Monthly Archives: March 2018

March 26th

Hi All,

Sometimes I sit at this desk on a Monday morning and through the thin veil of sleep I have to remind myself of the date. Early signs of a cognitive disorder or a topsy-turvy year when it comes to the weather I’m not sure but as we embark on the 2nd day of British Summertime we still aren’t done with winter yet. As a customer said to me last week, my blogs make depressing reading this spring (or maybe always?) for that I can only apologise.

So my call of last Monday for a cool, unsettled Easter looks to be correct I’m afraid, don’t think it will be the Beast from the East MKIII, but it will be turning cooler again as we fail to move from the trough pattern in the jet stream that beset us back in the middle of February, that’s 6 weeks and counting. It may not seem like it this Easter but I have a suspicion that the jet stream is beginning to pull back into line slowly, beginning the week after Easter, time will tell. Yesterday though marked the start of British Summertime and what a lovely day it was, exactly a week before I could hardly bear the windchill from the east wind on my face whilst out walking, yesterday I was sweating…

For now let’s get on with the general weather situation…

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts off dry, cool and settled after what was for us here in The Midlands (and hopefully for the rest of you) a lovely spring day yesterday. A light frost as well in places. Ireland will have a duller start as cloud cover from an approaching Atlantic frontal system pushes ahead of it. The U.K should be bright, sunny and dry, not a bad way to start the week mind. As we go through to the afternoon we see that rain front push into the west of Ireland and move across the country for the rest of the day making landfall across The South West of England around about midnight. So not a bad Monday for the U.K and a wet second half for Ireland sums it up. In light north-westerly winds, temperatures will rise into double figures, especially where you see plenty of sunshine, a couple of degrees down on that for Ireland and Scotland.

Tuesday sees that rain front clearing Ireland by the time the M50 turns into a car park.  it’s now the turn of the U.K to get the rain and by the morning rush hour it’ll be ensconced over the western half of the U.K and moving eastwards. This rain may fall as wintry showers over the mountains of Scotland and The Lakes and they’ll be some very heavy bursts amongst it for the former as well, so expect some local flooding. By late morning Ireland is left dull and damp with some showers remaining, the worst of the rain will have cleared the west and now situated over the eastern side of the country clearing most areas by dusk. I say most areas because it looks to stay entrenched over Scotland well into the evening and with temperatures dropping it will turn to snow more readily over higher ground. So for a lot of areas of the U.K on Tuesday, you’ll start wet but then the rain will clear eastwards and then temperatures will pick up nicely in the sunshine up into the low teens across the south of England, what a pity it isn’t set to last as it is good growing weather. For Scotland, a pretty wet day I’m afraid and high single figures at best with Ireland similar, maybe just nicking up into double figures. Winds will be moderate and from the south turning westerly across most areas except Scotland where they start off south-easterly and then turn south-westerly.

Mid-week and Wednesday sees a band of wintry showers sitting across the west coast of Scotland and northern England. A much cooler feel to the day as the cooler air that will dominate Easter begins to make its presence felt. This means that any moisture will have a more wintry feel to it so during late morning we will see some showers of sleet, rain and snow push into western Ireland and also Wales moving eastwards across Scotland, the north of England and The Midlands of England by lunchtime. As we go through the afternoon these should clear southern England and become isolated to the east coastline of the U.K, still though those wintry showers affecting the west coast of Ireland mind. In-between the showers we will see plenty of sunshine but a more raw feel to the day for sure compared to the milder air of Monday and Tuesday despite a westerly wind direction. Expect 6-8°C as a typical temperature.

Thursday is significant because the wind changes round to a more easterly aspect and that’ll pull in some wintry showers across north-east Scotland through the morning. Elsewhere a bright, cold start to the day with plenty of winter sunshine after a light ground frost. Through the morning we may just see some wintry showers skirt the southern coast of England and South Wales in-between the sunshine. Those same showers may just spoil what will be a bright, cold day for Ireland by pushing into the south-east of Leinster / Munster on Thursday night. Feeling cold with that easterly wind over Scotland and mid-single figures likely here. Further south the wind will be more southerly orientated and that’ll push up temperatures a little into the high single figures.

Closing out the week with Good Friday and quite a complicated picture in terms of where may get wintry showers and where may stay dry. So complicated is it I’m not even going to try. Ok I will, at this stage it looks like the wintry showers will be confined to the south-east of Ireland, The South West and South Wales first off before moving away and dissipating. Scotland looks to keep those wintry showers across the north-east of the country and as we go through the morning they’ll move westwards pushed along by an easterly wind. We do have a low pressure sitting right over us and so for England, Wales and Ireland, I expect it’ll be a day of sunshine and then wintry showers moving through on a light to moderate south-east / southerly wind which turns increasingly easterly. I expect this to change as we go through the week rainfall vs. location-wise so plan for a cool, sunny and unsettled Good Friday and you won’t be disappointed.

So how does the rest of Easter look ?

Well I think Easter Saturday will be similar to Good Friday, bright and cool with some rain, sleet and snow showers (over elevation) to spoil the show. An easterly wind in situ so that means any moisture will come off The North Sea and English Channel / Irish Sea. Best to keep an eye on your local forecast for more up-to-date info on where the showers will affect but usually they come in off The Wash / Thames Estuary and the like. The second part of Easter Sunday sees the wind turn round to the south-west across Ireland and push in some heavy rain and strong winds. These looks set to affect most of the U.K on Easter Monday but with a south-west air stream it’ll feel milder in that wind and rain. (always looking for a positive spin like :))

Weather Outlook

Well it looks pretty straight-forward next week kicking off with the arrival of that Atlantic low pressure over Ireland on Sunday afternoon. At this stage it looks like next week will be windy, potentially very windy at times and wet with unsettled weather sitting with us most of the week. Initially cooler and unsettled but crucially with a south-west airstream they’ll be no risk of snow or night frostsand it’ll feel milder from Monday I reckon possibly. From Thursday next week I think we will pick up a much milder airstream and therefore see a hike in temperatures to normal for the beginning of April. I think the worst rain of the week will be on Easter Monday which is just bloody typical.

Agronomic Notes

So last week I produced a graph from The Oxfordshire showing we were currently sitting 11 days behind 2017 from a cumulative Growth Potential perspective. I’ve picked data from another location today, Northampton (thanks Rob) to do the comparison. Of course next week will be the end of the month so I should have lots of data to compare with 2017, it’s my intention to do as many representative locations as possible and certainly Scotland, Ireland, England and if possible Wales, but presently I have no data from that region.

So last week at The Oxfordshire location, we were tracking -11 days behind 2017 from a growth perspective and this week at a close-by location,  we are now 19 days behind so the gap is stretching. I think it will continue to do so through the rest of this month looking at the projected forecast, maybe finishing -23 days behind 2017 at the end of March. So over 3 weeks behind at the end of March in other words.

I thought it would also be interesting to see how the daily and total Growth Potential per month shaped up for this location ;

So you can see currently we haven’t had as much growth in March as we had in January this year, in fact I think we will be lucky to exceed January’s growth.

The last time this happened was 2013, another year when we had a late event, Sudden Stratospheric Warming.

A final perspective on growth, we have had just 2 days when the G.P was 0.4 or above, denoting good spring growth and both of them were in January.

Definitive proof then that we are behind and that any growth we have had this year was earlier.

Consequences of a late spring..

I have already talked about the fact that recovery from aeration will take a lot longer this year because of the slow start, easily a month if you aerated at the beginning of March and possibly longer. So punters, management and the like will just have to be patient I’m afraid.

If I was looking for some light at the end of the tunnel, then I’d hope that with next week’s unsettled forecast comes some milder day and night temperatures and that’ll move things on a bundle. Even today when the sun is out and temperatures are on the up, we started with a hard frost just short of -1°C, so we won’t hit a good growth day today.

The same goes for the conversion of winter season pitch to outfield on school pitches, it will take a bit longer this year but I’m hoping next week’s forecast will help the job along.

Looking at Meteoblue, they are projecting from 11-13°C next week with 3-5°C night temperatures and that’ll be good enough for some consistent growth, ok it won’t be jumping out of the ground, but if the forecast is right, it’ll be enough growth to move surfaces along 🙂

Selective herbicide timing

When I was out walking yesterday I saw some really small yellow flowers at the edge of a copse and thought they were Celandines but on closer inspection they were actually Dandelions ! They were really small, but in full flower with a shortened stem, almost dwarf-like and it got me thinking. At this stage of the spring we are normally on the cusp of spraying a selective herbicide but of course weed growth will be behind this year, just like grass growth so if you intend to spray early, make sure your target weed is visible. If not you are likely to spray and then have to spray again later in the spring when other weed species are fully emerged.

A good week for granulars…

With an unsettled forecast this week and a most-likely windy and unsettled next week then this coming week should prove ideal for granular fertiliser applications, especially if next week’s milder low pressure comes to fruition.

Nowadays more than ever this job is about spotting windows and taking advantage of them regardless of what the calendar may say sometimes.

Using GDD and G.P Data

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know from my blog and talks, that I’m a big fan of promoting the use of GDD / G.P data in communication with customers and management alike. People have very short memories when it comes to the weather conditions and precious little acknowledgement about their effects on grass growth and related management issues but this is changing. One of the reasons (I like to think) is the use of this type of information when addressing committees and the like, it really does put things into perspective in my humble opinion. Similarly golf clubs can use this data to explain to golfers why conditions are as they are….Over the weekend I could see from my twitter feed that a number of you were using GDD / G.P / Weather stats to present to members at your clubs and I can only applaud your efforts. (Matt, Kevan, Rob et al 🙂 )

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet (like me)

Make the best of Easter, I don’t think it’ll be as bad as the tabloids are saying and for sure I intend to get out regardless. Fishing is one of those hobbies / past times/ obsessions that is unaffected by rain, now mountain biking is another matter 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt

March 19th

Hi All,

As most of us sit here and contemplate another very cold weekend with heavy, drifting snow in places and severe windchill, it’s quite difficult to appreciate that tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, the date when day length and night length are practically the same.

Out cycling on Friday evening in shorts it was so beautiful and spring-like and also so difficult to believe that less than 12 hours later we would be facing an Arctic blast but that’s exactly what we got. The temperature drop as those easterlies pushed in was dramatic as output from my Netatmo shows. Yesterday the ‘high’ temperature was -0.3 °C and the windchill coming off the snow facing into the easterly wind whilst walking was eye-watering.

Looking back at 2013 when we also had a late Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, there were days (at the end of March that year) when the temperature barely rose above freezing so it’s what we should expect especially when the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) is so negative.

Last week, someone asked me to explain the NAO and it did make me smile as I am not and have never pretended to be a trained meteorologist, though maybe that’s my next vocation 🙂 Put simply it’s the pressure difference between the polar low pressure system and the Azores high, but you can find a much better explanation here

In simple terms I like to think of it as dictating the position of the jet stream by and large because when we have a negative NAO, invariably the position of the jet stream sinks south, allowing cold air to influence our weather. If we have a positive NAO, then the jet stream is placed higher and we tend to have high pressure dominating the weather.

You can see the predicted NAO index’s here. Just to highlight the relationship, here’s the current graphic showing the dip at the end of Feb and over the last weekend when we experienced our cold weather and snow events.

Output courtesy of National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Centre

You can see from the projections that the most of the models are putting us back into a weak positive NAO towards the end of this month (though not all are, see below ), such are the vagaries of weather forecasting. On a short-term (10-day) basis there are signs that the jet stream is beginning to move more northerly and therefore back to a position where colder air from the east can’t influence our weather . It is not there yet and probably won’t be in 10 days time. Here is Unisys’s output, I’ve marked the position of the jet stream in red so you can see the progression northwards, however the cold air, trough pattern is still present.

Short-term then we are returning to more normal temperatures, medium-term there still exists the potential for cooler and crucially wetter weather to dominate I’m afraid. Just as I finished typing this, Metman James tweeted the latest NAO predictions and unfortunately it bears out my note of caution above with a return to a negative NAO in early April. I hope they’re wrong because that would mean a very cold Easter.

2018 is starting to feel to me very much like 2013, when we had a late SSW event. Looking back at our temperatures then we didn’t go into a positive NAO and westerly airstream until mid-April. That said, we all know the inaccuracy that comes with long-range weather forecasting so let’s all hope they’re wrong this time.

On a positive note, my Netatmo Weather Station has just pinged my Garmin watch to say it is recording rainfall which means the dollop of snow sitting on top of my Netatmo rain gauge is beginning to melt. The thaw has started !

General Weather Situation

Ok so enough of the ‘Mystic Megging’, when are we likely to see the back of the current snow and ice ?

Well not on Monday because it’s the last of the very cold days although it will be a much brighter day with only the far south catching some more wintry showers and snow I am afraid during this morning. So a bright, cold day on the whole with for a change some good news for Scotland in that you’ll be warmest of all areas and that’ll set a thaw on its way. As we move further west we will also see temperatures creep up into mid-single figures, nothing to shout about I know but a lot better than Saturday and Sunday and enough to start a thaw here as well in the sunshine. Currently I’m sitting at 4.2°C here so already an improvement over yesterday when we didn’t get above freezing at all. All areas will still have that strong, gusty, bitingly cold easterly wind for Monday I’m afraid, maybe less so for Scotland and that’s why the temperatures will be a little higher.

Overnight into Tuesday and with clear skies we see another frost although not as intense as the last few days, so that means temperatures will recover into positive mode quicker. So another dry day on Tuesday but with the wind swinging round more to the north-east, we will face a risk of wintry showers blowing in off The North Sea through tomorrow morning I am afraid. So cloudier and therefore duller for the east side of the U.K, but for Ireland, Scotland and the west side of the U.K, a bright and dry day with lots of spring sunshine. Scotland and Ireland again look to top out the temperatures pushing up to 8-9°C for the latter with a much lighter wind over these areas. Further south I think it’ll be more likely to be 6-7°C, cooler across the east with that cloud cover.

Onto Wednesday and again a likelihood of frost overnight but not a severe one and with a change in wind direction to north-westerly, we will see temperatures pushing up again much quicker. A change to north-westerly invariably means moisture and sure enough north-west Scotland will pick up some rain, sleet and snow over elevation from early doors, Wednesday morning. This band of moisture will push down the east side of the U.K through the course of the day and turn to snow as it hits the colder air from the continent so a risk of snow for a time before it turns to rain along the east coast possibly (it all depends on temperatures at the time) through the evening. Scotland will be the cooler area under that cloud cover and rain / wintry mix but further south and west we should get up to 8-9°C hopefully and a dry if duller day. For Ireland I think a duller day on Wednesday with some of that rain catching you across the northern counties from mid-morning onwards and then heading into Northern Ireland through the afternoon. A much duller day on Wednesday but mild like.

Thursday sees that rain push southwards overnight introducing plenty of cloud cover and some rain to the south-east but the positive flip side to this is no frost. 🙂 Scotland sees a dry but dull start as does Ireland but for the latter we will see a band of rain push in from The Atlantic mid-morning moving westwards across the country through the course of the day. This rain will reach the west coast of Scotland during the evening on Thursday. Further south and east of this band of rain, Wales and England look to miss it on Thursday through the day but overnight into Friday it’ll reach the west coast of the U.K and push eastwards. Temperature-wise with the wind swinging round to more westerly, the day temperatures will hover around high, single figures and critically the night temperatures will stay positive also, so that’s encouraging 🙂

So Friday will start dull with that overnight rain sitting across the U.K as we start the morning rush hour. It should have cleared Ireland by this time as well perhaps lingering over the northern counties, but although you’ll be mainly dry first thing, a new band of rain is projected to push in from the west, mid-morning. So a wet start to Friday for many but with a strong to moderate south-westerly wind in situ, that rain will soon move off into The North Sea to leave sunshine and showers behind. It won’t be dry everywhere though because that rain over Ireland will push into north-west England during the afternoon. So a potentially wet end to Friday I think for the west of the U.K, Scotland and Ireland. Some of that moisture may turn to sleet and snow at elevation on Friday over Scotland. Temperature-wise, still staying high single figures possibly nudging into double figures for the west and south as that milder airstream from the south-west pushes temperatures a little upwards.

So how does the outlook for next weekend look ? Will I be losing the feeling in my fingers again whilst fishing or are things on the up ?

Well tricky to say at this point (as always) but I think not a bad weekend for most places, still with the threat of some showers pushing through particularly for the south-east of England on Saturday forming into heavier bands of rain here possibly. Elsewhere I think a nice day, quite spring-like with temperatures up in the high single / low double figures and with plenty of sunshine. Still a chance of the odd shower across Ireland and Scotland but with a light to moderate south-westerly wind in situ, it’s more likely to be dry than wet, except across The South East on Saturday. A drier picture on Sunday here and just about everywhere save for some showers across the north-west of Ireland, England and Scotland. Temperature-wise, 9-11°C gets my vote.

Weather Outlook

So I think next week looks like a quiet start to the week as high pressure from The Atlantic extends its influence across Ireland and the U.K. I expect it to be similar temperature-wise to the weekend because we will have light northerly winds in place, but at least it’ll be dry. So a dry start to the week and a cool one perhaps with overnight frost but as we move into the 2nd part of Tuesday we will begin to come under the influence of a North Atlantic low pressure system. This will switch the wind round to westerly / north-westerly and introduce more cloud cover and rain into the north-west of Ireland initially before reaching most areas on Wednesday, along with stronger, westerly winds. So turning windy and unsettled from Wednesday with that low pressure set to sit over us for the 2nd part of next week and drawing in colder, northern air as we approach the end of the week. Remaining windy and unsettled I think over the Easter weekend with a cool, northerly airstream if this projection stays on track but plenty of time to change yet.

Agronomic Notes

Ok so with all eyes on our slow start to the spring I thought I’d throw in a couple of comparison graphs which I will update on a regular basis.

2018 vs. 2017 vs. 2013

The first is a year-on-year comparison featuring 2018, 2017 and the last really slow spring, 2013, using data from The Oxfordshire, my default location.

So looking at data from this site, we are sitting 11 days behind 2017 currently but the gap will extend as we go through the week because you can see this time last year we were piling on some good growth. By next Monday it wouldn’t surprise me if we were 17-18 days behind growth potential-wise, year-on-year. You can download the above graph here.

Let’s just think what this means in practical terms with respect to aeration.

Imagine that we aerated our greens on 1st March in both 2017 and 2018 and we were working on the basis of requiring 10 days of good growth (Good growth = average daily G.P = 0.4) for full recovery. In other words when we reached a total G.P of 4.0 from 1st March, I’d expect us to be pretty much recovered from a standard spring hollow coring (10mm tines at 62.5mm spacings) provided adequate nutrition was in place.

In 2017, in a good spring,  we would have had recovery in 18 days

(Total G.P from 1st March, 2017 to March 18th, 2017 = 4.2)

In 2018, in a slow spring, we would still only be halfway there by today and I reckon we will need pretty much the whole month to hit that total, but we will see.

(Total G.P from 1st March, 2018 to March 18th, 2018  = 2.1)

That tournament….The Masters

As we near the date of The Masters in Augusta, I’ve been asked if I might update one of my talk slides with a 2018 comparison between the location for the Augusta National in Georgia, U.S.A and my default location, The Oxfordshire, Thame, Oxfordshire, U.K.

As luck would have it the Weather Underground Network shows 2 weather stations just across the road from The Augusta National location highlighted in the above image in yellow. You can see their current temperature is a very nice 15.8°C, but they had a wet start to the day with 8mm odd of rain. So I’ve lifted data from the weather station above to compare.

Now we know that Augusta has some very specific agronomic issues relating to shade so this won’t be representative of these areas, but it will reflect a green in an open-aspect vs. the same at The Oxfordshire.

I’m also pretty sure that Sean at The Oxfordshire doesn’t (to be best of my knowledge of course :)) call upon lighting rigs, undersoil heating and fans, etc to produce his surfaces and nor do I suspect that the budgets are similar either, but lets look at the two purely from a growth comparison perspective.

So below is a Cumulative Growth Potential comparison of the 2 sites from yesterday’s date…

So we are currently tracking 48 days behind Augusta National at The Oxfordshire from a Growth Potential perspective. Indeed if I look to 2017, The Oxfordshire didn’t hit a cumulative Growth Potential of 36.1 till the 26th of May.

A comparison between the two is therefore pretty meaningless, but of course that won’t stop it happening. You can download the above here though I intend to update this every Monday on the run up to the event.

There are two sides to every coin…

Now it should also be said that although they have much better conditions for growth at Augusta, looking at their weather statistics the job sure can’t be easy from a turf management perspective.

They have a lot of days of frost in the morning and mid-twenties by the afternoon and their last frost was only 4 days ago. They hit 28.8°C on the 16th February and were into the 30’s shortly afterwards accompanied by > 90% relative humidity, so one can only imagine the pressures on the resident grass species from a disease perspective.

Working on my usual stats for Anthracnose spore germination, I reckon they passed the trigger point on the 19th of February and so could expect disease activity 4 weeks later potentially and what’s more they encountered acute plant stress (as denoted by a dip in Growth Potential) just a week later. They also look to have had a pretty cold first half of March with frequent frost before temperatures recovered over the last few days.

Sure they don’t have pressures to produce grass growth like we may have currently, but they have plenty of others that go with the territory. I know they have a pretty unlimited budget compared to this side of the pond and a number of features to improve growth that I have already highlighted, but as a turf manager I cannot presume to imagine the pressure that this weather, location and that tournament brings.

We of course have plenty of pressure this year whichever side of the fence you’re standing whether you’re trying to produce consistent turf or supply products to the same, life ain’t easy, but just like 2013, we will prevail starting with some slightly better growing weather this week.

Transition from Winter Sports to Cricket…

One area that the slow start to spring is likely to impact on is the conversion of playing areas from winter sports to cricket that is set to take place at schools over the next month or so. Thankfully it looks like at least we have some potential for growth on the horizon however areas of turf that have been in play over the winter will be further behind than previous years, not just because of the slow start to the spring, but also because of a lower growth rate during November and December. So these areas may need more of a helping hand nutritionally compared to previous years because of low growth rates pre and post-Christmas. All the best to the groundsmen and groundswomen on this one.

The same is also true of areas in play on the golf course, particularly tees, wear pathways from greens to tee and other traffic routes.

Regardless of which weather projection is correct on the run up to the end of this month, low temperature-available forms of nitrogen including ammonium nitrate, sulphate and potassium nitrate will help in this respect to produce growth even at low soil temperatures. This is because of the lack of microbial conversion required to make these nutrient forms available to the grass plant. Now if you’ve come out of the winter healthy and with a good sward then you’re ahead of the game but I think for many that won’t be the case.

Ok a late blog again, must get up earlier in the morning, my apologies…

All the best.

Mark Hunt





March 12th / 13th….

Hi All,

This time last year we were basking in mid-teen, day temperatures and mild nights to boot and the grass had already been growing strongly for 3 weeks. In 2017, we packed on 30GDD in this week, whereas in 2018 we will be lucky to get to a quarter of that.

Bizarre really when you consider we have just had a nice mild weekend for most but the reality is that the Sudden Stratospheric warming (SSW) that took place in the third week of February looks set to leave a cold and wet influence on March 2018.

Image courtesy of Metman James (

I say that because the NAO index which is still sitting in a negative situation (i.e high pressure above us and low pressure below instead of the reverse) and as you can see from some of the weather model projections it isn’t due to cross that dotted line past the end of March. Now some models have this happening sooner (7 – 10 days off) but looking at the jet stream it is still sitting way lower than normal and it isn’t showing any signs of moving northwards till the weekend after next….

So low pressure systems are orientated south of the U.K instead of coming in from The Atlantic and this results in lots of rain. With the thaw last weekend and a wet week, last week for many, the ground is saturated and the bad news is we have more to come I am afraid until that jet stream pattern changes. It’s also likely that we aren’t done with the snow just yet and those biting easterlies (heaping on the good news…not)


I had a lot of feedback last week and over the weekend about the blog so to everyone that ventured an opinion, thank you very much, it is important to me.

For the time-being I am going to carry on with the present format although this week’s version will start on Tuesday from a weather perspective simply because I have had no electricity till lunchtime so no WiFi (cracking start to the week that :))

General Weather Situation

So I’ll start this week’s blog on Tuesday because by the time I’m likely to finish it, Monday’s forecast will be irrelevant. So Tuesday looks to start dry for most of us save for some wintry showers across the north-west of Scotland. By lunchtime we should start to see some gaps in the cloud base and sunshine across eastern and western areas including the east of Ireland. It won’t last for long here though as a rain band is due to push into western Munster in the early afternoon and push eastwards across Ireland and into The South West by early evening, with more rain to follow for Ireland overnight into Wednesday. Elsewhere, a dry and nice end to the day really just with the threat of an odd shower across The Midlands and Central England. Temperature-wise, 9-10°C for most areas and winds likely to be north-westerly for most places except Scotland where you are more southerly.

Onto Wednesday and that overnight rain will be set fair over most of Ireland by the morning rush hour and if anything intensifying across South Munster and Leinster during the morning, so some heavy rain forecast here. Nipping across The Irish Sea to the U.K, Wednesday doesn’t look too bad with some showers across the north-west of England / south-west of Scotland during the morning and across The South West. Elsewhere a cloudy start with hazy sunshine allowing temperatures to lift nicely into the low double figures through the day, so not bad at all really.  Ireland looks to have that rain all day on Wednesday, with heavy rain towards the south of the country for most of the day, I would expect there to be local flooding. Just after dusk we see some of that heavier rain push into The South West and into West Wales as well. Windier on Wednesday with a strong southerly / south-easterly wind.

For Thursday we see that rain over The South West push across the western half of the U.K overnight and it’ll still be there by the morning rush hour. Ireland will be drier but with another rain band following up behind the one now affecting the west side of the U.K. So by lunchtime we have two vertical bands of rain, one moving slowly across Ireland, the other sitting across a line from North Wales to the south-east of England. The picture will also be unsettled along the north-west coast of England and south-west of Scotland. The Midlands and east of the country will probably stay dry in the morning but that rain band consolidates and moves eastwards to give a wet afternoon here with some of that rain heavy over the north Midlands and north of England I’m afraid. Still unsettled for Ireland despite the bulk of the rain moving away through the day, more in the way of sunshine here though between the showers. Temperature-wise, cooler on Thursday with a strong south-easterly wind in situ so perhaps only just scraping high single figures in the wind.

Closing out the week on Friday we see that rain band now sitting from the North Midlands up to Scotland so a wet start to the day here. This rain band will push slowly northwards into Central Scotland as we progress through the day. South of this rain, a nice day on Friday with good spells of sunshine and much lighter winds. Ireland looks to have the same though still with a threat of a shower along the far south coast. These showers look set to move north through the second half of the day for Ireland, still with some sunny spells between them. For the U.K, that rain band will be slow to clear the east and north of the country with a threat of rain late on Friday across The South East and East Anglia. Late in the day there’s also a risk of a rumble of thunder or two in amongst that rain. Temperature-wise, a little up on Thursday and nudging into double figures especially where you see the sunshine across the south of England.

Ok so how is the weekend looking ? hmmmm…

There’s some disagreement among the weather models for the weekend or more precisely the exact timing of a change to an easterly airflow and plummeting temperatures. Meteoblue has this occurring on Saturday whereas most models show the wind changing from mild southerlies on Saturday to easterlies overnight into Sunday with an overnight frost and very cold temperatures during the day on Sunday. I think the weekend outlook will be reasonably dry save for some rain across Kerry and some wintry showers across Scotland and the north-east of England. Sunday looks reasonably dry at this stage but much, much colder and with the threat of snow showers across eastern areas blown in off The North Sea. It will really feel absolutely Brass Monkey’s weather when you open the door on Sunday morning.

Weather Outlook

So we have some potential good and bad news looking ahead at next week.

The good news is that it should be a lot drier than this week, the bad news is that we will see a return to some pretty un-typical March temperatures with Sunday and Monday in particular looking well parky. I’ve already seen the t****y headlines proclaiming a return of “The beast from the east”, ho-hum and all that, but yes we will have a period of northerly and then easterly winds commencing some time between Saturday and Sunday and kicking off into next week. The easterly wind is coming from a slightly different direction to previous so I can’t see it being like before in terms of snowfall and temperature extremes, but it will be cold and we will see some snow on easterly coasts. So expect overnight frosts probably from Friday night onwards and lasting till at least next Wednesday night, perhaps longer. I think we will be dry and cold though on the whole. That said with northerlies and then easterlies, there’s always a chance of moisture pushing in from The North Sea in the way of snow showers. Towards the end of next week there’s a suggestion that the jet stream will kind of ‘reset’ and assume its traditional place across Ireland and the U.K, thus returning us to a milder, westerly airstream and more normal temperatures. If this comes to pass it will mean a cold spell of around 5 weeks since the occurrence of the SSW.

Agronomic Notes

So with some slightly milder weather last week (albeit wet weather), we have seen signs of growth out there in some areas of the U.K and Ireland. I am also very aware that some northerly locations still have standing snow due to the magnitude of the drifts the previous week.

Soil temperature taken at 10 a.m. on Friday 9th March, 2018. Last year on the same day it was 8 degrees C

So where are we versus last year growth-wise ?

We are way behind last year as the graphs below of daily and cumulative Growth Potential show….

As you see from the above year-on-year graph showing cumulative Growth Potential we will have reached the same total on the 22nd March, 2018 (calculated by using forecasted temperatures as I haven’t quite mastered time travel as of yet..) as we did on the 25th February, 2017. That puts us about 25 days behind last year from a growth perspective.

SSW’s aren’t good news for business or growth….

If I compare it with 2013, when we also had a late SSW event, you can clearly see the similarity between 2013 and 2018 in terms of low growth levels through March..

So my advice is plan for a low temperature run through March in terms of nutrition….

Stop – Start Growth Signs..

Yes I know we talk about this every year and in fact I tweeted this image on Friday because I thought I’d drag myself into this century and use Twitter more….I had a lot of reaction so thanks for that…

The above shows some biotypes of (in this case) Poa annua displaying the typical purple colouration that we associate with a run of warm days and cold nights. During the day (and in particular on turf areas that are more out in the open) the grass plant produces sugars by photosynthesis but with rapidly falling temperatures at night, these sugars are not translocated from the leaf. They therefore accumulate and in so doing bind to a purple pigment called anthocyanin. The upper layer of the plant leaf then takes on a purple colouration, as opposed to the more usual green that we associate with the pigment chlorophyll. The biotypes that are growing better during the day display a purple pigmentation vs. other biotypes that are slower growing which remain green. If you look closely at the purple areas with a hand-glass and turn the leaf over, you’ll see it is only the upper leaf surface that is purple, the underneath is still green. This is because the upper leaf of the grass plant is exposed to the greatest temperature variation.

Now I’ve seen this pigmentation on Poa annua and Bentgrass, but not on Ryegrass so I’m interested to know if anyone has noted it on the latter ?

Normally the purple pigmentation grows out once temperatures become more stable, in particular night temperatures, so that won’t be anytime soon then eh ?

Disease activity

Last week I included this image of new activity around existing scars and sure enough we saw quite a bit of disease activity of this type through the week, courtesy of some pretty rapid increases in air temperature accompanied by high humidity. This mix as we know is very conducive to Microdochium nivale development.

Downloading my faithful little Netatmo Weather Station’s readings for last Monday highlighted the above conditions clearly…

The columns marked in red show when conditions were in favour of disease development. We can see this was from 10.42 a.m. right through till 4.42 p.m. on the 5th March, that’s 6 hours and more than enough time for this pathogen to develop mycelium. The humidity was flat-lining at 100% for pretty much the entire day with only a short period (2 hours gosh golly) when it dipped down to 96% ! In other words the plant leaf surface was pretty much saturated with moisture, another reason why fungal mycelium could develop.

Not the only pathogen problem at present…

As many Corvids (Crow species) currently have young in the nest, they are on the hunt for food and so pecking damage is very much in evidence on turf surfaces be it golf, cricket or race courses. I saw Magpies doing this damage on the approach to a golf green and expected to find Leatherjackets as the intended target but was surprised to see Bibionid sp. larvae (shown below)

These are larvae of species like Fever Fly or the most-aptly named, St Mark’s Fly (nice to have a fly named after you 🙂 ) and are found in clusters just below the turf surface in the upper layer of thatch. I say surprised because I’ve seen these larvae at the same stage of development in December so they’re obviously like grass, a bit behind the curve….Nothing really we can do right now for this species or the other types of insect larvae present at this time of year.

Behind the curve on shoots but maybe not roots…

The other interesting point that I would make before signing off this blog in the middle of a damp and dank Monday evening relates to the image above. I’ve noted lots of white roots in evidence on cores I’ve taken recently even though as our GDD / G.P information shows we are a long way behind the curve growth wise in terms of top growth. It’s a fact that when the plant isn’t putting its efforts into top growth (leaf shoot growth), more resource (biomass) is available for root development and although the temperature cut-off for leaf shoot development is around 6°C air temperature, root development in grasses appears to continue right down to 1-2°C . Part of the reason for this is that the soil provides some insulation to the effects of colder air of course, but part is due to a partitioning effect in terms of growth between leaf and root biomass production. When conditions are conducive to growth (light, temperature and moisture) and particularly when there’s surplus nitrogen around, the grass plant will divert its energies into shoot development at the cost of root development. This clearly isn’t the scenario now and so that’s why you are more likely to see some pretty positive root development at present, particularly if you’ve carried out some early season aeration (that old chestnut again you sigh…)

Ok that’s it for this week, sorry for the delay in posting this blog.

All the best for the coming week and wrap up well if out and about at the weekend 🙂

Mark Hunt




March 5th

Hi All,

Well that was a week and a half weather-wise and I know for Scotland it isn’t quite over yet in terms of recovering temperatures and a thaw. I ventured out into the countryside for a walk (climb) on Saturday and have never seen drifts like it, they were literally huge.

Amazing then that when the thaw started on Saturday night and through Sunday, such a large amount of snow disappeared so quickly. Now I’m not talking about these type of drifts, they’ll be hanging around for a while yet, but in general the snow in the fields went so fast. Part of this was because the real level in the fields was quite low as it had been pushed into drifts along the hedgerows. Part of it is because the snow had a very low moisture content so it didn’t pack down as hard, had more air spaces between the flakes and then when the air temperature increased, the melt occurred.

Snow to rain ratio

Usually you can work on 10mm of snow = 1mm of rain as a rough guide but this ratio can run as high as 50:1 with fine powder snow. In the latter, 300mm (12″) of powder snow can be equivalent to 6mm of rainfall.

The severe weather brought some unusual birds into the garden as well, not because they’re rare but because I don’t normally see them. Fieldfares took full advantage of the Apples I put out (I found putting them on skewers allowed me to slide them up above the snow as it fell saving them from being buried), Pied Wagtails and even a Treecreeper landed on my patio to feast on Mealworms, it must have been hard for them this spell of freezing weather.

One last point before I leave my anecdotal weather ramblings, yesterday it was a heady 5°C when I was fly fishing but it felt so warm compared to the earlier days freezing temperatures, I didn’t even need gloves on. Isn’t it amazing how quickly the human body adapts ? The Trout were a little picky though 🙂

So the thaw is well under way in most places south of the Scottish border but we aren’t totally out of the woods yet because the jet stream is still lying lower than normal and we are sitting in a cool temperature trough. The Unisys GIF above for today clearly demonstrates this. So a thaw yes, but a recovery to normal March conditions not. The same week last year we sat with maximum air temperatures between 10-15°C, this week we will be lucky if they just break double figures. The long-term prognosis is that we are to stay in this trough pattern until at least the middle of March and perhaps longer. In other SSW event years, we have seen the subsequent low temperature effects carry on for a number of weeks, so yes things will improve, but no we aren’t back to normal just yet.

General Weather Situation

I had some good feedback last week on my blog and its format, specifically this part (thanks Adam) where my friend and colleague said that he rarely reads this part of my blog because he can get that from a forecast, it’s the longer-term and agronomic notes part that is important for him. Now this part takes a good chunk of time so can I ask for some feedback if you agree or disagree with the above please as I’m always looking to save time 🙂

So onto this week and Monday sees a North-South divide in place with north-east Scotland still on the receiving end of wintry showers through this morning. There’s also a band of rain moving up the east Leinster / north-west England coastline through the morning. Elsewhere we look to be dull, dry and calm with a noted absence of wind. That’s the way we are set to stay through Monday save for a rain front that is due to affect The South West and south coast later this afternoon, pushing up into Central England and The Midlands through the evening. You can see the North-South divide in action today with a wintry 3°C for Scotland, 9-11°C for Central England and Wales and 6-7°C for Ireland.

Tuesday sees that overnight rain across the south of England pushing up through Wales, the north of England and The North East by morning rush hour. As it meets the cold air sitting still over Scotland it will turn to sleet and snow at elevation so winter is still knocking at the door for you guys I’m afraid. By lunchtime the rain has cleared The Midlands and will be affecting the north of England and still falling as wintry showers over Scotland. Ireland looks to have a dry day over most of the country save for some rain that’s into Kerry and will push north and east across into The Midlands through the day. By late afternoon we may just see that cloud cover break across Wales and the west to give a sunny end to the day. Temperature-wise very similar to Monday 3°C for Scotland, 9-11°C for southern England and Wales and 6-7°C for Ireland. Winds will be light to moderate south-westerly.

Wednesday sees a drier day on the whole but still unsettled with a risk of wintry showers over Donegal and the north of Ireland and the north-west of England / North Wales. Dull again with maybe a chance of seeing the sun down in Kerry but perhaps not for long as some wintry showers are due there during the morning. For the south, central areas and The Midlands, a dry, dull day, a little cooler than Monday or Tuesday but fine really when you consider where we came from. Through the afternoon we will see those wintry showers push up into Central Scotland and also some new rain fronts push into The South West and across South Munster / Leinster. A little cooler on Wednesday dropping a couple of degrees off the temperature for the day so 3°C for Scotland, 7 – 8°C for England and Wales and 6-7°C for Ireland.

Thursday starts dry for most areas except the north of England where we will see a re-occurrence of wintry showers and rain dependent on elevation and a consolidated rain front across The South West. The latter will quickly gather up its heels and sally forth into Central England, Wales and The Midlands through the morning with some rain also crossing Ireland from The South West. Still some wintry showers affecting the north-east of England but Scotland for once looks drier and sunny. At this stage that band of rain over England is due to only progress up to Nottingham sort of way so a wet day down south and forThe Midlands on Thursday. Ireland will see those showers cross through the day but you’ll also get a glimpse of the sun across the south-east of Munster. Similar temperatures to Wednesday but with a changing wind dynamic switching to more northerly for a brief time as we end the day.

We close out the week on Friday with a settled, dry picture across the U.K and Ireland save for some wintry showers crossing Scotland from The South West and also some snow showers across Donegal. Dull again as is the theme for this week but by the afternoon we should see that cloud break over Ireland, the north of England and The Midlands. Staying dry for pretty much the whole day with similar temperatures to the rest of the week but enjoy it because we have a deep low on the way 🙁

So you’ve probably guessed it already but the outlook for the weekend is most definitely unsettled with a deep low pressure pushing up from south west of the U.K. (Because the jet stream is low) Now of course timing is everything and it might not reach us till Sunday so if I wanted to try and get a dry day out there then Saturday would be my pick but it’s by no means guaranteed !  A clear sign that it’s heading your way will be the wind direction changing from south-westerly to south-easterly though temperatures will be up around high single figures so not bad. With the low coming up from the south it won’t likely reach Scotland till later on Sunday but I expect it to be pretty entrenched over Ireland and the southern half of England by Saturday tea time. Much windier at the weekend as well with winds easterly for the U.K and a chiller northerly for Ireland.

Weather Outlook

Ok so is the jet stream likely to take a hike north back to its usual place or will we stay in our cool trough ? So first off I consult my oracle – Metman James 🙂

Image courtesy of Metman James, you can find him on Twitter here…

As you can see from the above, the highly negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) that followed the SSW (it’s all acronyms you know), we are slowly pulling back towards normal but as intimated in last week’s blog it won’t be until the middle of the month that we start to pick up a westerly airflow and a return to more typical March temperatures. Even then I can’t see us losing the cooler trough pattern in the jet stream. So my feeling is that we will continue cool and unsettled with a high chance of a re-occurring low pressure systems with a southerly orientation i.e they come in from the English Channel as opposed to The Atlantic.

So next week I think will start unsettled following that deep low pressure system that arrives at the weekend with frequent rain showers across the U.K and Ireland and a strong north-westerly wind.  Now the North-South Divide is likely to continue so I expect Scotland to have more in the way of northerlies and wintry showers I’m afraid. Once that low has rattled through I expect a quieter time on Tuesday and Wednesday as we are between low pressure systems before the arrival of a new low pressure system into the south of the U.K on Thursday. This means a change back to strong easterly winds (likely to stay on the cool side then) and more rain for the end of next week. Now there’s not a lot of agreement in the models as we speak although on Jame’s GIF above you can see a dip in the NAO on Thursday 15th which will be that low pressure system I’m on about above.

If I really mystic meg it, I think we will be into a westerly airstream around about the 17th March and that’s when we will see a true return to March’s normal temperatures and critically better night temperatures, always the hand brake to growth.

Agronomic Notes

Ok so since it’s the first blog of March I’ll take this opportunity to play ‘Spot the GDD in February’ 🙂

February GDD – U.K Location – Thame

So we can see that pretty much nothing went on at this location during February 2018 with nearly the joint coldest February we have recorded in line with 2010, but not as low as 2013.

I looked back at the SSW event in 2009/ 2010 and although it occurred earlier in the winter, we also experienced an SSW around February 9th, 2010 which is about 10 days earlier than the date of the SSW we experienced in 2018.  You can see a great animation of the 2010 SSW here

So where am I going with this SSW analogy ?

Well looking back at the weather data from this location in 2010, it took 5 weeks from when the SSW occurred for the wind direction to swing back to westerly and temperatures to rise to their March normal. Interestingly this occurred on March 15th, 2010.

This suggests that it took the jet stream 5 weeks to swing back to normal after a negative NAO back in 2010.

Our SSW event occurred on Feb 17th so if we apply the same logic then 2nd-3rd week of March is a similar outcome. We also experienced SSW events in 2013 which saw extended cold weather right through till the end of March with heavy snowfall on the 25th March, 2013.

During late winter 2016, we also experienced an SSW and looking back at my data, that took 4 weeks to right itself, so we can tentatively conclude that on average it takes 4-5 weeks after an SSW event for things (NAO, Jet Stream, etc) to right themselves but as 2013 showed us, this isn’t always a cert.

What we need to see for certain to know we are on our way back to spring is for the NAO to return to positive and cold air to re-assume its place over the North Pole. Last week The North Pole wasn’t even freezing and was some +35°C warmer than normal due to warm air being pushed over the top of the blocking high pressure system.

Cumulatively speaking 2018 already represents a cold start to the year at this location when we compare it with 2017.

In 2017, we reached a cumulative GDD of 36 on the 3rd of February, this year we reached it on the 28th February so that’s a good 3 1/2 weeks behind last year already and I expect this gap to grow because in March 2017 we piled on the GDD.

In this week last year we recorded 26.5 total GDD at this location, this week I think we will be lucky enough to record 5-6 maybe, see what I mean about not being back to normal ?

What to expect in the coming week ?

Well depending on your location you may already have gone through a phase of rapid thawing yesterday when the air temperature increased and we had mild air temperature rainfall. This is always a difficult time on a golf course or sports pitch because the upper region of the rootzone thaws first and deeper down it is still frozen solid. Initially when only the extreme upper layer (10mm) thaws you can get a very unstable surface with the upper layer shearing off from the frozen lower layer.

Once the thaw has extended deeper into the profile then you gain stability and I believe less risk of surface shearing. The problem is the surface looks thawed and so Joe Public will want to get out there and play but if you have slopes / mounds etc there is a pronounced health & safety risk until the thaw sets in deeper into the profile.

Looking at the temperature profiles across the U.K and Ireland I would have expected most of England, Wales and Ireland to have gone through this thawing cycle yesterday but areas like The Lakes and the entirety of Scotland will still be frozen and receiving more snow turning to rain through this week so possibly your pain is yet to come I’m afraid 🙁

Microdochium activity – How low can you go ?

The other month I was fortunate enough to share the floor with Kate Entwistle at the BIGGA Turf Managers Conference when we gave a presentation on Microdochium nivale. Kate’s task was to  briefly and I mean briefly  (because I didn’t give her much time:) ) to give a microbial perspective on this disease (and Anthracnose as well). True to form, Kate did this with time to spare (Cheers me dears) and in her part of the talk she covered the temperature range in which Microdochium is active. Although its favoured growth temperature is around 20°C, it’s main temperature range for infection is 0 – 15°C, but it is capable of completing its life cyle down to -5C.

So I took some soil temperature readings under the snow canopy last week and the average was 1.6°C, in other words not frozen even though we went into the snow cover rock hard.

So it is no surprise to see images like this of an old disease scar plug with new activity present emerging from the snow cover. This clearly suggests that disease development continued under the insulating effects of snow cover. Whilst we can expect to see cases like this with new activity around an existing disease scar, I’d be interested to know if anyone sees new infection during the same period, so please send me your feedback.

Things to do….

Now obviously if you’re reading this still staring out the window at snow drifts or a flooded surface, you can disregard the next paragraph. It’s a fact though that some regions of the country will dry quickly after this thaw and therefore some of you will be able to get out.

First off we have a pretty wetted-up moss plant so now is the time to hit it with an approved High Fe Mosskiller if you were thinking of applying it in the spring. It’s probably too early still for the chemical Mosskiller’s (Mogeton and the like) until we can clearly see the other side of this post-SSW weather event and so are guaranteed good grass growth. Species like Silver Thread Moss have to be fully wetted-up prior to application to gain any kind of benefit so the next couple of weeks could be an ideal time for treatment if a growth window presents itself.

Secondly, if you are planning aeration or carried it out just before the SSW event then you’ll be looking for some growth and recovery. Now obviously it’s staying cool with only a small amount of growth but for me this week would be ideal to apply either a liquid tonic when the air is warming or a granular feed if you need to promote more in the way of growth for longer because we have good levels of soil moisture and some rain throughout the week to enable granule breakdown and then recovery.

It goes without saying that your N sources in your chosen products should be immediately-available if you are looking for a plant response, so that’s ammonium sulphate, nitrate and / or potassium nitrate at this time of year rather than something like urea which isn’t immediately-available to the grass plant.

Urea requires the presence of an enzyme to catalyse the conversion from unavailable nitrogen to available nitrogen and since that enzyme will be in short supply in a cold soil, don’t expect anything to happen quickly with urea applied to the soil in the spring. With low soil and air temperatures giving low Growth Potential / GDD, there’s no point in applying lots of N in either form because it won’t be utilised so small N inputs are key, 4 – 6kg / N / Ha as a foliar / liquid or 12- 15kg / N / ha as a granular.

I like to split my N forms at this time of year between the immediately-available and the slowly-available, be that urea or organic N, so you get a quick response and then some longevity as well as the more longer-term N is released. Horses for courses though.

Ok that’s it for this week, remember to let me know what you think are the key parts of this blog for you and if you’ve seen any disease activity after the thaw, new or old.

All the best.

Mark Hunt