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Hi All,

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Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

After my Augusta blog on Friday I’d like to claim personal credit for inspiring 3 English golfers to overcome their national Growth-Degree-Day burden and triumph in The Masters 🙂

In all seriousness, congratulations to Danny Willett for lifting the title and donning the green Jacket, brilliant. That course played hard but it looked to me like it hadn’t had a drop of water for quite awhile. According to their local weather station, the last recorded rain was on the 1st of April (70mm!) and during the tournament they had daily temperatures between 9-11.5°C at night and 19-23°C during the day. I think our only similarity going forward may be with the rainfall total as we enter a period of jet stream trough with a low pressure system firmly ensconced in it. We’ve already seen some serious rain over the weekend in the Cork area with widespread flooding reported there I’m afraid 🙂

Encouraging Nature

It always lifts my spirits to see nature at work right under our noses. This morning as I was topping up my bird feeders I watched one of my local Wood Mice pick up some Suet Sprinkles and nibble away at them from barely 2 feet away. They also like to use the Coconut Feeders as a combined feeding station / hammock as you can see in this image below 🙂

CharlieFarleyMouse

Such was the case last week when I was shown two Little Owls sitting huddled up outside an Owl Box put up a number of years ago on a golf course that I visit. The photo below is a photo of a photo and doesn’t do it justice but it was a great sight, particularly as it was 6°C with a 2.1°C windchill and I was freezing my nads off..

lOwls

General Weather Situation

It’s going to be a very changeable and unsettled week with a mild start and cooler end. Your forecasted rainfall will change almost hourly because of the hit and miss nature of the rain this week so don’t be surprised to have a dry day when there’s rain forecast the night before and vice-versa.

So we start Monday with a south east wind and so if you employ the old adage “Back to the wind, low is on the left”, that puts the centre of the low pressure sitting just off the coast of Kerry. Already we have a band of rain in place stretching from the Isle of Wight up through England, North Wales and across to Northern Ireland and Donegal. During the morning and early afternoon this rain slowly moves north east and intensifies so some localised heavy rain is possible in the south of England, across the west country, Mid / North Wales and across the Irish Sea into Leinster, Munster and the north of Ireland. By late afternoon it reaches The Midlands and then grinds to a halt so possibly some heavier rain going into the evening here. East and north of this rain, you’ll have a dry day with hazy sunshine and light to moderate easterly winds which will allow temperatures to nudge into the mid teens, which is nice.

Overnight into Tuesday that band of heavy rain moves away from The Midlands into Northern England and across the Irish Sea it’ll move into Connacht and later Donegal. By the Tuesday morning rush hour it’ll be tracking more along the east and north east coast of England and into Scotland and Donegal as well. A tricky day to forecast Tuesday because it looks like this rain could hang around in some areas all day but south, east and west of this band of rain you could see some nice sunshine. Through Tuesday morning there is an additional risk of rain across the south and south west of England. By the afternoon the rain is still sitting across England, lighter now in intensity but there nonetheless. Across Ireland it should clear all but northern counties through the morning to leave a nice day with spells of sunshine. For Scotland we have rain across The Borders but it looks to stop there and not move any further north. If you’re sitting under the rain expect temperatures of 10-11°C, but if you catch the sunshine (which Wales and Ireland should at the very least) you could see low teens in a prevailing south west wind.

For Wednesday we have a much drier picture for England and Wales thankfully, but Scotland will pick up that rainfall in a line from The Clyde northwards right from the start of the day. At elevation you can expect that rain to turn to sleet and possibly snow over The Cairngorms. Ireland should start dry and sunny with hazy sunshine but through the morning there’s a risk of showers breaking out over South Kerry and Munster. This risk of showers extends to Southern England and Wales as well and extends into The Midlands and north of England as we progress through the afternoon. In-between we should have spells of sunshine as well and in it, it should feel pleasantly mild with temperatures in the low teens again in places. With cloud cover in place over most areas this week I think we’ll be frost-free and that’ll help grass growth, more on that later.

Overnight into Thursday we see some consolidation of that rain over Northern England and a new band of rain pushing into the south west of England in the wee hours. By the morning rush hour it’ll stretch from the south coast up to The Midlands with another lighter band of rain still persisting over northern England as well. Scotland will see those wintry showers of Wednesday persist over The Highlands through Thursday morning. Ireland should miss most of this rain on Thursday morning. The further north you are, the cooler it’ll feel with that low dragging easterly winds out of Scandinavia so this could mean that moisture over Northern England, The Borders and Highlands becomes increasingly wintry in nature. Further south the orientation of the wind will be more south easterly / southerly and this will mean a much milder feel to the weather for Thursday in those areas. During the afternoon that rain pretty much stays in place across England and Scotland, but Wales and Ireland will miss the worst of it again. Later on cloud will eventually push westwards introducing showers to Wales and the east coast of Ireland during Thursday evening, some of these may be wintry at elevation. Another ‘hit and miss’ day depending on whether you sit under the rain at 9-10°C or in the sunshine at 13-14°C and / or share that with an easterly or southerly air stream.

Closing out a typical April showers (or downpours depending on your location and perspective) week on Friday we see a continuation of those showers right from the off over most of the U.K and Ireland. Over Northern England and Scotland with that colder air stream in place this moisture is likely to be wintry in nature especially at elevation. As we progress through the morning those showers will dissipate over Ireland and tend to localise over South Wales, Northern England and Scotland but that cooler air will extend south so a cooler day for everyone, except the far south on Friday and a mix of rain, hail and sleet in places as well. As we close out Friday we’ll see showers cropping up across Ireland, the south of England and The Midlands. Further north that mix of rain, sleet and snow will continue to affect Northern England and Scotland I’m afraid. Again a hit and miss day with some areas missing these wintry showers completely and catching sunshine and just into double figure temperatures. Under that rain, sleet it’ll feel a more chilly 7-8°C 🙁

So how are we looking for the weekend and beyond….?

Saturday looks to be a mix of sunshine and showers and where you are clear overnight there’s a significant risk of frost so gardeners beware. So for some a bright, cold start and for others you’ll see rain showers from the off, particularly across north eastern areas of England, Scotland and Ireland. Again these showers may be wintry in nature. It’ll remain on the chilly side for Saturday with high single, low double figures if you’re really lucky. Sunday is looking better across the west and it’ll feel a little milder as the wind swings round to a more southerly orientation. There’s likely though to be a continuation of rain across central and eastern areas of the U.K on Sunday morning but this should move off as we progress through Sunday to leave a sunnier and milder afternoon.

Weather Outlook

So after a real trough of a week, how are we looking for next week ?

Well I’m quietly confident that we might see the development of a blocking high pressure push up between the two low pressure systems either side of us and this could well form the beginning of a peak in the jet stream. (Note the caution) The timing is about right as the third week of April often marks the point when heat begins to build in the south and push up into the U.K and Ireland. It was the same in the long, drawn out, cold spring of 2013.  So a drier week is on the cards next week and I think we’ll see some warmer days but possibly keeping those cool nights. I don’t think we’ll be entirely dry though because with a low pressure close to us out in the Atlantic, there’s a risk of rain pushing into southern counties of England and Ireland on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grass Agronomics

GDD – Where are we ?

Well certainly nowhere near Augusta that’s for sure 🙂

Looking at the data from The Oxfordshire up until today and comparing it with the previous year we can see that we’re just nudging into a total of 100GDD for that site.

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You can also see that in terms of good spring growth we are still waiting really with growth starting as we progressed towards the end of March / beginning of April. We have only exceeded 6GDD in a day once y.t.d and that was on the 25th January !

Poa seedheads0416That figure of 100GDD is however significant because it’s the point where I would expect to see the first Poa annua var. annua seeding in a fine turf stand. Note the term ‘var. annua’ because this is referring to the annual biotype of Poa that we will see in outfield turf, around but also in fine turf swards. Sure enough I’ve had emails, texts and the odd image confirming the arrival of var. annua seedheads like this one on the right(Cheers Rob).

So the next thing we can expect is the arrival of its more prevalent relation – Poa annua var. reptans or Perennial Poa in any other language. This tends to produce more of the discernible seedhead flush on established Poa or Poa / Bent turf stands, whereas the annual is more prominent on new constructions and or where an area may have thinned out the previous summer and it has volunteered in.

Now normally I would expect to see the main seedhead flush from Perennial Poa commence anywhere between 130 – 150 total GDD calculated from January 1st and using a 6°C base temperature.

If we look above we are on a total GDD of 102.5 y.t.d at The Oxfordshire and looking at the projected 14 day temperatures I’d expect us to hit 130GDD total somewhere around the 22nd – 25th April. This will definitely be the case if we pick up a warm peak pattern in the jet stream through next week and the week after. Of course lots of things can change between now and then so we’ll see but this is my best SWAG answer (Copyright Dr James Beard denoting a Scientific Wild-Arsed Guess)

Greens Growth

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It’s that time of year when we start to see differential growth on fine turf and it can be down to many different factors. In the images above we can see bentgrass is growing well but Poa annua is sitting pretty dormant so in this case a light brush, cut, topdress and roll will restore the surface integrity.

Aerationeffect

We also see this scenario above (Note this wasn’t taken this year so don’t panic about the seedheads!!!) i.e tufts of green, healthy Poa amongst off-colour Poa and it is often the result of hollow coring or solid tining into a sward with high levels of surface organic matter. The Poa colonising the core holes has good levels of oxygen and so can go grow without hindrance, whereas the Poa sitting next to it has poor levels of oxygen available and so its growth is held back. Looking from above you get a measle-type effect across the sward canopy but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and ultimately the issue is the high level of surface fibre and it is this that needs to be tackled to produce a more consistent surface going forward. I’m sure someone will look at it and say I’d apply a PGR to prevent this differential growth, but in the above case I think you’d just be papering over the cracks 🙁

Outfield Turf

Presently this is growing at a moderate rate with soil and air temperatures preventing any flush of growth. It’s worth remembering that by this time last year we’d already had 5 days > 15°C air temperature in April and actually on this day last year we  touched 20°C ! This year is different though and some of you may bless this because it means outfield turf is growing at a steady rather than accelerated rate but we won’t be far away from the time when we get good air temperatures and our first spring flush on outfield turf. If I’m right and we enter into a peak pattern in the jet stream next week this could be as soon as then so if you are of a mind to apply a PGR on outfield, next week may turn out to be the time to do it accompanied by some iron of course.

This week

As discussed earlier it is going to be a week of sunshine and showers with heavy localised rain in some places. It’s either a case of nipping out with a foliar feed if the weather looks like it’s going to play ball (use your rain radar frequently this week) or if you need more growth (say for recovery from aeration) then a granular biased towards cold temperature N in its formulation will work well too. If you’ve moss on areas, now would be a good time to hit it hard and then encourage the grass to bounce back in the affected areas.

Ok that’s it for this week, have a good one and good luck dodging the showers / heavy rain.

Mark Hunt