25th March

Hi All,

Sorry for the lateness of this blog but obviously it’s been quite a week so far all things considered. With the government lock down announcement on Monday night there was a lot of confusion in our industry as to whether golf course workers were still allowed / or still should work. Obviously this is a personal decision, for me it is entirely logical, minimise staff requirements to keep the course ticking over, identify the key workers within your facility willing to come in, practice social distancing at all times and work out a plan of action that suits your facility.

It’s likely my blog date will now be a Tuesday because O.A.P shopping (no I don’t qualify quite yet) round here is Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the foreseeable, so I’ll be busy on that front with my parents and supporting the vulnerable in my community.

Some of the posts on Facebook highlight the diverse range of opinions on this matter, but one things for sure, if you think you can leave greens for let’s say 3 months with no maintenance and then come back and expect to produce a product for when you course opens, you are entirely mistaken. A grass plant cut usually at 4mm, that’s now growing at 40mm ain’t the same grass plant any more and it ain’t going back either 🙂

That being said, the decision whether you go into work or not is entirely a personal one. Everybody’s mindset and circumstance is different and we must all respect that going forward. Please no comments related to this because I’ve seen and read it all on Facebook 🙂 / 🙁

We got some good information from English Golf and BIGGA yesterday (Tuesday) that clarified matters. Click on the organisation name to read it.

Anyway I’ll try to steer clear of the contentious stuff and focus on the weather because for you guys who are still going into work, one of the key areas is going to be managing growth with extremely limited resources.

So I’ll do a synopsis of the weather for what remains of this week and then a look ahead. I’ll then cover how this relates to likely growth levels as a running theme.

General Weather Situation

So currently we are sitting on the left edge of a high pressure system and since high pressure systems rotate clockwise, this is currently wafting up lovely warm southerly winds from The Mediterranean, sadly this won’t last. It hasn’t been sunshine and warmth for all though because the north west of Ireland and Scotland has been sitting in a band of rain and showers bouncing off the western edge of that high pressure, so here it’s been wet, cool and dull.

As we progress through to Thursday the wind will turn first to the east cooling things down a little and then to the north east for the weekend, gathering strength as it does so. Winds from the north east mean only one thing, Haar. That lovely low cloud that will issue in a cold and dullsville scenario for the weekend straight off The North Sea.

Probably a good thing because then we won’t have to look at pictures of the Snowflake generation completely ignoring government and medical advice and pilling into the countryside en masse. I point the finger there because no one has ever said ‘no’ to them since they were in nappies and now we have bred a disrespectful generation with a double dominant, entitlement gene accompanied by a double recessive, common sense gene. No wonder loo roll sales are stratospheric.

Rant over, expect things to cool down markedly as we progress into Saturday and Sunday with a lot more cloud cover and it’ll be windier as well. They’ll still be some sunshine and of course the further west you are, the further you are away from the source of those cool north easterly winds so it’ll be a little milder across the west of the U.K and Ireland. A north east wind has the ability to usher in some showers off The Wash as well with an increasing likelihood from late on Sunday night onwards. Expect temperatures to drop from their current low teens to mid to high single figures, so 6-8°C will be the norm.

As we go into next week the north easterly dull and cool theme looks set to continue though the wind will die down to make things feel a little less cold. We may see more in the way of showers for the east and north east coasts through Monday into Tuesday, but by and large the outlook is dry and settled, dull and cool for next week. Now as we head towards the end of next week it looks like we will see things change again as a cold, North Atlantic low pressure looks set to push in and swing the winds round to the west and push rain in as well.

Now that’s 10 days away yet but if it happens, it’ll mean a low pressure system sitting in a trough pattern and so that means potentially a lot of rain and cool again with it for the weekend after next  (April 4th onwards).

Now that’s a long way off so we will see what happens in the mean time meteorologically-speaking.

Agronomic Notes

Locking down my turf…

So we are all finding ourselves in some pretty strange circumstances at the moment, some working with skeleton staff and split shifts, some working reasonably normally and using the time to get on with maintenance and I guess some sites likely to be un-maintained.

I’ve had quite a few calls on minimising maintenance and of course that then points to the use of a PGR, especially on areas that are difficult to maintain because of their size or maybe location (bunker faces for example)

Now currently we aren’t seeing much growth out there, although outfields have woken up recently. My remote soil temperature sensor is showing 7.6°C, courtesy of a cold night during which we dipped to -2.6°C. Looking ahead, air temperature is going south so the prognosis for the next 7-10 days is certainly not for any great signs of growth. In other words Mother Nature is applying her own PGR and a very effective and cheap one it is too 🙂

I have graphed out rainfall and Growth Potential from The Oxfordshire and entered the projected temperatures for the coming 10 days. As you can see predicted grass growth levels are going to be really low so nothing is going to be jumping out of the ground yet.

Now I can’t speak for everybody, I can’t cover everyone’s current work scenario, but what I would say is that if you are considering locking down areas then the next 10 days provides a brilliant window to do so. If that North Atlantic low pressure drifts in late next week I think that’ll bring with it a good dose of rainfall and so getting to some areas to apply may just not be possible. Now I also know that the north west of Ireland and Scotland has had a hammering recently rainfall-wise, whilst further south we have been enjoying dry days and sunshine, so there’s always a caveat to what I write.

There’s no need for significant nutrient input really is there, we have no play, no wear so unless you have aerated recently and need recovery, I’d be thinking of applying a light rate foliar with iron and a PGR to minimise my cutting (and therefore labour requirement) on greens. If you’re locking down bigger areas then you have a choice but timing here is key and depends very much on your own circumstance.

Typically we get our growth flush towards the end of April / early May, now of course that does change year on year. You could keep your powder dry and choose your moment or if you’re looking at a complete site lock down, then I’d use the next 10 days to do just that to the grass if it were practically and of course financially feasible.

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All that remains is to say stay safe, healthy, sane and responsible in these tricky times.

All the best.

Mark Hunt