May 11th

Hi All,

Fresh from last nights ambiguous announcement from Boris Johnson, it is clear that my resident Hedgepigs think social distancing is a thing of the past…I don’t expect them to be the only ones. They are soon to be joined by a re-housed orphan that Leicester Wildlife Centre have been looking after over the winter. He was only 200 gms odd when I took him in just before Christmas and not expected to survive but he has, so hopefully ‘Parky’ will settle in to his new home. He will be joining Reggie, Shifty and Willow.

Boris’s ‘back of a fag packet speech’ contained the news that golf (and fishing) can re-open from Wednesday.

Good news for our industry but why make an announcement with no detail a day before the detail arrives and then leave organisations precious little time to put processes and systems into place ?

All it does is create confusion, a day of ultimately fruitless media and Facebook rhetoric, all of which is taking place without possession of the facts. Crazy.

For example, England is now setting a precedent with Wales and Scotland remaining on a more cautious but ultimately clearer message. That isn’t a good situation in my mind. Are the government happy for a golfer to travel from Wales or Scotland to play golf or go fishing ?, Surely not, presumably there will be a travel restriction in distance / time spent travelling ?

Ultimately it will be for each respective club / business to decide how and when they will open, after all, they know their business better than anyone, just as they did when it came  down to staffing and maintenance through the lock down. I know on the fishing side of things the water companies that control a lot of the reservoirs won’t be opening just yet because there are clear issues with opening up a site like Rutland Water and still carrying out social distancing. Toilet facilities are one of the many considerations, i.e. how do you provide toilet facilities if your clubhouse is shut ? How do you provide this for Joe Public and still obey social distancing when you annually receive 2 million visitors as Rutland Water does, that’s over 5,000 people on site a day ? It’s probably going to be a good time to be running a Portaloo company…:)

Cue a second spike and a lot of ‘told you so’ interviews on the BBC. Yawn.

It does make me wonder where common sense and clear judgement now reside in this country of ours, I mean popularist leaders are all well and good until it appears that they have to think and speak at the same time. Then they’re scuppered.

I’ll move onto the weather which confirms that none of Boris’s advisers look at a weather forecast because this week is a crap week to re-open anything as we currently have May doing a good impression of  February / March with snow showers over Scotland and night frosts.

General Weather Situation

So Sunday’s ‘drop off a cliff’ temperature transition took place as forecast and instantly cleared the parks of sun worshipers and reduced the queues at the supermarkets.

The GFS chart above shows the reason why….we are sitting on the right side (or the wrong side if you see what I mean) of an Atlantic high pressure system and that is funneling a northerly air stream down from The Arctic. We also have a low-lying jet stream position where any warmer air has been pushed south. That northerly wind aspect will be in place for all of this week albeit swinging round from north west to north east. As I type I can hear the wind thundering on the roof so today is nothing if not a breezy and cool one with a sprinkling of sunshine and showers thrown into the cooking pot. Putting a little more detail on it, Monday looks to be a mainly dry, sunny but ultimately cool day courtesy of a strong to gale force north easterly wind. This wind will blow some showers in off The North Sea across The North East, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and ultimately The Midlands if they get that far throughout the day. Scotland could also see some showers across the north east of the country as well. For most though a dry but ultimately cold day for nearly mid-May with temperatures in the wind 5-6°C down on the predicted 10-12°C. There’s also the risk of a ground frost on Monday night into Tuesday.

Tuesday sees a very similar day to Monday, cold, bright and windy, though the wind will lessen through the day and swing round to the marginally milder north west. By lunchtime they’ll be some rain pushing into the far north of Scotland and this will move south and west slipping off into The North Sea later. Some of this rain will fall as wintry showers over The Highlands. Remaining dry then for England, Wales and Ireland. A marginally milder day with the lighter wind and change in wind direction so temperatures struggling into the low teens across England and Wales, with Scotland and Ireland, duller so 2-3°C lower.

Wednesday sees an Atlantic high pressure begin to influence our weather so we will see the wind swing round to the north east / east later in the day. Continuing that dry theme for all of the U.K & Ireland with just the chance of a shower nudging down the north east coast of England and maybe over The Wash. Plenty of sunshine but with a freshening wind we will still see temperatures pegged back to the low teens across all areas. So similar temperatures to Tuesday, 12-14°C across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and a risk of another late frost playing havoc with runner bean plantings 🙂

Thursday could be a dead copy of Wednesday as high pressure is in charge so no likelihood of rain, plenty of sunshine but later cloud moving across the northern half of the U.K and Ireland. Remaining breezy with a strong to moderate easterly wind in place on Thursday so feeling cool still in the wind with the best temperatures across the west.

Closing down what has been a very straight-forward weather week, Friday sees those winds drop in strength and that allows temperatures to nudge up into the mid-teens. Still plenty of cloud across the north of Ireland and the U.K but further south with lighter winds and more in the way of sunshine we will see temperature up nicely. Remaining dry then as high pressure calls the shots but I can see a front of rain sitting out in The Atlantic….

The outlook for the weekend looks like it will produce a headache for the government and the new ‘guidelines’ as easing winds will allow temperatures to pick up to the high teens through Saturday and Sunday. That rain front out in the Atlantic will continue to edge closer to Ireland and Scotland and it is projected to push rain into the west of Scotland on Sunday morning. Currently this rain isn’t projected to make it across to Central and eastern Scotland where they are incredibly dry for this time of year but that may change. By Sunday evening, the southern face of that rain will push into the west of Ireland from Kerry to Connacht and everywhere in-between.

Weather Outlook

This time last week we were looking at an unsettled mid and second half of May but it all changed mid-week, last week with high pressure in the ascendancy.

So how does next week look like as I sit here on a cool and frumpy Monday morning ?

Well as you can see we have a different GFS output from the one we started the week with, no surprises there then….Low pressure is pushing over the north of the U.K and Ireland so the cooler theme will continue and there’s likely to be some rain around for the north of the country next Monday which may be a blessing for a desperately dry Scotland. At this stage that low pressure system looks set to dominate next week so quite a change from this week and that may mean more likelihood of rain for next week’s picture. A lot will depend how far south that low pressure system swings but the beginning of next week looks like a north-south divide with cool and unsettled weather for the north and warmer, drier conditions further south. As we move through the week the current projection is for the low pressure to push unsettled conditions across Ireland, Scotland and the north of England with significant rain expected on Wednesday across these areas. There’s an increasing chance of seeing this rain push further south as well from mid-week, next week as winds strengthen from the south west and push rain into Wales and England on Thursday / Friday. As always the devil will be in the detail as we approach closer to next week.  With a predominantly south westerly air stream in place next week that means reasonably mild temperatures, no frost likely and good growing conditions with the southern half of the U.K enjoying very good weather indeed. More cloud and lower temperatures for the west and north but if Scotland do get the rain they’ll be a lot of grateful greenkeepers and farmers out there ! That said we are very very dry here as well in The Midlands.

Agronomic Notes

Well the dry spell continues….

As I type this a Swift has just flown by the window, they’ve been back about a week now and lovely to hear them again in the skies above Market Harborough, I digress…

So we are not only very dry but now we share a similar basket case of conditions to Scotland, i.e that of dry and cold, perhaps the worst combination of conditions for greenkeeping.

I have pulled some data from one of our GDD spreadsheets sent in from Birmingham to illustrate where we are (thanks Jonathan)…

So you can see quite clearly how we fell off a cliff temperature and therefore growth-wise yesterday and I’ve entered the projected values for this week to how how nothing much is going to happen till we approach the weekend and warmer temperatures. Rainfall though will not be forthcoming and that’ll make Poa annua continue to be a very unhappy camper. Prior to this week Poa annua was in full seedhead mode so that means it isn’t growing much, it is diverting all of its food reserves to seedhead production at the expense of tillering and also colour. So pale and pasty is the order of this week (just what golfers like eh ?)

Coming down on cutting height to appease our new found attendees won’t be an easy tricky either because you’ll be removing leaf without it being replaced by new growth. Cutting height is an emotive subject as we all know but I’m yet to see the benefit of increasing cutting height in the spring. As sure as eggs are eggs, we know who won’t like it. Like a lot of ‘things’ in our market place it’s all subjective. So for greens it won’t be an easy week, simply no point in trying to force things, we have two ground frosts likely, and next to no G.P / GDD until the end of the week so best to sit on your hands when it comes to applying nutrient, biostimulants till the end of the week because Mother Nature has just applied a pretty effective PGR . The grass plant will be hunkering down, conserving water and uptaking very little, especially Poa annua.

Good news for outfield growth though because that’ll be buttoning down as both temperature and moisture become growth-limiting even on heavier soil types which still promoted growth through April when lighter soils had already become dry on the surface.

The transition from a very wet winter to a very dry spring, though entirely predictable by the Law of Sod, never fails to amaze me. The times I chatted to customers in February and March as rain pelted the window and we both agreed that when it stops, it’ll stop dead and we will be having to irrigate before we know it !

You can see this clearly on the wet and dry days count, again from the Birmingham location with stats using projected weather up to and including the 17th May.

The rain stopped here on the 19th of March at this location and despite some rain at the end of April it has been an extremely dry spring. I reckon only 2 days of the first 20 or so in May will feature rainfall and all of that probably wouldn’t add up to more than 3mm. Currently with daily E.T running above that it means we have a significant moisture deficit.

Disease Pressure

Something I didn’t cover last week when I did my April summary but looking back to last month we actually had some pretty significant disease spikes from Microdochium nivale depending on your location. April as we know was dominated by high pressure systems with the odd low pressure interjecting and it was this feature of our weather pattern that gave rise to some periods of intense disease pressure as winds dropped, humidity and temperature increased and dew formation was day long.  I’ve charted out below disease pressure using our algorithm from different locations across the U.K and Ireland ;

Looking at the data, it was the Kanturk, Irish location, that featured the highest continual pressure through the month and particularly on sites with sheltered greens. Across The Irish Sea we saw less consistent pressure but a period towards the end of April (28th, 29th) provided warm night temperatures, high humidity, little wind and consistent plant leaf wetness. In other words it was good Microdochium growing weather and grow it certainly did. Hopefully all of this is old news for you guys now as currently we have very low disease pressure, next to no dew formation and a humidity level tracking at about 54% in my location, so the air is very dry.

OK, that’s about me for today as the 1 p.m publishing time slot fast approaches and I have to review my morning scribble 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt