Monthly Archives: April 2019

April 29th


Hi All,

After an extremely dry last half of March and most of April I was actually looking forward to a weekend of rain, such is the mindset of those who work in the turfgrass industry.

The top of Hare Pie Hill, Hallaton…Scene of Easter Bottle Kicking and many a broken bone, bloody nose to boot !

A week of warm weather previous to that with high daily E.T’s had put grass on the back foot and Poa annua into seedhead mode. On Saturday we were initially promised 9mm, then 7mm, then 4mm and we ended up with 0.70mm 🙁

I must have worn out the refresh button on my NetWeather Extra V8 Rain Radar as I watched a big mass of rain sit over North Wales and Cheshire (34mm for the latter eh Mikey) and instead of it pushing inland to The Midlands, it just stayed there, it didn’t move all day, despite the fact it was blowing a houlie and freezing for an end of April day. So for the rainfall losers who bemoaned that fact on Twitter over the weekend, you have my sympathies. The transition from a warm peak to a cool trough was quite dramatic temperature-wise and had many reaching for their recently discarded winter layers as we struggled to hit even double figure temperatures on Saturday, tricky times indeed.

So do we have anymore rain on the horizon ?

General Weather Situation

Well Monday starts off looking pretty misty, dull and overcast for many but it’s an west- east divide with a chunk of rain sitting over The Irish Sea, just nicking the north-east coast of Ireland and extending down through Wales into The South West of England. As we go through the early afternoon this band of rain will push slowly westwards into the east and north-west of Ireland, drying up in the west of England and Wales. Away from this band of rain we look set for a pretty settled and dry day, if a little dull with reasonable temperatures pushing up into the mid-teens. Maybe the east and north-east of Scotland will see some good spells of sunshine but everywhere else these will be limited. Winds will be light and easterly.

Overnight into Tuesday and we see a rain front from an Atlantic low pressure system push into the west of Ireland and by dawn this rain will cover the whole of the Ireland. Away from this rain we will see a much brighter start on Tuesday aside from western coasts where cloud from that Atlantic front will build. By the afternoon this rain will be clearing Ireland from the west and pushing into the south-west / north-west of Scotland. Elsewhere we look to stay dry and warm with temperatures climbing towards the high teens in the south of England, but 3-4°C lower than this for Ireland and Scotland under that cloud cover and rain. Winds will be light to moderate and from the south.

Onto Wednesday and that band of rain overnight has consolidated and moved eastwards so by dawn it’ll be affecting the whole western coastline of the U.K from The South West, through Wales, The Lakes and right up to north-west Scotland. Through the course of Wednesday this front will push eastwards across Scotland and the north of England. During the early afternoon, another rain front will push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards across the country during the 2nd part of the day. The southerly rain front over the U.K is projected to stall and make slow progress with not a lot of rain for The Midlands / south of England I’m afraid. So a duller day on Wednesday with more in the way of cloud from that front and the chance of rain for many north of The Midlands. Temperature-wise, we are down in the mid-teens with that cloud cover so 13-15°C is likely. The best chance of seeing the sun will be across the east of England.

Onto Thursday and that unsettled picture sees rain crossing The Midlands overnight and by dawn it’ll be sitting over East Anglia. More rain is also projected for the west of Ireland, west Wales and western / central Scotland from the off on Thursday, and it is likely to be the wettest day of the week. Through Thursday morning we will see that rain consolidate over Ireland and the north and west of England pushing into all areas through the second half of the day. For the drier southern counties, this is our best chance of rain this week thankfully I’ll be sitting in a strategy meeting so unable to see the outcome 🙂 By late afternoon, Ireland should be drying out except for the east of Leinster where that rain will linger. Notable not only for rain on Thursday but a freshening north-westerly wind which will push this rain southwards and introduce a much cooler feel to the weather with temperatures struggling to get much above double figures so expect 11-12°C as typical, maybe slight warmer for Scotland.

Closing out the week on Friday we have that overnight rain largely cleared the U.K and Ireland. I say largely because there’s a likelihood of some rain still lingering over the north of England and this is projected to push down into The Midlands through the early part of Friday. A real north -south divide on Friday as Scotland and the far north of England looks to have a sunny and pleasant start to the day whereas from the north of England down it’ll be dull and with a risk of showers. Ireland looks dull but dry. So a dull and showery forecast for the southern half of the U.K and Wales, drier for the north though later some rain and wintry showers is forecast for the north-east of Scotland. It will feel raw though for early May in the U.K with a moderate to strong northerly wind imparting significant windchill. As we close out the day that cloud cover will break and temperatures will climb a little into the other side of double figures, still cool though for early May. Even after dusk we may see some of those showers consolidating over southern England.

After an unsettled end to the week, the weekend looks more promising as high pressure takes over with a largely dry outlook with plenty of sunshine and rising temperatures through the weekend with Sunday / Monday, the warmer days of the mix. This switch to high pressure though will bring a return to frosts as we begin May so if you’re out first thing wrap up well. It’s a Bank holiday for the U.K and Bank Holiday Monday looks to be fine and dry with long spells of hazy sunshine and not bad mid-teen temperatures. The only fly in the ointment will be for Scotland and the north of England where rain preceded by cloud will push in through Monday morning and drift south through the day down into The Peak District by close of play probably.

Weather Outlook

So Monday looks to be largely warm and dry for England, Wales and Ireland but as we move through the 2nd half of the day we will see rain and cloud push into Scotland and the west of Ireland and the wind freshen and swing south-westerly. This change marks the arrival of not one but two low pressure systems sitting out west of the U.K. Initially these will drive wind and rain into the west and north of the U.K whilst high pressure still sits over the south of England but through the 2nd part of Tuesday, the more southerly of the low pressure systems will bring its influence to bear pushing rain and cooler weather into central parts of the U.K. So the 2nd part of next week looks cool, wet and windy for all areas but of course we have the usual caveat about a longer-term forecast. My hunch is that the low pressure systems will indeed dominate because there’s two of them and only one high in their way.

Agronomic Notes

Spring 2019

If you’ve been religiously filling in one of our GDD / G.P spreadsheets you’ll find a useful tab called ‘charts’ on it which should give you plenty of useful data. It is divided into seasons so below is output from a Birmingham location (thanks Jonathan) for nearly the first 4 months of this year..

I think it summarises very well our spring or one might think, our lack of spring. March you can see gave very little good growth, 4 days actually which is only one more than February ! We can see for April the arrival of the very warm temperature quite clearly but of course it coincided with a period of no rainfall so unless you had irrigation to areas it provided little benefit.

This lack of strong growth has meant persistent Microdochium nivale symptoms, ok not aggressive Microdochium, but it’s there nonetheless in the sward, small copper blotches dotted across the profile. This continued growth of disease is due to mild night temperatures and the presence of dew. Tuesday and Wednesday this week may be significant for disease development along the lines mentioned above.  Once we hit the weekend though, it’ll drop away as colder nights come into the picture.

We have to consider the role of E.T more…

For many in the dry south of the U.K, the second half of April put Poa annua on its backside whilst bentgrass grew quite happily. The stats below show the main issue…

The period from the 18th April provided no rain and high daily E.T and that knocked Poa annua back into dormancy so we saw very little growth on Poa-dominated greens and undoubtedly this period led to a switch from leaf to seedhead production.

I think E.T remains one of the parameters that is least-measured in a turfgrass scenario, it’s also one of the hardest to obtain data on as most personal weather stations that upload data to the net don’t measure E.T, so getting historical data is difficult. When we have a period of high E.T, the grass plant undergoes physiological changes to preserve water loss and these changes can limit uptake of nutrient or more precisely uptake efficiency. It kind of closes down the hatches so you don’t really see a great deal of response from foliar applications during this period, be that nitrogen or iron for that matter.

A lot of times when people report to me that they haven’t seen a green up from a foliar iron application it is because the grass plant isn’t receptive in terms of uptake and that can be due to low soil moisture, cold temperature desiccation or as we experienced at the end of April, high temperature desiccation.

During the period from the 18th to the 26th of April we lost 29.2mm of moisture by E.T, that’s over 1″ of rainfall equivalent. Now of course we don’t irrigate at 100% E.T, normally we might be replace 50-60% of E.T loss by irrigation but on that basis we’d still need to replace 14.6mm of moisture @ 50% E.T replacement.

So how much did you irrigate during that period from a mm perspective ?

Of course moisture meters can help us manage soil moisture levels but it is important to realise that spring desiccation tends to be isolated to the top 12.5 -25.0mm of the profile and often we are reading deeper than this from a probe depth perspective.

How is 2019 shaping up from a GDD perspective ?

2019 to me is a strange year from a turfgrass perspective, we had a very warm start during the 2nd half of February but after that it has kind of proceeded in dribs and drabs with no really strong weather pattern dominating other than it has been very dry for many areas south of The Peak District.

If you look at the GDD stats, 2019 comes out as a middle of the road year so far, warmer than the SSW-affected years but behind the 2 best growing years we have had recently, 2017 and 2014. At the location above we passed the point for perennial biotype seedhead formation on the 23rd April, a week earlier than normal and right in the middle of the run of dry, warm weather with high daily E.T so that is why we are seeing Poa annua switch to seedhead mode.

Just to continue the theme on the above graph I have highlighted the period at the end of April / beginning of May and you can see in 4 years out of the last 7, the GDD graph flattens out for awhile before picking up strongly as we get into mid-May. This flat section of the graph corresponds to slow growth and more often than not, night frosts which depress the daily GDD (and G.P for that matter). 2019 will do the same, flattening off at the end of this week before picking up again as the night temperatures recover during the mid-part of next week.

A return to night frosts….

So we can see some good growth this week before we drop off a cliff from with another Baltic end to the week and frost at the weekend. The saving grace is that at least we won’t experience a surge of growth over the Bank holiday and a mountain of clippings.

Next week’s blog will be on Tuesday because of the Bank Holiday and I’ll be doing my normal monthly review.

Till then all the best.

Mark Hunt



15th April

Hi All,

After 5 frosts on the bounce, the last 4 down at -3°C and a strongly Baltic easterly wind, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sudden Stratospheric warming event promised for late January, took a sabbatical and turned up in April !.

Cracking timing with Augusta on the telly as well, I’d love to say I joined the many millions and stayed up to watch up but with it being a MotoGP, WSB and F1 weekend, I’d had my fix of telly 🙂 Great result though and nice to age comes before beauty sometimes. So we have two limiting factors to growth at present, temperature and of course moisture. Spring is now definitely late, my local Bluebell walk (Coton Manor) advertised that their Bluebells won’t be out in time for Easter if people are visiting the gardens and it would be more like the May Bank Holiday this year. Even the Swallows, Martins and Swifts are late. Last week I did some talks in Faro, Portugal and saw many Swift, Martin and Swallow overhead to the point where I wondered why they don’t just stop there, why did they keep coming to the U.K and Ireland ?

So is there any end in sight to this run of frosts / easterly wind and if so, will moisture follow ?

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

General Weather Situation

Well Monday dawns dry and cold for many, except of course if you are over The Irish Sea where they have a band of heavy rain currently sitting over Leinster and more heavy showers across Munster and Connacht. You can see the low pressure system bringing that rain to Ireland in the new Meteoblue graphic above (Like that Karl 🙂 ) and during the morning it will move north and away from the U.K, but a slither will push into The South West and western coasts later today to bring some much-needed rain. (though not much). Most of this easterly progress will be tonight and into the small hours of Tuesday. So The South West, Wales and western coasts can expect to see rain overnight. Away from this rain front it is business as usual for England and Scotland with a bright and cool day, but up a bit temperature-wise on the weekend courtesy of a no-show by frost earlier on Monday. There’s another reason for the increase in temperature and that’s a change in direction of the wind, swinging round to the south-east through Monday. The source of the south-easterly wind is Southern Europe rather than Scandinavia for the easterlies, and that will mean a gradual increase in temperature as we go through the week peaking nicely over the Easter weekend. Temperature-wise, expect 11-13°C in moderate to strong south-easterly winds and an end to the run of frosts as well with milder nights the other flip side to the weather this week.

Onto Tuesday and overnight that rain front will slowly move inland, into western Scotland, the north-west of England, possibly the west Midlands and along the south coast. I note here in The Midlands we are down for 2mm but I also note a 41% probability attached to that rainfall event so I won’t hold my breath 🙁 It’ll be a slow-moving front mind so some areas may not see any of that rain till the evening and eastern areas may not see it at all. It all depends on the strengths of the two respective fronts as to how much progress it makes inland. So as you can imagine, Tuesday will be a cloudier affair for most of the U.K, due to that rain front, with the exception of the east and south-east which should see more of the sunshine during the first part of the day. Ireland looks to have a largely dry but dull day after the damp start on Monday. Despite the cloud cover and rain front, temperatures will continue their slow climb, up to 14°C I’d reckon on Tuesday, especially if you get to see the sun and again a reasonably mild night.

Mid-week beckons and Wednesday sees a really nice day as that continental high pressure exerts its influence and the rain front has fizzled out overnight. So some warm sunny intervals expected on Wednesday with a warm south-easterly wind pushing temperatures up into the mid to high teens I’d say. Lighter winds as well by mid-week, swinging round briefly to the north before settling back in the south east again. So 14-17°C temperatures and good growing weather (if you got the rain)

Thursday sees the high strengthen its grip on our Easter weather and another improving weather picture despite stronger south-easterly / easterly winds. A mild night will allow temperatures to push up into the high teens with long spells of sunshine for many areas and hazy cloud as well.  That lovely weather picture will encompass all of the U.K and Ireland so a beautiful spring day beckons.

I’ll do the Easter weekend in one forecast because really there isn’t a lot to say about Good Friday to Easter Sunday (apart from it’ll be rubbish for fishing) because the forecast is long spells of unbroken sunshine from dawn to dusk with temperatures pushing up into the low twenties through the weekend. For most, an absolute cracker of an Easter weekend. Maybe some low cloud cover lingering over eastern coasts but lovely weather for our Easter break. I’ll be hanging up the fishing rods and getting out on the bike / motorbike to lose some winter lard 🙂

Weather Outlook

So will it last ?

Some of you may be hoping not because you’re so dry. Here in The Midlands we are in that camp, desperately needing rain before the EA starts to dust off its water restriction policies.

So the outlook currently is indeed for change with low pressure pushing down from Monday to start to introduce a cooler and more unsettled picture for next week. If this occurs we can expect rain moving in from the north-west to Scotland and Ireland by the 2nd half of Monday. This rain front will push down on north-west winds across the U.K through Tuesday to bring rain to many areas. The change in wind will also drop the temperatures down to the mid-teens, not bad though. By Wednesday a really deep low will be in situ over the U.K bringing strong winds and rain to many areas. This unsettled, wet and windy weather is likely to stay put for the rest of the week as the low pressure forms a trough in the jet stream. Experience has shown when this occurs, the low may be very slow-moving and therefore rainfall amounts could be significant. Blessed they will be if they occur.

Now of course there’s a caveat here because we have two competing weather systems but I’ve looked at 3 different GFS models and they all predict the low moving in after the weekend. Time will tell…..

Agronomic Notes

OK, so we know have 2 limiting factors to growth at the moment, cold nights and of course soil moisture. Here in Leicestershire, our last significant rainfall (> 4mm) was on the 16th of March with a whopping total of 5mm in dribs and drabs since and it’s showing. Cracks in the ground and plants already under drought stress, particularly where we have new seedlings from last autumn or dormant seeding in the winter.

Let’s look at the effect of temperature first on growth using the Growth Potential model…

So I picked some worked examples with 3 different temperatures, typical of what we have and will receive this week weather-wise and then looked at the effect on growth potential…

So the first example is a mild day, 12°C but with a significant ground frost, this would be typical of the last 5-7 days for many of us. Bearing in mind the scale for G.P goes from 0 (no growth) to 1.0, (optimum growth), a G.P total of 0.05 means we will see very little upright growth with this temperature scenario.

The second example would relate to a day like today, milder overnight, but not really setting the world on fire during the day temperature-wise. Currently my weather station is showing 12°C so that’s about right for this example. A G.P total of 0.26 would appear as pretty slow growth, not much more than a small amount of clippings in the box and I wouldn’t rank it as good spring growth day (My cut off would be 0.4 for that)

Lastly, we have an example which hopefully will be closer to reality at the end of this week with a mild night and a warm day. A 50% increase in day and night temperature over example 2 gives a 300% increase in resulting G.P. So here a figure of 0.72 for me would represent significant growth and for areas that aren’t moisture-limited, a good growth flush.

You can see the G.P building in the Meteoturf readouts for the 4 locations below ;

So we have temperature enough for growth but of course in some areas this won’t be enough and we need rain. To further compound this problem, the coming week is showing some pretty significant E.T stress. If you look at the readouts above for Southern England and South Wales, we are looking at 20-21mm moisture loss over the next week which means more drying winds and unless you pick up something tomorrow, no rainfall.

If you have irrigation to areas then really you have no excuse not to help the grass plant out through this time. I simply don’t get the argument of not watering with the reasoning that you would be lowering the soil temperature (temporarily) and slowing growth when the lack of water is slowing growth anyway ???

We all know this kind of weather puts Poa annua on its backside and gives bentgrass a nice start to the year. We also know that the temperature spike on the way together with the accompanying E.T loss will hasten in the arrival of seedheads and so we will have seedy greens with a slow to grow Poa annua component, remembering that when it is seeding, it isn’t tillering. The bentgrass will of course be leggy, woolly, whatever your description and so critical to managing this dynamic is maintaining a sensible cutting height so that the physiology of each plant species isn’t impacting on ball roll. Anything north of 4mm is bad news to me and many greens will benefit from 0.5mm off that to give good consistent surface at this time.

Now I know cutting height is an emotive issue and they’ll be some of you saying why lower the height and put the plant under more stress ? And you’d be right especially if you have your surface organic matter nicely under control in the top 25mm because with a roll and a 3.5 – 4mm cut, most greens will present and putt nicely but chuck in excess surface organic matter and that dynamic goes out of the window. And so we chase cutting height when we do not have control of surface organic matter which further puts the plant under stress, a vicious circle isn’t it ?

With the emergence / availability of lightweight greens rollers we can mitigate this issue by rolling to give us more green speed and a more consistent surface rather than coming down too low, too fast on the cutting height but it is a balancing act that is unique to each facility. Although you can happily trade cutting heights with your colleagues, the impact of your cutting height will be a function of your organic matter dynamic. For example if you have a golf course with greens affected by shade then we can surmise that these greens will not develop high levels of surface organic matter due to lower photosynthetic efficiency and so will feel firmer to the golfer than greens in a more open location cut at the same height on the same golf course. Greens with excess surface organic matter will also have a bigger differential between bench set cutting height and actual as the mower will tend to sink in to the surface of a softer green and so cut lower. There’s loads more variables I haven’t mentioned that also dovetail into this dynamic including soil moisture levels, nutrition and PGR usage to name but a few.

Speaking of soil moisture levels, I updated the moisture deficit graphic that I’ve been running since last June and you can see the typical dry spell-wet spell dynamic for this spring in the graph…You can download it here

Now I reckon if I had data for The Midlands our moisture deficit would be closer to -200mm since last June to the current day which puts us at a similar moisture deficit as the beginning of August 2018. You can see then why there’s such a concern about water availability if we are at this point in mid-April with the summer still to come. So I for one have everything crossed that next week’s low pressure system makes a timely appearance 🙂


Always a tricky one to advise because of the variability of site and geographical location. Many private schools at this time are rapidly trying to convert their winter season pitches to cricket outfields and I’d be hoping that the growth flush at the end of the week will help this process on considerably. I’d also be hoping with heavier soil types, more moisture would be retained within the profile and so moisture limitation won’t be as extreme as a sand-based rootzone on these sites.

If your surface is good, with good coverage and plant health then I think a light foliar timed towards the end of the week on the upward G.P curve will sort things very nicely prior to the Easter break. If you are chasing growth then that’s when a granular will be more up to the job provided you have irrigation to help things along. I’d be more confident on the latter if I knew that the low pressure / arrival of rain next week was a given. Bear in mind though that it will give a flush of growth and this may or may not be desirable.

No blog next week because I am taking a few days off after Easter, so the next one will be due at the end of April.

Till then all the best and have a happy and relaxing Easter.

Mark Hunt

April 8th

Hi All,

According to my projections, this week was due to be south-westerly winds, mild with rain but since the writing of my blog last week, a blocking high pressure has intervened so unhappy to report a different outlook (as here we need the rain) with easterlies the order of the week. Bit of a Haar-affected weekend, particularly Sunday when we saw very little of the sun over these parts and consequently low cloud covered the countryside but when we get easterlies, that’s the order of the day for the east Midlands.

Bit of a hectic Monday today, so without further ado it’s onto this week’s weather…

General Weather Situation

So Monday looks to start dry and reasonably mild with overnight temperatures high enough to avoid a ground frost. Through the morning thicker cloud will push in from the continent to bring rain to the south-east of England and later in the morning central areas as well. As I write this blog at 0735, you can see the line of developing showers clearly on Netweather’s V8 radar.

Image courtesy of

This band of rain will stretch into Wales, across The Irish Sea and right up to Cork and Connacht as we go through the morning into the afternoon bringing rain to The Midlands as it does so. It’s a very narrow band of rain so south and north of it will see sunshine and mild conditions with very pleasant temperatures. For the U.K if you drew a line from Kent up through The Midlands to North Wales, this looks the worst-affected area. South and north of this will see sunny intervals and a very nice day with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures for the north of England and Scotland once the Haar breaks. Winds will swing round from the north-east to the south-east through the day but they’ll be light to moderate. Temperature-wise expect 13-16°C depending on your location and cloud cover.

A mild night going into Tuesday and that rain band intensifies overnight to bring heavy rain to north Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Central London and then west to North Wales. It’s a really odd phenomenon because of the orientation and narrowness of the band so it’s easier to show you how it’s orientated in an image (below)

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

So you can see how tight it is and being slow-moving we can expect the rainfall totals to be significant if you happen to be sitting under this rain. Now it is continental rain and so carries plenty of caveats. I could easily see it moving north or south from its current projection. Through the morning the rain intensifies in this band and moves westerly into Wales, across The Irish Sea and then into Ireland for the afternoon principally affecting the southern half of Ireland. Some of this rain will drift south into The South West of England through the morning.  North of this narrow band we will see a cloudy start but across Ireland, the north-west and west of Scotland, the sun will break through and it’ll be a pleasant day for many but feeling cooler in a strengthening easterly wind despite the sunshine. Expect temperatures around 10-12°C  regardless of whether you’re under the cloud base or not.

Onto Wednesday and after a cold start with ground frost likely overnight we still see showers feeding off the continent into the east of England and Midlands pulling with it some thick cloud. So Wednesday morning looks dull particularly for the bottom half of England with that rain stubbornly staying across the south-east and if anything drifting further south during the late morning / early afternoon. Plenty of cloud then for southern England and Wales but after a grey start we will see sunny intervals from The Midlands north, the same for Ireland. Slowly that stubborn band of rain and thick cloud drifts south and west into The South West clearing the south-east for the first time this week. Very similar temperatures to Tuesday with a moderate to strong easterly / north-easterly wind in situ, so that’s 10-12°C.

Overnight into Thursday and we see a rain front push thick cloud and some rain into Ireland from the off with the west affected initially. So a really murky day for Ireland and Wales actually with thick cloud, some of it thick enough to fall as rain / heavy drizzle for Ireland. Further east across England and north to Scotland, not a bad day really as the cloud breaks to give some sunny intervals for the south-east. Elsewhere it’ll stay cloudy for most of the day and that’ll cap the temperatures off to only high single figures. A Haar day for sure with that easterly wind still pushing a low cloud base off The North Sea. Dull and dry would sum up Thursday for the U.K.

Closing out the week on Friday we see that thicker cloud base and rain over Ireland push north and west into Scotland overnight with some of the showers falling as snow over elevation.  That’s the order of the day for Ireland, thick cloud with some rain, dull and cool and pretty much the same for Scotland with wintry showers feeding off The Irish Sea into western and central areas through the day. Further south for England and Wales, a dry, cloudy day with not a lot of sunshine around except on eastern coasts where you may see the sun break through later in the day. That easterly wind will lighten and that’ll allow temperatures to just nudge up into double figures but cool for April I’d say. As we close out Friday evening we see a large band of rain push into Ireland overnight to bring a wet end to the week I am afraid.

The weekend is a battle between Atlantic pressure across the west and high pressure across the continent and at present they’re saying that the low will not make headway beyond Ireland. Here’s the Meteocentre schematic for the end of the week…

So it’s no surprise for Ireland that your weekend looks a wet one but time will tell how wet and for how long. So for the U.K I reckon at this stage it’ll be dry but much depends on the play between these two weather systems. If the low begins to dominate, that’ll rain will push eastwards into the U.K. If the high strengthens then the rain over Ireland may arrive later. One feature that we will see is the wind swing more south-easterly / southerly so that’ll nudge up temperatures a little and push more of the cloud away to give sunnier intervals for the weekend and at this stage dry. Don’t expect a lot to change temperature-wise, maybe 10-12°C away from that low pressure system but we should see more in the way of sunshine. If your skies are clear though that means an ever-present risk of ground frost at the weekend. Shan’t be cutting back the Penstemons just yet 🙁

Weather Outlook

With the weather so finely balanced, I am hesitant to predict next weeks with any accuracy but here goes. At present the weather guru’s have high pressure holding the fort and just keeping that low pressure at day. It doesn’t mean that it’ll stay dry everywhere though because Ireland and maybe The South West and Wales will pick up some heavier rain from that low pressure on Monday and Tuesday. Elsewhere we look to stay cool and dry with south-easterly winds the feature of next week which should make it a little warmer than this week temperature-wise but remaining dry for the 2nd week in a row for many areas. Good for golf but maybe not so good for growth…That said as we have seen this week, things can change when the weather is so finely balanced between two strong weather systems and it only needs the low to nudge 100 miles further east and it’ll be a different story.

Agronomic Notes

It’s a bit of a slow spring….

To me this is kind of a weird spring, I mean it’s spring but winter still lingers and after the fast start in the 2nd half of February, it’s been kind of dribs and drabs. No real excesses of rainfall or temperature, just sort of consistent. Maybe it is because we expect extremes nowadays that when we don’t get them it seems strange.

Looking at the stats from Northampton, you can see what I mean (thanks Rob)

Growth-wise, we are there or thereabouts, we haven’t had anything that you could call a flush (except maybe for 2 days in February) and we have (in this neck of the woods at least) been dry with below average rainfall for many locations (in England particularly).

So where does this put our friend Poa annua and the spring seedhead flush ?

Well we are approaching the beginning of the seedhead flush with many locations around the 140-170 total GDD since the 1st January.  Yes, there’s evidence of some seedheads, mainly the coarser annual biotype as shown in the diagram above, but the tighter, perennial biotype will be sitting there not wanting to do much. Now in the south of England where you’re due to get that rain on Tuesday, that may be enough to move things on a little but honestly I don’t expect the main seedhead flush to start in earnest just yet. You can see from the cumulative GDD graph for this week we are pretty much flat which means no incremental growth day-on-day and effectively a growth check for at least the next week. Now in some areas it won’t just be temperature that is holding back the Poa annua, it’ll be moisture as well.

Cool and dry conditions is perhaps the worst hand we can be dealt with from a greenkeeping perspective especially as we have The Masters coming up this weekend.

The comparison is inevitable I’m afraid so I thought I’d take a look at how their season is faring vs. ours…

GDD Comparison – Augusta, Georgia vs. Northampton

So the GDD graphs above tell the story that most commentators won’t. From a GDD perspective Augusta hit the same total GDD we did yesterday on the 7th of February so temperature they aren’t short of. It’s kind of like comparing your facility now with the 7th of June, you’d hope that by then we’d have had some temperature for growth !

If you compare the daily growth potential for Augusta vs. Northampton, you can see a similar story…

Plenty of good growth there but also some real up and down periods with growth checks. My stats show 13 frosts for them in January and 2 for February and March. So they do have their own challenges that is for sure and I am not wishing to dispel them by presenting these stats, merely to point out that a comparison between the two by our industry is pretty meaningless.

Over the last week they have had temperatures in the mid to high twenties but also near 100% humidity spikes as well so from a disease perspective that would be challenging. Saying that the arsenal of products they have available from a pesticide perspective is more than up to the job, fungicide, insecticide and PGR-wise, they aren’t wanting for anything as an industry. Add in fans, grow lights, undersoil heating and being shut for half the year and you could be excused for being more than a bit envious.

Speaking of disease, these last couple of muggy days with a low cloud base and high humidity has seen an increase in activity from Microdochium. Nothing too drastic but it’s there lurking away and around existing scars from the winter.

As you can see from the Meteoturf graphic above for the south of England, not much likelihood of significant growth to grow it out I’m afraid with a whopping 12GDD projected for the week. You can also see for this location, a dollop of rain on Tuesday. There’s also a bit of Spiral Nematode activity coming to light with the familiar banding on the leaf a real give-away for this pathogen. Typically it’ll be in areas that might go under stress, struggle for roots mass, etc and will come and go with growth conditions. I usually use 180GDD as a guide for this pathogen so it’s about right on time.

Ok, Tempus fugit my friends, I have to prep for a trip to Portugal where I am talking. It is times like these that remind you how useful data is because pulling up some weather station data to understand their situation has been invaluable to me. It’s also been good training in how to use the Smiths Kern Dollar Spot model, very interesting.

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt






April 1st / 2nd….

Hi All,

Sort of a two-part blog this week as I started writing it on Monday and hopefully I’ve finished it on Tuesday, both times in Huntingdon’s finest Costa Coffee 🙂

I was tempted to add an April fool’s joke in yesterday about Brexit but sadly our parliament is full of April fools and I for one think Guy Fawkes was a visionary 🙂

Two weeks now since the last rain with some significant temperature and E.T closing off the end of March 2019. Enough to get many of us irrigating or at least thinking about it, and when you look at the moisture loss you can see why…Despite these warm temperatures, March 2019 won’t check out as a particularly warm month because although we had some nice day time temperatures, we picked up a good number of grass frosts as well and that pattern will continue into early April.

Nature though is in full swing, summer migrants are still arriving (still yet to see a Swallow though) and 3 of my Hedgehogs are out of hibernation and already working on their July brood if you get my drift. This week is going to be a bit chilly for them and a reminder that April in the UK and Ireland can serve up any type of weather and often does….

If you do a lot of driving like me you’ll have noticed over the last 7-10 days or so that the edges of roads, motorways are lined by a white flower right along the salt line margin of the road. This is called Danish Sea Scurvy, one of the most successful Danish invaders of this country (after the Vikings of course) . I’ve written about it before but it fascinates me as it is a halophyte (salt-tolerant plant species) and has therefore adapted to live in the high salt environment on the edge of roads where the salt spread reaches. It’s also interesting because it is a great example of predicting flowering by GDD. This species begins to flower around 100GDD from Jan 1st and when you see it, you can rest assured that the emergence of the annual Poa annua biotype seedhead isn’t far behind 🙂

Ok tempus fugit my friends so I better get cracking with how this week’s weather looks….

General Weather Situation

So last week I predicted that our high pressure situation would start to break down from Tuesday and that’s what we are going to see, so thanks to for being a reliable supplier of GFS weather forecasting output after Unisys did a corporate update to their weather information that rendered it as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Funny enough Weather Underground have just updated their PWSN web offering to an immeasurably worse version. Think these guys should get out of their office more and understand who uses their service and why….0/10 for effort…

So Tuesday starts with a much more unsettled picture as a rain front sinks south and east to bring rain into the north of England and Midlands through Tuesday morning. The same happens across The Irish Sea with a mix of wintry showers and rain from the off, initially for Connacht and Munster but soon pushing south and east across country to affect all areas. By early afternoon, this rain band should be clear of western coasts and will now be affecting the south and east of the U.K with Ireland seeing a general mix of showers across the whole country. Scotland will see isolated showers, wintry across north-western coasts with some pushing inland through the afternoon. For the 2nd half of the day then a much more showery, unsettled outlook for all areas with blustery showers, some of them wintry for all areas of the U.K and Ireland. Feeling nippier with a moderate to strong north-westerly wind keeping temperatures down in the high single figures, low double figures with significant windchill.

Wednesday sees another mixed day with sunshine and showers likely for Scotland, the north and west of Ireland and the north-east coast of England as rafts of showers, some of them wintry move south and east into central England later. Another cold start with ground frost likely if skies are clear overnight. So an unsettled day, plenty of sunshine though between the showers away from western and northern regions but there’s a suggestion later in the afternoon that more consolidated rain / wintry showers will sink south and east into central and eastern England. Cold again in that north / north-westerly wind with temperatures similar to Tuesday.

Onto Thursday and another unsettled day for Scotland, the north of England, north Wales and The Midlands as wintry showers push south and east through the day. Ireland should miss the majority of these until later in the afternoon when a mix of rain and wintry showers pushes into the north and west and moves south. At present it looks like most areas will see some showers on Thursday but south of the M25, the frequency should lessen to just the odd interloper. Again feeling really nippy even though the wind will swing round more to the west through the day, with temperatures lucky to break into double digits.

Overnight into Friday and that wind has done a 180° transition to easterlies and so you might expect that to mean it’ll feel even cooler but actually no, Friday will see a milder day with temperatures up into low double figures for many. That easterly wind will push showers across The South West, Wales and into Leinster through the morning / afternoon and again these will fall as sleet and snow over elevation. Through the 2nd half of the afternoon these showers over Leinster will move westwards into Munster and later, Connacht. Away from this rain front Friday looks for many a lovely, dry and sunny day with better temperatures despite the moderate to strong easterly wind.

Onto the weekend and with an east wind in situ I’d be expecting it to be a dull, drab and cool one but I’d be wrong. That’s because the source of the east / south-east wind is from southern Europe and so we can expect much milder temperatures than we are currently experiencing this Tuesday morning. So Saturday and Sunday look like starting off dull with plenty of cloud cover but through the morning the cloud will thin and the sun will break through to reveal a nice 2nd half to the day. Sunday is likely to be duller for longer particularly across the south and east of England but through the late morning that bank of cloud will sink south into southern England and thin as it does so. Ireland looks to have an not so bad weekend after rain clears south and west from Leinster through Saturday morning. Scotland and Wales look to have a similar weekend to England with some scattered showers around early on Saturday but warming up nicely (esp for South Wales) on Saturday to the mid to high teens. So double-digit, low teen temperatures this coming weekend, enjoy.

Weather Outlook

OK, so how does next week look from a weather perspective ?

Well ‘pretty unsettled’ I’d say after a kind of hiatus on Monday when we start with gentle winds and reasonably dry. We have a couple of Atlantic depressions heading our way, the first will make landfall across Ireland on Monday morning and this will quickly cross The Irish Sea overnight into Tuesday bringing a south-westerly airflow and rain with reasonably strong winds. A likely sunshine and showers scenario continues through Wednesday and Thursday before a large, deep Atlantic depression pitches up in time for the weekend when I expect to see more strong winds, mild temperatures and plenty of rain.  So if it all falls into place we can expect sunshine and showers next week in-between longer spells of rain. Crucially though, good growing weather.

Agronomic Notes

OK, better late than never we look back at March 2019 and what was essentially a month of two halves for some locations in terms of growth and rainfall.

March 2019 – Monthly GDD – Thame Location

So for this location March came in at a pretty miserable total GDD of 60, which although 3x higher than March 2018, it’s probably half of the GDD of a strong growing month and average really growth-wise. It now bears little resemblance to 2017 from a total GDD perspective as you’ll see below, but we are in a much better place than last year and that needs to be remembered.

Y.T.D 2019 GDD – Thame Location

From a yearly progression till the end of March we aren’t really setting any records as you can see from the chart above. Sure we are well ahead of 2018 (it would be difficult not to be, it has to be said) but I’d argue that spring is no longer ahead of ‘normal’ and is definitely not early despite Radio 4’s pronouncement this morning when they ran a feature on nature and how spring is getting earlier. It is a gradual, slow spring in my mind and if I look ahead to April I see that trend continuing, nothing too radical temperature-wise and apart from the low temperature blip this week, reasonably good growing weather.

Let’s look at our U.K and Irish locations from a GDD and rainfall perspective.

March 2019 – GDD & Rainfall U.K Locations

A lot of variability in March 2019 both in terms of rainfall and GDD with Okehampton continuing its ‘Valentia of the south west’ impersonation (sorry Pete) in terms of rainfall. You can see again that The Midlands and east of the country were dry for March with York coming in as the driest location at 29.8mm. Now we know March was a month of two halves, the first cool and wet and the second, warm and dry, but this description really only fitted the southern half of the U.K because the north of England and Scotland endured a cooler and wetter 2nd half of the month. This can clearly be seen from the Fife location which comes in at 92mm of rainfall (that’s a lot of rain for Fife) but only 43.4 GDD, similar to York and Okehampton.

March 2019 – GDD & Rainfall Irish Locations

This pattern of significant variability in terms of rainfall and growth is also present in the Irish data with the north-west, south and west locations coming in with lower GDD and higher rainfall, compared to the easterly locations which saw less rainfall and more growth.

There’s some big differences between locations that are pretty close to each other as well with Donabate to Bray, probably just over 20 miles distance between them as the Seagull flies but 43% more GDD at the former vs. the latter. The same distance probably between Donabate and Casement (Dublin) but nearly double the monthly GDD. It just shows how measuring your own data and creating your own stats for your location is important when it comes to this day and age where venues are compared over social media on a day-to-day basis.

How are we faring GDD-wise 2019 vs. 2018  vs. 2017 ?

You can see for our Thame location how 2019 fits right between the disastrously slow spring of 2018 and the belter of 2017. From a GDD perspective we are close to a month ahead of last year but two weeks behind 2017.

It’s been dry as well….

There’s been a lot of discussion on social media regarding the merits and pitfalls of watering in early spring, using cold water, dropping the soil temperature and the like and of course it isn’t a one size hat fits all discussion. The north, west and north-west of the U.K would have no such requirements because their rainfall levels have been higher and E.T levels lower. The same with Ireland, across the west, north-west and south-east there’s been plenty of rain but further up the east coast of Leinster, the end of March dry spell mirrored some areas of the U.K.

Now it’s a complex picture and there are many variables, not least rootzone characteristics, site dynamics (in terms of wind and therefore exposure levels) before we even mention the weather itself and rainfall.

I took data from two sites, one at Thame, in the middle of England representing a dry and exposed site with little cover and therefore a high susceptibility to drying out. The other at Norwich, representing a site with lots of tree cover, less exposed to the wind and actually a wetter site than Thame as it turns out.

I graphed out daily rainfall, E.T and looked at the potential moisture surplus or deficit across a month. Now of course this is where rootzone characteristics comes into play because high sand content rootzones will not hold all the moisture that comes the way of rainfall or irrigation, whereas a higher loam / clay content rootzone will hold more. We also have another variable, that of organic matter levels in the surface, but let’s assume the rootzones are similar for the sake of this exercise.

Here’s how the rainfall vs. E.T dynamic pans out for both sites…

At the Thame location we see that the end of the month is dry and due to the exposed nature of the site, the daily E.T ramps up till it reaches a maximum of 5.1mm loss on the 30th of March, now I can tell you that is a very high figure for the spring. You can see after the rain stops in the middle of the month, the moisture surplus is reduced till it goes into deficit by the 30th of March.

At the Norwich location, they have slightly more rain over the month, but due to the nature of the site, significantly lower E.T loss and so they never go into moisture deficit. Their highest E.T day is 50% lower than Thame.

Now I accept the above comparison is an over-simplification because the rootzone will not retain all of that moisture, some will undoubtedly drain through, especially with a high sand content. If we were talking loam / clay outfields though, we would expect more moisture to be retained and in this case, the Norwich example to not require irrigation through March, whereas the Thame location would probably be under moisture deficit.

The differentiating factor between the two sites is actually the daily E.T level and at any location, this will definitely be one of the primary considerations with respect to irrigation. I’d suggest on a high E.T day when you are losing 3-5mm of moisture, it will soon become apparent that irrigation is required to prevent plant wilt and desiccation. The modern usage of moisture meters helps massively in this thought process. We must remember though that we are sampling moisture levels at the end of the probe depth only, not along the whole probe, so it is quite feasible for moisture levels to be much lower nearer the surface and especially when that surface profile is dominated by organic matter. Glenn Kirby over at Syngenta is doing some interesting work in this area. My problem is as ever the sheer number of variables impacting this ‘should I water, should I not debate’ but one things for sure, you cannot generalise between sites as my examples above highlight.

Many people have hand watered at the end of March and if you look at a day when we have 5.1mm of E.T loss, 17mph winds and a maximum temperature of 17°C, it is easy to understand why. Like I often say, the calendar is irrelevant, what the turf is telling you is not.

All the best and sorry for the late arrival of this blog, entirely my fault…

Mark Hunt