March 4th


Hi All,

As the wind still howls outside, Storm Freya is exiting stage right into The North Sea to ply her trade elsewhere and the country recovers from a battering of wind, rain and further north, snow. Now quite a case of ‘Beware the Ides of March’, but the month has certainly started off with a bang compared to the mild and balmy days of late February. As you’ll see later in the blog, February 2019 came in as the warmest we have measured from a GDD / G.P perspective in some locations (but not all). According to the Met Office, it featured the highest, average daily maximum temperatures (10°C) and the warmest February day on record, 20.1°C in England and 20.6°C in Wales, since records began in 1910.

March promises to be a different kettle of fish me thinks with a very windy and unsettled start to the month, courtesy of low pressure systems rolling in from The Atlantic and I can see this continuing for the next 7-10 days as it stands now.

General Weather Situation

As one low pressure exits, another one lines up and so we see showers already on Monday morning crossing Ireland, The South West and South Wales heading on a north-easterly trajectory. The wind though westerly has its origins in Northern Scandinavia so is much cooler than of late meaning some of these showers will be wintry in nature across the mountains of Wales. So for Monday we see showers and heavier outbreaks of rain pushing across Ireland into Wales and The South West on Monday morning before heading inland through the latter part of the morning, afternoon. A day of sunshine and showers for many. Ireland will clear from the west as these showers move eastwards and at present the main area affected will be south of The Humber. Scotland will also see a day of sunshine and showers with the main wintry shower activity on the north-west coast with some pushing more inland during the morning. The wind will remain strong to moderate and westerly but as mentioned above, it’ll feel noticeably cooler with temperatures ranging from 6-9°C.

Tuesday sees a repeat of a bright start for some and rain for others as this time the emphasis of the rain is for the northern half of Ireland, the north-west of England and south-west of Scotland. Again with the cooler temperatures we can expect a repeat of wintry conditions across The Pennines and the mountains of Scotland. Further south of this will see a bright start for England and Wales after a cold night, but cloud will build from late morning heralding the arrival of heavy rain into The South West on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike Monday’s rain, this affair will push across country into southern England and The Midlands quickly through the late afternoon till we see rain covering all of Ireland, England and Wales by Tuesday evening. Scotland though should stay dry until the early hours and as that moist air meets colder air, expect it to turn to snow on the leading edge. The wind will be ever-so-slightly south-westerly on Tuesday so it’ll feel milder with temperatures pushing up into the low double figures, expect 10-13°C.

Onto Wednesday and a messy picture as dawn breaks with the bulk of the rain and wintry showers expected to be sitting over Northern Ireland, south-west and Central Scotland. Further south we see thicker cloud and some showery outbreaks across England and Wales from the off. Ireland will also see thicker cloud and some rain and wintry showers towards the north but as we progress through the day, sunny intervals will break out and the cloud will clear from the south-west. For the U.K, expect the pattern of earlier in the day to prevail, plenty of rain across the north-west, south-west and Central Scotland with wintry showers at elevation. Further south we will see a mix of fleeting sunshine and heavier bursts of rain across Wales and England with the north of England set to pick up some heavier rain. Across The Pennines, The Peak district and higher elevations in Wales, that rain may fall as snow / wintry showers. A very strong south-westerly wind will be the feature of Wednesday but it’ll keep the temperatures up into the low teens for Wales and England, whereas Ireland and Scotland will stay down in the high single figures.

Thursday sees the overnight unsettled conditions clear Ireland and so you’ll enjoy a brighter, dry start to the day. Not so for the U.K, where a mix of rain and wintry showers will dominate the morning rush hour with heavy rain and wintry showers spread all over England, Wales and Scotland. Through the morning the wind will swing round to the north-west so that’ll peg back the temperatures and push that mix of rain and wintry showers down south clearing Scotland and the north of England through the 2nd part of the day. So a good day for Ireland, half and half for Scotland and the north of England and for Wales, Central and southern England, a day of thick cloud and outbreaks of rain. Feeling cooler in that fresh north-westerly wind with temperatures lucky to break double figures anywhere.

End of the working week (hurrah to that) and a much better weather picture as most places will greet dawn with sunshine and dry conditions. I say most places because the north-west of Scotland looks to be the exception with some wintry showers likely from the off. Through the morning, we will see some cloud build across Ireland and the west of the U.K, but we should still stay dry 🙂 By Friday afternoon though, rain will push into Kerry, The South West and Wales and move across Ireland, England and Wales through the late afternoon / early evening. By Friday night, expect to see a band of rain and wintry showers extending across Ireland and the western half of England, Wales and Scotland. This rain band will clear Ireland in the small hours but it’ll continue to move eastwards covering all of the U.K by the early hours of Saturday. Remaining cool despite the westerly wind with temperatures in the 8-10°C range.

No surprise then that the outlook for next weekend is err… unsettled.

Saturday will see a bright start for Ireland and cloud cover that soon breaks over England and Wales. There will be an entrenched band of rain and wintry showers across the north west of England and west of Scotland through most of Saturday, fizzling out from the south in the 2nd half of the day. A better 2nd half of the day for England and Wales as that cloud breaks and we see long spells of sunshine. We will still have that very strong, blustery westerly wind though and that’ll peg the temperatures down to high single / low double figures and make fly fishing a bit of a bitch for me 🙁 Still a risk of showers on Saturday, pushed in on that strong westerly wind but less than Friday. Early on Saturday evening sees a new front of heavy rain push into western Ireland and push eastwards quickly on Saturday night / Sunday morning so a mixed day of sunshine and showers beckons for Sunday I think. With low pressure centred over the U.K on Sunday, expect a repeat of this Sunday past, i.e strong westerly winds and plenty of rain. At this stage, the southern half of the U.K looks to be in the firing line but that might change. So a very windy and unsettled end to the weekend for a 2nd week in a row.

Weather Outlook

Well remaining unsettled is the theme for the 2nd week of March but with high pressure sitting out in The Atlantic it’ll put a different skew on the weather and may well change the outlook if it dominates over the lows. So at this stage, Monday looks to start wet, unsettled and with a north-westerly wind pushing rain down through the U.K and Ireland. On Tuesday the wind switches to a more westerly aspect, so milder, but much wetter with a low pressure due to pass over us through the course of the day. Wednesday sees that wind switch back north-westerly, cooler again and a day of sunshine and showers. Thursday sees that pattern continue with a north-westerly wind and sunshine and showers and remaining cool. We may just see the influence of high pressure towards the end of next week across the south of England before we see more unsettled and windy weather pushing in from the west. So unsettled, remaining windy and on the cool side folks is my synopsis for next week.

Agronomic Notes

As usual for the first blog of the month, we will take a look back at the preceding month and what a month it was..

February GDD Summary – Thame Location

So for our Oxfordshire location, February 2019 didn’t come in as the highest GDD, lagging behind 2017 courtesy of a colder start to the month this year. Nevertheless, it still represented one of our warmest February’s and rather different to 2018 which came in with a total GDD of 5.5. Needless to say we are well ahead of 2018 from a temperature – growth perspective and more importantly I think you can see that in terms of general grass growth and the countryside in general. Figures are fine but if they don’t tally with what we see on the ground they are worthless.

The reason why the GDD (and G.P for that matter) doesn’t reflect the Met Office’s warmest maximum daily temperature average is because it takes into account minimum temperatures as well and although we had some high teen days during late February, we also had some pretty hard frosts on the same day and that’s what has pegged back the GDD / G.P data at this location.

From a cumulative perspective, the cold January has held back 2019 so far (but then we are only in month 3 :)) so nothing stand-out at the moment.

Looking at the last 2 years from a daily Growth Potential perspective, you can see the differences in growth patterns, with 2018 reflecting a mild January and a cold February and 2019, vice-versa.

How far ahead of last year are we ?

Well at this location, we reached a total GDD figure of 52.5 at the end of February 2019 and we didn’t reach that figure in 2018 till the 16th of March, so about 16 days ahead of last year.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – U.K Locations

Thanks as usual to everyone for sending their monthly stats in on both sides of The Irish Sea, it is always appreciated.

So you can see some quite wide variability in the GDD stats with our location at Thame coming out the lowest of the bunch and Milton Keynes, the highest. I’ve looked into the stats and the difference was due to higher night-time temperatures at the latter location (probably due to cloud cover) and severe frosts at the former. A dry month for everyone with the south-west locations picking up the best of the rainfall and The Midlands and Fife coming out the lowest of the rainfall totals (yet again). Can’t complain though because with early warmth and dry surfaces, you chaps have been able to crack on with winter and spring projects. Many of you I see have also taken the opportunity to aerate early and overseed areas thin from last summer. All we need now is consistent growth and above all, consistent rainfall.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – Irish Locations

Well the Irish locations mirror very similar GDD and rainfall figures to the U.K ones, so it is clear that Ireland also enjoyed a good start to 2019 with excellent temperatures. Wetter across the south and west for sure with Dublin coming in as the driest location receiving similar rainfall to here in Leicestershire. Although the figures are similar, the temperature pattern was different across Ireland compared to England with not so high day time temperatures but higher night-time ones, so the amount of GDD / G.P was very similar. In practice the growth would have been more consistent in Ireland than the U.K because of the absence of frosts in many locations.

To validate this point I thought I’d do the same daily G.P comparison for an Irish location and so I picked Claremorris in beautiful (when it isn’t raining) Co. Mayo.

You can clearly see the differences between the two years and if you look at the 2019 graph, the level of growth is actually higher than the U.K location towards the end of February, courtesy of milder night temperatures.

If we carry out the same GDD comparison, the difference between 2019 and 2018 for this location is significantly different than the Thame location above. At the end of Feb 2019, Claremorris hit 95.2 – y.t.d cumulative GDD (bear in mind the Thame location only hit 52.5 on the same date) and it didn’t hit the same figure in 2018 till the 20th of April, so here they’re a good 7 weeks ahead of 2018 and that’s amazing. Work away.

Aeration timing and focus…

One of my old chesnuts is of course early aeration and this year presents a fantastic argument for undertaking organic matter removal / vertidraining, e.t.c and getting recovery before the spring season starts in earnest from a golf perspective.  If ever there was a year to show the calendar should be confined to the rubbish bin from a golf course / sports pitch maintenance perspective, it’s this one. Look at the comparison below of 2 Meteoturf outputs, one taken on the 18th of February, 2019, the other for today.

The projection is for 26 GDD w/c 18/02/19 vs. 8 GDD w/c 04/03/19, that ‘s some difference !

So the earlier date provided more consistent growth from a temperature perspective.

You could of course say that we were dry over the earlier period and the days were a bit shorter, but I think you’d be splitting hairs a tad 🙂

Surface Organic Matter Levels

As poor Wendy in our office would testify to, we have been undertaking a lot of surface organic matter testing and it is opening my eyes a tad on a number of areas.

Firstly we can talk about guideline levels, i.e where should you be aiming for ?

Well so far our testing has shown this is very site-specific and that it really relates to the history of the site you are testing. For example if you have a new USGA-spec golf green (I say new, in the last 10 years or so), it’s logical that the majority of the organic matter accumulation will be in the top 25mm unless aeration and topdressing has been sadly lacking. In this scenario I think a level of 3.0% is a worthwhile target however that said I would look at a green on the course that represents a firm surface, takes a ball well and displays good pace and use this as my target O.M level. After all a number of a piece of paper is but that.

We also have to accept variability in this process because O.M levels are not consistent as we look across a green surface. Wear pathways on and off greens to the usual pin position areas will typically display less surface O.M than areas away from foot traffic where the pin is rarely placed. If you’re sampling across a greens surface you will probably have a mixture of O.M levels in the sample because of this very feature unless of course your greens are totally flat.

If you are sampling greens in shade I would expect lower surface O.M levels because of lower light levels and less fibre-contributing growth. I make this distinction because some of you who measure clipping yield report higher clipping levels on shaded greens and this must be due to more shoot etiolation in low light conditions (i.e more shoot growth above the cutting height). Does this type of growth contribute to higher O.M levels in shade ? I don’t think so.

I tend to find lower O.M levels in shade to a point where reduction of O.M any further should be questioned. After all there is a base level to O.M measurement below which sward integrity starts to suffer. Pitch marks bruise more easily and are slow to heal, surface thinning is often evident and moss / algae encroachment, more common.

What is this base figure ?

Well I think it varies depending on the age, grass type and rootzone composition of the green you are managing.


The guideline that applies to your site must surely be orientated around your grass species mix, rootzone and local climatic conditions (shade, greens design, etc) and over time with more sampling, a pattern should become evident of what is the right level of surface organic matter on your site.

No hard and fast data from my end at the moment, but I will pass on our findings at some point this year probably in a seminar format.

OK,  a quick proof read and off we go as publishing should be at 1p.m !!!1

All the best

Mark Hunt