Hi All,

Well the higher temperatures have arrived at last and though it blew a houlie yesterday, it was warm. Most areas also had rain last week, so we have ideal growing conditions for the first time in a long time. Fishing at the weekend, it was great to see my first Swallows, Sand and House Martins feeding up on the hatching midges after their long trip up from Africa. Their happy chatter as they go about their business is one of the signatures of springs arrival to me and always makes me smile inside :). Strangely they’re bang on time, exactly the same weekend as last year, how do they know when to arrive though, just as the weather changes, I’m guessing they’ve been sitting down south and when the wind changed, they hopped on and got a lift !

As you’d expect for this time of year, the weather will be unsettled and a little cooler towards the end of the week as a wind change takes place, but the weekend looks fine and dry for most, though cold in the morning, with a chance of ground frost. Don’t worry though, there’s no going back to what we had thankfully on the 10-day horizon at least 🙂 Starting the weekend off with a walk, the lack of growth in winter wheat and barley was plain to see, I heard on the radio, that you should be able to hide a hare in a crop of wheat in March, whereas currently you couldn’t hide a mouse. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly crop and grass growth responds in the coming week and whether there’s a degree of catch up because a present we’re 4 weeks behind.

General Weather Situation

Monday is starting off with a mostly dry, dull picture for the U.K, with lighter winds and temperatures in the mid-teens at the height of the day, but Ireland has a rain front pushing into south-west Munster during the day and moving diagonally (\) across the country. Overnight this pushes into the west of the U.K and carries on moving diagonally up country with the heaviest rain falling in the west and central regions of Scotland. Some of this rain may push over in the form of showers across the south of England and The Midlands, but amounts will be light. By late afternoon, early evening Tuesday, the sun is breaking through and it should be a nice end to Tuesday over most areas, bar north-west Scotland. Wednesday sees a repeat of the same with rain pushing into Munster and then heading diagonally into the west of England and pushing up country, so the south-east should stay dry for the most part. Again that rain pushes into Scotland, so a wet start to the week for you guys, particularly over the west and central regions. By Thursday, the wind is on the change, swinging round to the north-west later in the day and taking the edge off the temperatures. The wind change will push that rain back down country, but as it progresses south, it lightens in intensity, so a chance of showers pretty much anywhere, amongst the sunshine. Friday sees a dry picture across the U.K and Ireland and a cooler one in the north wind, but as we finish the week, the wind lightens, high pressure asserts itself and temperatures are predicted to pick up for Saturday / Sunday after a cool start on both days. The exception will be Ireland and Scotland that will feel cooler and be possibly wetter, as a cool, low pressure system exerts its influence for Sunday and the start of next week.

 Weather Outlook

As hinted above, Monday starts off cool, but as the winds freshens and swing round to the west, temperatures rise in the central and south regions of the UK, though it’ll be cooler in the north as it is closer to the heart of the low pressure system. This low will push rain across the U.K and Ireland, with the higher amounts again falling in the west and north of the country. So an unsettled week in store next week, with sunshine and showers, cooler and wetter in the north and I’m afraid, most likely drier in the east, as again you miss out on the majority of rain I’m afraid.

Agronomic Notes

With the advent of double-figure night temperatures for most at the end of last week (and rainfall), growth will really start to kick off. Soil temperatures that were sitting down at 1-2°C, have now risen to 10-12°C, in the space of 3-4 days, with the catalyst being milder rain. The interesting point will be how long it takes Poa annua to go into seedhead mode because normally in Ireland, it’s just starting to seed, whereas in the U.K, certainly the south and Midlands, it’s not for another 2 weeks that we see widespread seeding in perennial Poa species. Obviously not all Poa annua seeds at the same time, the annual species tends to seed first, so areas that may have thinned out over the winter, and then been colonised by annual Poa, will typically see the first seedheads emerging.

It may seem strange to some people reading this, particularly those in the south that received 25mm + over the course of three days last week, but in the east, it remains dry and this may be a limiting factor from a growth perspective, so irrigation may be required. Typically this is just a light syringe to wet the top section of the profile (use a soil augur to determine where the moisture is distributed in the profile) and although it will drop the soil temperature for an hour or two, the milder temperatures for the first part of this week and lack of night-time frosts, will soon have it back up again.

Purpling of Poa, so evident over the last 10-14 days will begin to grow out naturally, now that the hand brake has been let off, but it won’t be instantaneous, as the grass plant was pretty dormant on the run up to these milder conditions.

With milder, drier conditions and reasonable air temperatures for most, the conditions are favourable for light-rate, liquid tonics to maintain colour in the sward, though in the cooler, wetter regions, I’d be staying with granular products for the foreseeable. As growth kicks in, light verticutting, grooming, brushing and topdressing will be the order of the day. These processes are critical at this time of year (Augusta 🙂 ) to ‘shape’ the grass sward and ensure that Poa and Bentgrass blend in, rather than one species dominating and thereby producing a bumpy, uneven sward. Of course, the key here is to come into this period with a sensible cutting height because you have to remember, the higher the height of cut, the more pronounced the differences between the grass species on your green and ultimately, the more uneven the ball roll.

Now is a good time to deal with the areas on the golf course or winter season pitch that have suffered from a winter of wear and precious little recovery up until this last week. Here long-term, slow release / controlled release fertilisers are ideal as you can simply make one application and then let nature do the rest.

Lastly, I’ve had a number of reports of Badger, Fox, Corvid activity over the last 2-3 weeks as they hunt for Bibionid, Leatherjacket and Chafer Grubs. This has definitely been more pronounced / damaging this year because nature is starving after such a long winter and food hard to find. This is forcing animals to hunt for longer periods and in different places. Hopefully with the arrival of milder conditions, and more widely-available food, this will reduce the effects of their activities.

That’s all for now, have a good week.

Mark Hunt