve had emails, texts and the odd image confirming the arrival of var. annua seedheads like this one on the right(Cheers Rob).

So the next thing we can expect is the arrival of its more prevalent relation – Poa annua var. reptans or Perennial Poa in any other language. This tends to produce more of the discernible seedhead flush on established Poa or Poa / Bent turf stands, whereas the annual is more prominent on new constructions and or where an area may have thinned out the previous summer and it has volunteered in.

Now normally I would expect to see the main seedhead flush from Perennial Poa commence anywhere between 130 – 150 total GDD calculated from January 1st and using a 6°C base temperature.

If we look above we are on a total GDD of 102.5 y.t.d at The Oxfordshire and looking at the projected 14 day temperatures I’d expect us to hit 130GDD total somewhere around the 22nd – 25th April. This will definitely be the case if we pick up a warm peak pattern in the jet stream through next week and the week after. Of course lots of things can change between now and then so we’ll see but this is my best SWAG answer (Copyright Dr James Beard denoting a Scientific Wild-Arsed Guess)

Greens Growth



It’s that time of year when we start to see differential growth on fine turf and it can be down to many different factors. In the images above we can see bentgrass is growing well but Poa annua is sitting pretty dormant so in this case a light brush, cut, topdress and roll will restore the surface integrity.


We also see this scenario above (Note this wasn’t taken this year so don’t panic about the seedheads!!!) i.e tufts of green, healthy Poa amongst off-colour Poa and it is often the result of hollow coring or solid tining into a sward with high levels of surface organic matter. The Poa colonising the core holes has good levels of oxygen and so can go grow without hindrance, whereas the Poa sitting next to it has poor levels of oxygen available and so its growth is held back. Looking from above you get a measle-type effect across the sward canopy but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and ultimately the issue is the high level of surface fibre and it is this that needs to be tackled to produce a more consistent surface going forward. I’m sure someone will look at it and say I’d apply a PGR to prevent this differential growth, but in the above case I think you’d just be papering over the cracks 🙁

Outfield Turf

Presently this is growing at a moderate rate with soil and air temperatures preventing any flush of growth. It’s worth remembering that by this time last year we’d already had 5 days > 15°C air temperature in April and actually on this day last year we  touched 20°C ! This year is different though and some of you may bless this because it means outfield turf is growing at a steady rather than accelerated rate but we won’t be far away from the time when we get good air temperatures and our first spring flush on outfield turf. If I’m right and we enter into a peak pattern in the jet stream next week this could be as soon as then so if you are of a mind to apply a PGR on outfield, next week may turn out to be the time to do it accompanied by some iron of course.

This week

As discussed earlier it is going to be a week of sunshine and showers with heavy localised rain in some places. It’s either a case of nipping out with a foliar feed if the weather looks like it’s going to play ball (use your rain radar frequently this week) or if you need more growth (say for recovery from aeration) then a granular biased towards cold temperature N in its formulation will work well too. If you’ve moss on areas, now would be a good time to hit it hard and then encourage the grass to bounce back in the affected areas.

Ok that’s it for this week, have a good one and good luck dodging the showers / heavy rain.

Mark Hunt











8th April – Mini Blog – The Augusta Syndrome

Hi All,

Around this time of year, well this weekend actually we often get the “Augusta Syndrome”.

That is to say a golfer will watch The Masters on the telly and then turn up at his or her local golf course and bemoan the state of the course vs. what he /  she has seen on television. Now quite apart from the fact that Augusta is closed typically from the end of May to the beginning of October every year and has a maintenance budget that would dwarf any of the golf courses we have here in the U.K and Ireland (and I mean dwarf), has anyone ever stopped to look at their weather vs. ours in a ‘typical spring’ ?

So I did some digging and found a weather station located 3 miles from The Augusta National Golf Course and decided to do a Spring 2016 comparison.

This is not a reflection on Augusta as a venue, it’s simply an exercise to compare Augusta with a golf course in the U.K and Ireland in the spring and see how realistic that comparison is.

Growth-Degree-Day Comparison

So using 6°C base for my degree day formula, I compared Augusta to two locations, Oxfordshire and Dublin using temperature data from Spring 2016 till the end of march. The results are shown in the cumulative GDD graph below ;

GDDAugustaOxComp GDDAugustaDublinComp

What we can see is for both venues, Augusta piles on 600GDD by the end of March, whereas both The Oxfordshire and Dublin locations (and most others as referenced in this week’s blog) get to a GDD total of 70.

So we have roughly 8.5 times more potential for the grass plant to grow at Augusta between January and March than we do in the U.K and Ireland. To put it in perspective, Augusta hit 70GDD on the 29th of January, whereas we hit this total at the end of March, so they’re two months ahead of us growth-wise.

All this neglects to mention the use of fans, under soil heating and lights on shaded greens 🙂

Maximum and Minimum Air Temperature Comparison

If we look at the temperature profile we can see why Augusta produces better growing conditions from a grass plant’s perspective….

MaxTempAugustaOxComp MinTempAugustaOxComp

MaxTempAugustaDublinComp MinTempAugustaDublinComp_2

So we can see they have much higher day temperatures and their last frost in 2016 was on the 11th February, ours was on the 31st March and of course we’ll have some more to come yet before April 2016 is out.

Rainfall and Dry Days Comparison

Lastly there’s rainfall and whilst they have rain there, they also have drying days because of the higher temperatures, so I’ve finished with a comparison on this front.


So the next time some smart Alec tries to do a comparison, why not present them with some facts in a constructive and polite manner 🙂

You can download a pdf of all of this data here

Have a nice weekend…

Mark Hunt

April 4th


Hi All,

I hope you all enjoyed your brief taste of spring over the weekend and for some, the early part of this week as well because we’re now heading back into our familiar to all, cold temperature trough created by our old friend, the jet stream 🙁

So much cooler I’m afraid as we progress through the week and we will have some frequent rain in attendance to boot, all in all, not great for the 1st week of April.


On a positive note, It was brilliant to fly fish at the weekend (on another soggy Saturday morning) and see House and Sand Martins skimming the waves and feeding up on hatching midges after their mammoth trek from Africa to here. Likewise I also saw an Osprey take a good sized Rainbow Trout and he doesn’t even have to buy a season ticket you know, tut tut. He’s another African migrant that’s here for the summer, well when it arrives that is….

I think it will be one of those years when we sit cool through the spring courtesy of the jet stream trough pattern and then suddenly it’ll lift and we will go straight to summer in the course of a few days. We will see.

General Weather Situation

With low pressure sitting over us it’s no surprise that we start Monday unsettled with rain across Scotland and north west England. During the morning this rain moves northwards into most of Scotland and the eastern coastline of Ireland. At the same time we see another band of rain push into the south west of England and later in the morning the south coast pushing north into central regions and The Midlands during the afternoon. So most places are on for a dull day to start the week and most likely you’ll see rain as well. The only area that is likely to miss this rain is the west of Ireland (I don’t say that very often) and here you’ll see some sunshine as well. Temperature-wise, nothing to write home about with low double figures the order of the day and warmest across the west I think. Winds will be light to moderate and south westerly in nature.

Tuesday is perhaps the best day of the week temperature and rainfall-wise, but it won’t start off that way for north west England and Scotland who start the day with rain still in situ. Elsewhere it’ll be a dull, hazy, but dry start to the day and that’s the way it’ll stay with very few breaks in the cloud cover likely. That northern rain will fizzle out through the morning to leave a pretty much dry picture everywhere for Tuesday afternoon. Winds will be light to moderate and will swing round to the west and that’ll usher in some better temperatures with low double figures / low teens the order of the day. These may just lift higher if you are lucky enough to get some sunshine and that is more likely to occur across the west.

Overnight into Wednesday sees a band of rain moving into Western Ireland and crossing the country during the wee hours. By dawn this will have largely cleared Ireland but will now be sitting across the western coastline of the U.K, so The South West, Wales, north west England and Scotland will start Wednesday wet. Some of this rain may fall as wintry showers over higher ground, especially over The Highlands. That westerly wind will have more strength to it as well and by mid-morning it’ll be ushering more showers across Ireland and pushing that U.K rain over central and eastern areas. Through the afternoon that rain consolidates across Ireland and the U.K, so a wet end to Wednesday is on the cards I’m afraid. It’ll feel chillier on Wednesday as well with temperatures pushed down by that cooler, westerly wind and that means more in the way of wintry showers for Scotland and across The Pennines as well.

Thursday sees that rain sitting over north west England, Wales and across Ireland, though lighter and more scattered for the latter. Away from that band of rain you may start the day bright and cold on Thursday, but it won’t last as that rain sinks south into South Wales (there you are Debbie), The Midlands and Central England by lunchtime. Ireland also sees those showers ramp up again I’m afraid with bright spells and blustery showers your mix for the day. Scotland starts off Thursday with wintry showers across The Highlands, but these will sink south and fall as rain, some of it heavy along eastern coasts. Temperatures will be a little cooler still on Thursday as the wind swings round to the north west so only high single figures for April which is poor 🙁

We close out the week with a continued theme of unsettled conditions for Friday with rain, sunshine and blustery showers the order of the day just about everywhere. The wind direction will swing round to a more southerly aspect but it won’t feel warm because it’s pulling down air from Russia. So again only high single figures for Friday despite the lighter winds. As we progress through Friday morning we see a more concentrated band of rain pushing into south west Munster and slowly track north eastwards, falling as sleet or maybe snow over the Kerry Mountains. By the afternoon we have less rain around across the U.K and perhaps some spells of sunshine across the north west of England. By the evening you’ll see less rain, but where it is still falling it’ll likely turn to sleet and snow. This is more likely across The Pennines, The Lakes and The Highlands of Scotland.

So how is the weekend looking ?

Saturday may not be such a bad day but a lot will depend on where you’re located. So we see those bands of wintry showers still sitting over Northern England and Scotland. Ireland will have a more concentrated rain band pushing in overnight for Saturday and it’ll affect east Munster and Leinster initially before pushing north west through the morning into Connacht and Donegal. For the U.K we’ll see a reasonably dry picture with hazy cloud giving way to sunshine in central regions and this may even lift the temperature close to double figures in southern locations. The exception could be the south west of England which may catch some of that rain band that is due to affect Ireland from the off, so potentially a wet day there…Scotland looks to have a cold day with frequent wintry showers across the north east and Central Highlands. Winds are likely to be light for Saturday and still from the south west / south.

Sunday looks to continue that unsettled theme with a risk of rain, some of it heavy in the south of England and this could push up into central regions through the morning. Scotland looks to continue its association with those wintry showers along eastern coasts and The Highlands, whereas Ireland looks like a day of sunshine and showers. Still nothing to write home about temperature-wise with a continued cool theme to the weather especially where you connect with that heavy rain, sleet, snow or hail 🙁 .


Weather Outlook

A trough pattern and low pressure only mean one thing I’m afraid and that’s a continually circulating low pressure system that will dump rain on a regular basis I’m afraid. So we start next week with low pressure sitting south west of Ireland and that means it’ll funnel up cool, southerly air across the U.K. So Monday looks to be wet and unsettled again with potentially heavy rain for the south of England moving north up country during the day, the same for Ireland. This will be the pattern through the week till Thursday when the low begins to sink southwards and this will bring a more easterly wind to bear for the north of the country, possibly with snow I think for Scotland. By the end of the week there’s just a chance we will be back to a more south westerly-biased air stream and that means milder temperatures, but I still think ever-present rainfall 🙁

Agronomic Notes

Lots to talk about this week as we have the first quarter’s GDD information to digest and I have a good number of sites who have submitted data (cheers to everyone)


First off we can take a look at our usual location data point of Thame, Central England (well Oxfordshire to be more accurate). Look at the figure for March, a total GDD of 19.5 vs. 27 for February and 28.5 for January. So we can see we’ve had less growth in March 2016 at this location than either of the previous two months and that’s because we’ve had a trough pattern in place for most of the month.

Next let’s compare March 2016 with the last 6 years and we can see that the monthly total of 19.5 is second lowest only to the long winter and hence late spring of 2013. So that’s why I was castigating Countryfile last week going on about what an early spring it is this year, sure thing in February, but no way Jose by March, me old mucker. A good March with mild temperatures and rainfall yields great growing conditions and the last time we saw that was 2014. If there’s a trend, it’s that March is getting cooler year-on-year.

If you look at the cumulative GDD till the end of March for this location you’ll see we are tracking at 75GDD, which compares with last year’s total, the difference is we had most of that GDD in January and February in 2016.



Let’s look at some other sites from around the U.K and Ireland….


Looking at some locations across the U.K, you can see that Milton Keynes appears to be a particularly chilly place to live !

You can also see that the adage “It’s grim up north” doesn’t always apply because York was the mildest location in January 2016 !

Watford’s closeness to the M25 and the concrete jungle of London can be the only reason why they sit 20% ahead of the next warmest site.

On a serious note it does strike you the variability between just these 7 sites scattered across the U.K and it’s indicative of why something in one area doesn’t always pertain to another from a turf management perspective. Poa seedheads would be one such parameter, more on that later.



Looking at the Irish locations you can see this spring has been much more consistent between the sites and actually the GDD totals from most of the Irish locations are similar to the U.K.

Valentia of course down in south west Kerry sits head and shoulders above every location, UK or Irish, but we must remember with that mild temperature comes rainfall as well and close to 600mm for the first three months of the year for this location !

The reason why Valentia is so mild is because it is on the south west air stream and so it is least-affected by cold weather from the continent. In particular the night temperatures are warmer during the winter in Valentia with very few frost days. See below ;


The coldest location (Milton Keynes) runs up 29 days of frosts in the first quarter of this year compared to just 2 for Valentia, some difference and look at the minimum air temperatures as well, quite some difference, particularly in March.

So looking at all this data we can conclude that we have all endured a slow March and to put it into some perspective, 5GDD in a day is a good growth day in the spring, so with many locations showing just 25GDD for the whole of March, we have had the equivalent of just 5 days of good growth during March 2016.


Poa annua – Seedheads and Rooting…

I took some cores last week from a golf club and decided to split them down to the crown tissue in order to determine if seedheads were being formed ‘in the boot’ as the Americans call it.

This phrase refers to the formation of seedheads down in the Shoot Apical Meristem area of the plants crown (that’s the point where new shoot cells are created) and it is here where the seedhead of Poa starts life. If you strip the plant down you should be able to see a swelling in this area which denotes the first signs of seedhead formation.


As you can see from this admittedly poor quality image above, the crown of the plant is white and consistent with no indication of seedhead formation. Nor would I have expected there to be a seedhead because we are nowhere the sort of GDD totals where we see the appearance of Poa seedheads.

I normally start to see annual Poa seedheads in higher height of cut areas at around 100GDD and then the start of the main perennial Poa seedhead flush at anywhere between 130 and 150GDD (in total starting on Jan 1 using a 6°C base) So my hunch is that we are a long way from an early Poa annua seedhead flush if you work on GDD.


Poa annua and rooting….

I left some of the cores I took from a green last Wednesday in a plastic bag and went to look at them today. Not surprisingly the shoots were elongated a tad due to a lack of light, but I was amazed at the amount of root development. Look at this picture from one Poa plant and it shows it has developed 2cm of root in little under 4 days !


So that raises a number of issues in my mind. The first is why are the cores all showing healthy root development ?

Well I think this is down to mild (notice not warm as it is my house and I’m notoriously frugal with my heating don’t you know) indoor temperatures, lots of oxygen in the rootzone and the cores have dried out (but not to a point where the plant is desiccated)

I see a lot of turf areas with shallow roots and there are for sure many contributing factors why this is the case but key with Poa. and perhaps other plants is availability of oxygen and managing soil moisture levels proficiently. Easier said than done on a golf course or football pitch which is unprotected from rainfall. (unless you have a roof of course :))

It makes such a good case for aeration doesn’t it ? – i.e –  Introducing oxygen into the rootzone and allowing water to move through efficiently.

It makes a good case as well for surface organic matter removal / dilution for exactly the same reasons and for sure if you have an accumulation of organic matter in the surface and / or it is insufficiently diluted with sand, then the grass plant will not be able to develop roots any deeper than this surface fibre layer. It doesn’t matter what you apply, you are not going to change simple soil physics and plant biology.


Ok lots of information to digest there and my head is spinning, so that’s it for another week…

All the best and thanks to everyone for their contributions in terms of GDD information, it really helps me put together this blog and I think it shows everyone why it is necessary to know where you are on your site.

All the best.

Mark Hunt