February 25th


Hi All,

After a truly stunning weekend when day time temperature records for February tumbled in some areas of the U.K and we reached figures that we would normally see in late May, it felt good to be out in the fresh air 🙂

Out walking yesterday the birds were singing, bumblebees were active and the sun was warm enough for a T-shirt and shorts. Mind you as soon as it went down the temperature plummeted and this morning, -3.1°C and a very hard frost greeted me when I opened the curtains. As predicted last week though, the weather is on the change later this week as we move from a peak to a trough pattern in the jet stream. So enjoy it while you can because wetter, cooler weather is on the way…You can see the change in the weather dynamic between this Monday and next Monday below ;

From my perspective we need the rain, every last drop, so bring it on and much as I love the sunshine and warmth, I don’t want summer to start in February thanks.

General Weather Situation

So onto this week’s weather and let’s put some substance on the forecast.

Well it is an easy forecast for Monday because after a very cold start for most areas with a widespread ground frost we will see temperatures pick up nicely as the sun comes up and provides in most areas, 10 hours of constant sunshine. For Scotland and around the coast of Ireland you may see more in the way of cloud cover and that’ll take the edge off the temperatures both overnight and during the day. So expect 14-16°C during the day and a light to moderate southerly wind.

Tuesday sees a pretty much identical pattern with clear night skies giving a ground frost for many areas before the sun comes up, burns it off and we do it all over again. Expect similar temperatures to Monday and still with that southerly wind.

Wednesday starts with more in the way of cloud cover so maybe not such a widespread frost and it’ll take awhile for that cloud to burn off, maybe till lunchtime in places. Thereafter we snick into the familiar pattern of lovely spring sunshine and pleasant temperatures, maybe a degree or two down on earlier in the week because of that cloud cover. So 14-16°C is likely.

Thursday sees the start of the transition from peak to trough with cloud cover pushing in overnight and the first sign of rain moving into the south-east of Ireland and south-west of England early doors. This rain will push thicker cloud in front of it so there’s unlikely to be a frost. During the morning the rain will push inland across North Wales and the south of England but this trajectory may change as we get closer to the day. So a much duller and slightly cooler day everywhere though the west of Ireland and the U.K should see some sunshine later in the day as that rain pushes eastwards and zips off into The North Sea. Away from the rain bands expect a dull, cool day with a freshening westerly wind that will swing round to north-westerly through the 2nd part of the day introducing a windchill factor and dropping the temperatures markedly. The cloud may just be thick enough over Scotland for some light showers during the 2nd part of the day.

Onto Friday and the transition gathers pace as a new rain front pushes thick cloud in front of it. Now at this stage it looks like the high will hold off this rain from pushing into Ireland during the morning and most of us will just endure a dull, cloudy and cool start to the day. During the afternoon though that high loses its grip and the rain is projected to make landfall into western Ireland and north-west Scotland. By sunset it will be across all but east Leinster and pushing later into The South West and central Scotland and then overnight nudging into Wales and The west early doors Saturday. So Friday is likely to be a dull, and for some, a wet 2nd part of the day with temperatures still sitting mild enough at 10-12°C, but well down on earlier in the week.

So looking ahead to this weekend it’s no surprise that the forecast is likely to be unsettled with thicker cloud and some rain around on Saturday morning pushing eastwards across the southern half of the U.K initially before fizzling out. Saturday afternoon looks better with some brighter spells of weather for Ireland and the west initially before we see the same across central areas. It won’t last though because a heavier band of rain is due to push into western Ireland on Saturday afternoon and move eastwards through the 2nd part of the day affecting the U.K through the 1st part of Sunday. So a sunshine and showers Saturday before heavier rain moves in from the west on Sunday morning. Feeling cooler in the strong to moderate westerly / south-westerly wind with temperatures around 10-12°C over the weekend, maybe a little chillier on Sunday.

Weather Outlook

So no surprise if we start next week cooler, significantly windier and unsettled with the bulk of the rain expected in the southern half of the country as a southerly-orientated low pressure makes an appearance. This is set to bring heavy rain to southern and central areas of the U.K through Monday pm / Tuesday a.m. as it stands now with a cooler and unsettled outlook elsewhere as the wind turns briefly northwards. We then see another low push in on Wed to bring more rain, again more southerly-orientated. Tricky to say after that other than I think it will remain unsettled with a mild (ish) air stream and plenty of rain around. So March looks to start wet and unsettled and if you believe in longer-term, it’ll stay that way for the first half of the month.

Agronomic Notes

So the first thing to chat through today is the current weather scenario.

Out walking yesterday it was beautiful in the afternoon with warm sunshine on your face, but as soon as the sun dipped, so did the temperatures and as I walked down into valley bottoms, the chill was evident. It got me to thinking on a day like that, when is the temperature high enough to support good grass growth and therefore how many hours is the grass plant actually growing for ?

So I took the stats from my Netatmo weather station and averaged the hourly temperatures. (it tends to report every 12 mins or so)

I then calculated the Growth Potential of these hourly stats to see when the plant was actually growing during the day and how high the G.P actually got to on an hourly basis. The results are shown below ;

You can see that the grass plant was growing strongly between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m, so 6 hours total longevity. You can also see that the growth was almost optimum from a temperature perspective during this time period before rapidly dropping away as the sun set around 5.30 p.m. yesterday.

February as a whole..

Looking at the month in totality (OK we still have a few days to go) I reckon February 2019 will come in as our warmest February in our data set from a G.P / GDD perspective.

It also compares in a very similar fashion to 2017, our last really good spring and just to add to the similarity, March 2017 started off wet and mild as well following below-average rainfall for January and February of that year.

Here’s the last 3 years Growth Potential data for February using Northampton as a location (Thanks Rob, the bets on 2019 vs. 2017 :))

You can really see what a damp squib February 2018 was when you compare the daily and total growth potential for that year with either 2017 or 2019.

Rather than just a set of numbers on a graph, the chart of the G.P for February 2019 (and 2017 for that matter) hammers home to me why early aeration is a given now and getting work done in January and February is a smart play timing-wise. The only problem as one wise sage pointed out to me earlier this morning was sure we are still in February but the golfers think it’s May because of the temperatures 🙂 So along with the temperature, expectations are on the rise as well 🙁

We need the rain…

There’s no doubt we are dry going into this pattern of weather with many soils not wetting up fully following below-average winter rainfall. In a way I hope we follow 2017’s weather pattern all through the year because back then after a very dry April, we had a wetter May, June, August and September and that kept stress to a minimum and the threat of a hosepipe ban a distant memory. A lot of areas that burned up the worst last year were high in surface organic matter and this makes sense as we know organic matter heats up faster than soil but of course those areas will also dry down quicker and become hydrophobic so in my mind there is a good argument for spot-treating with a wetting agent this week before the rain arrives.

I am always grateful for photos sent in by you guys but this one from Mark Todd really hammers home to me why we do what we do sometimes. The area under drought-stress wasn’t vertidrained and one could surmise that root development was poorer in the non-vertidrained area and so was more affected by surface heat and summer stress. The problem is at the moment that we can’t get full depth on a lot of soils because they are dry and compacted. So if the vertidrain can’t get down deep, how can we expect the roots of the grass plant to do it ?

Root development is so often neglected with solutions muted to come out of a bottle or a bag but the fact remains (in my mind anyway) that if you have an excess of O.M in the surface and / or poor soil characteristics deeper down, no muck and magic will benefit you. Sure we have all seen the pictures of roots out the bottom of the hole cup, but I wish they’d take the same picture after last summers excesses of temperature, E.T and a packed fixture list 🙂

Ok short and sweet today, I have another talk to prep and a looming deadline.

Just a quick thanks to the German Greenkeeping Federation, Beate and Michael for looking after me last week when I was over giving a talk. I’d also like to thank the customs official in Birmingham Airport for ‘over-zealously’ (pilots words)  strip searching one of the passengers on my flight (not me thankfully) and making us 30 mins late. You nearly buggered up my whole day but I fully appreciate you were just doing your job. (just in case I’m travelling through Brum airport again in the near future :))

Enjoy the great weather this week and let’s hope the rainfall helps to top up our dwindling levels.

All the best…

Mark Hunt