Hi All,

Just a brief blog this week as I’m up at Harrogate prepping for the Turf Managers Conference where I’m speaking later today and then of course we have the exhibition from tomorrow.

As you can see from this rooftop pic taken from my luxury penthouse apartment (ahaha) here in Harrogate, the snow is fast disappearing and currently it is a thoroughly pleasant 7.1°C. That temperature is set to climb nicely into double figures for nearly all of us this week peaking on Wednesday before dropping back to more normal temps for January.

So no issue getting to and from the show this week if you’re planning on attending, but bring a raincoat 🙂

So this week I am just going to do a general summary of how we are looking weather-wise for the week ahead and beyond rather than providing more detail.

General Weather Situation

So this week we have low pressure in charge pushing mild, south westerly winds and rain across the U.K and Ireland from today with the mildest days being Tuesday and Wednesday before the wind turns round more to the north west and temperatures drop back a tad.

Rainfall-wise it shouldn’t be a big surprise that with an Atlantic low pressure system, the west and north west will bear the brunt of the rain fall through the coming week but they’ll also be rain inland.

So expect showers through Monday and Tuesday on western coasts, occasionally pushing inland, but the first proper front comes into play across western Ireland on Tuesday evening and quickly crosses The Irish Sea into Wales and Scotland overnight into Wednesday. Some of that rain will be pretty heavy and it’ll be pushed along by very strong to gale force, south westerly winds. By dawn Wednesday that rain will be across Ireland, Scotland and Wales and tracking east into all areas through the 2nd half of Wednesday clearing the west and north as it does so to leave showers behind for the late afternoon.

As skies clear after that rain, temperatures will drop back from their very mild double figures (in some areas) to high single figures.

The second half of the week sees more showers of rain pushing across Ireland, western coasts of England, Wales and Western Scotland through the course of Thursday with some of these pushing inland as well. South and east of this you should stay dry. A cooler feel to the weather but I think frost-free owing to the cloud cover. By Friday we have a clearer, drier picture with longer spells of sunshine for nearly all of us with just a risk of rain pushing into Connacht later in the afternoon.

Weather Outlook

Now some more good news (after the better temperatures that is) for everyone who is busy doing winter project work and fed up with the constant rainfall that January has brought so far. The good news is that there is a (very rare in my experience anyway) Atlantic high pressure system on its way and projected to influence the weather from the end of the week.

Ok it won’t be completely dry because low pressure will still influence the north of the U.K and Ireland so there’ll be some rain for these areas particularly over the weekend but it will get consistently drier for the central and southern half of the U.K and Ireland. It’ll be nice and mild as well I think with temperatures in the high single figures, maybe higher for Ireland over the weekend, before the westerly winds turn more to the north for the second half of the week. When they do so they’ll be just a chance of some wintry showers down the eastern coastline of the U.K and it will of course feel cooler. So some rain still for the north over the weekend and early part of the week but definitely a drier outlook next week than this week / weekend for you guys.

Agronomic Notes

There be some pecking…

Received a few reports of bird pecking last week and with the milder weather this week I would expect this to increase. Out walking at the weekend I noticed some large flocks of Jackdaws, Crows and Rooks grazing on sloped areas of arable land and that’s always a give away that grubs are on the menu. Currently we have no labelled pesticidal control for this pest, but with the advent of newer, safer chemistries coming into the U.S Turf & Ornamental market hopefully that may change in the future and some of them may find their way across here. I could be a tad mischevious here and suggest that you use some of your time at Harrogate to talk to the chemical companies present to see what they have to say on this subject. (Bet you’ll thank me for that one Dan 🙂 )

Mild Weather Window

As predicted last week we have a nice weather window both mid-week and over the weekend / early part of next week as well. Now I fully appreciate it isn’t good news for everyone because for some it also comes with heavy rain as well but for others it is an opportunity. These weather windows are now becoming more and more common through January and February and if ground conditions lend themselves, are there to be used.

I have discussed this before (and will no doubt again) but taking advantage of these windows to make an early start on organic matter removal before we get to spring proper can be greatly beneficial. It’s not for everyone I admit because I’m fully aware there are courses out there at present where simply getting a piece of machinery to the greens is out of the question because of inclement rainfall. This is particularly true across the north, north west and west. Another potential fly in the ointment is that these spells of mild weather and high humidity can also bring with them increased disease activity with often re-activity noted around existing scars. All this has to be weighed up but there are plusses as well in getting the job done now rather than in March or dare I say it, April.

No two greens, sportspitches or cricket squares are alike and so it’s often the case that amongst the ones you manage they’ll be some that have more organic matter than you’d ideally like. So even if it is just these ones that you concentrate on at this time of year and squeeze in that one extra hollow coring, you will have achieved something positive going forward into the spring. The grass plant breathes oxygen and so inputting this vital gas by aeration will enable it to perform better, uptake nutrients more effectively from the rootzone and be healthier. I know a growing number of golf courses that have already carried out their spring aeration and save for some verticutting and topdressing will be nicely set come March for the spring season.

Collars and approaches will also benefit from this approach because often at this time of year it is the higher organic matter content on these areas that is acting as an impediment to water movement off a green. So you end up with an area of localised, waterlogged green immediately adjacent to a collar / approach. Invariably this is on the clean-up strip and so gets twice the hammer from mowers  and being waterlogged, soon loses grass cover as the grass checks out. What tends to volunteer in afterwards during the spring is the annual biotype of Poa annua, the clumpy, coarse, pale and prolific seed producer that ideally you don’t want in your turf surface. Remembering as we must that this type of Poa will produce viable seed 12 months of the year in our glorious U.K and Irish climatic conditions.

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet, hopefully I’ll see some of you at the show and at my talks this week. (no heckling please :))

All the best.

Mark Hunt