Author Archives: mark.hunt

21st May

Hi All,

Time flies doesn’t it ?

We are already motoring through May in what is turning out to be generally a good greenkeeper / groundsman month all in all with some warm, dry weather and the odd frost thrown in for good measure.

This is nothing unusual because I always regard May as a bit of a yo-yo month weather-wise and one where night temperatures don’t really settle down till towards the end of the month.

Leaving early on Friday morning to catch the Eurostar (my first time), there was a good frost on the ground and temperatures were barely above freezing. What a nice way to travel that is by the way, very relaxing. Even a short delay on the way home due to a points problem wasn’t an issue as the Eurostar train conveniently came to a stop next to Hackney Marshes so I sat watching Reed Warblers, a Marsh Harrier, Buzzards and the like whilst time ticked by 🙂

Last week marked the 75th anniversary of The Dambuster raid and I was privileged to watch our only surviving Lancaster perform 4 passes over Eyebrook reservoir, one of the dams that the crews practiced on in the run up to the raid. Flying at 60ft at night, time and time again till they got it right.  The sound of those Merlin engines whether they be in a Lanc, Spitfire, Hurricane or Mustang give me goosebumps.

Talking of water, (tenuous link alert) May is also turning up to be a dry one for some with 17mm recorded here all month and 9 days now without a drop. I think that might be due to change in the next week or so, so rain isn’t far away for some.

Ok, so let’s look at what the weather has in store this week now I have my first coffee of the day in front of me and Vaughan William’s ‘Lark Ascending’ in the background.

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts the week with a thick band of rain already over Ireland and Scotland but unusually this one isn’t moving eastwards in fact it’ll clear from the east over both Scotland and Ireland with maybe East Leinster and Wexford missing the worst. South of this band of rain sees a lovely start to the week with sunshine already breaking through some hazy cloud cover after a cool night. So a mostly dry day for the U.K except for that band of stubborn-to-move rain over north west Scotland and the west of Ireland. It may not stay totally dry though because there’s a risk of showers with thunder and lightning forming over The Midlands and south of England later in the afternoon. Saying that as I proof read this blog I can see showers already appearing into Kent on the radar. Nice temperatures away from that rain over Ireland and Scotland which will see low teens, compared to low twenties for the central England and Wales. Winds will be light to moderate and from the north-east.

Onto Tuesday and with the arrival of moisture on Monday they’ll be more in the way of cloud cover present and this could well be thick enough for more showers inland and across the south-east of England later in the day. Ireland should see the last of the rain dissipate during the early hours leading to a much better day of sunshine, cloud and warmer temperatures. Scotland will have a thick cloud base over The Highlands, certainly thick enough for some rain but further south towards the borders you may see some sun and better temperatures. Towards the end of Tuesday marks the greatest risk of rain affecting the south-east of England. Again with warm temperatures and moisture there’s a risk of those showers being thundery in nature and accompanied by lightning. So 13-15°C where you have cloud cover and maybe 23°C across the south of England before those showers bubble up. Winds will remain from the north-east but will increase in intensity as we go through Tuesday and will remain moderate to blustery through the rest of the week.

A similar day on Wednesday with long, clear spells of unbroken sunshine but still with the risk of thundery showers across The South East and joined this time by a risk of showers across Connacht and Mayo later in the day. With a strong north-east wind the risk of cloud cover sitting along the eastern coastline of the U.K is significant and it is this cloud cover that could thicken to give showers later in the day. Much better temperatures across The Irish Sea with high teens and maybe a sneaky twenty thrown in there whilst England and Wales will sit between 20-22°C, Scotland 3-4°C cooler but still nice mind. Again a risk of rain / thundery showers across The South East.

Thursday again sees the risk of rain pushing into the south-east of England overnight bringing thicker cloud and cooler temperatures. This rain could potentially push up north and west into central regions, The Midlands and the north of England through the course of Thursday but it is tricky to say at this point. No such worries for Ireland and Scotland where the cloud cover will burn off to give a lovely day and temperatures into the low twenties, so Smithy, you owe me one 🙂 Through the afternoon we see that rain over central and southern areas continue to push north and west perhaps reaching the north-west of England. Ireland also may see some showers kick off down across south-west Munster later in the afternoon. Scotland looks to stay dry all day with plenty of sunshine and then cloud building later in the day.

Closing out not a bad week on Friday we see some potentially heavy rain in a tight precise band across The Midlands, Mid and North Wales and northern England. This band of rain (lighter now) may drift across The Irish Sea into Leinster and across to the west. So a good deal more cloud around for Central England with the risk of rain but here’s a big caveat.

This rain is from the continent and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve mentioned how unreliable it can be in terms of amounts and orientation.  North of this band of cloud and potential rain we see plenty of sunshine for the north of England, Scotland and Ireland from The Midlands north. Through the afternoon we will see more in the way of showers crop up for the south of Ireland, The Midlands and the north of England and these will slowly push westwards into the evening. The west and Scotland sees the better temperatures this time with low twenties for Ireland, Wales and Scotland but high teens for England with that cloud cover and threat of rain. Winds will remain strong to moderate north-easterly.

Ok so what’s the outlook for the May Bank Holiday (U.K only as Ireland’s is I think the week after).

Well I think we will follow a pretty similar pattern to the week really with the most significant threat of rain over the south / south east of England and extending up into The Midlands later on Sunday and through Monday as low pressure begins to edge that high away into Scandinavia. Saturday at this stage looks to be a good bit cooler than of late with more cloud cover for the south east, but temperatures will soon recover on Sunday. All of this rain risk originates from the continent pushing up from France so it’ll be pretty hit and miss I think. The forecasters tend to agree that the risk of rain and cloud cover seems to increase as we go through the Bank Holiday weekend for England. Further west and north of this is I think looking pretty damned good with long spells of sunshine and very warm temperatures. Plenty of cloud cover for eastern areas may make Wells and the Norfolk coast feel a bit nippier in that ever-present north easterly wind that we seem to have had for ages now.  Come Bank Holiday Monday I think we will see that threat of rain extend westwards towards Wales and The South West possibly.

Weather Outlook

So next week I think we will see the weather gradually deteriorate from the south as low pressure edges up bringing unsettled conditions into the north and west from mid-week onwards. These low pressure systems appear weak and slow-moving so they’re not associated with strong winds. I think on the whole we will see some rain, reasonable temperatures, high teens, maybe touching twenty degrees and more in the way of cloud cover through the week. If I was a betting man, I’d have Tuesday and Wednesday down as potentially the most unsettled days.

Agronomic Notes

New Insecticide for amenity usage ?

I hear some rumours that our industry is close to getting a new insecticide for Leatherjackets and Chafers on an emergency-use basis. It won’t be cheap for sure and it will probably not be labelled for use on all amenity turf areas but at least we may have an option in the worst case scenarios. This spring I’ve seen a good number of areas affected by Leatherjackets in particular with poorly-responding greens, tees and fairways a sure sign of their presence even though cultural work, climatic conditions and nutrition is in place to produce consistent grass growth.

A quick look back on how our year is tracking…

It never pays to forget where you came from and for me it doesn’t seem that long ago that the landscape looked bleak, wet and cold with precious little growth.

A while ago, I had some GDD data sent from a Northampton location comparing the previous years growth and rainfall data with the thought that 2018 most resembled 2016 in terms of these two parameters.

I decided to update this comparison as of yesterdays date to see how the comparison was shaping up and I think it is interesting…..

Growth Comparison – 2018 vs. 2017, 2016, 2013 – Location – Northampton

Looking at the data above we are still tracking 7 days behind last year from a cumulative Growth Potential perspective but when you consider that we were 28 days behind only a month ago, it gives you an indication of just how much growth we have had in the meantime.

May 2018 is actually tracking some 12% ahead of last year from a growth perspective so we are still in catch up mode and when you look at the forecast for the week ahead from a growth perspective, (below) it is likely that trend will continue…

That is of course if you have moisture available because it is likely in some areas that moisture will now be a limiting factor on grass growth on unirrigated areas of fairway, semi-rough and outfield. Last week’s Meteoturf predicted an E.T loss of roughly 25mm of moisture from the turf surface and this week’s prognosis is similar so that’s a lot of moisture to lose and not replace. That said plenty of areas are still showing the signs of the excessive rainfall of March so we won’t dwell on this too much at present. (Be careful what you wish for and all that….)

Rainfall Comparison – 2018 vs. 2017, 2016, 2013 – Location – Northampton

Have to say Rob’s contention back in April that 2018 most resembled 2016 is looking pretty accurate (I’ll give you that one Rob :)) when you look at the rainfall stats.

In fact on the graph above the years seem to separate into 2 very distinct data sets, 2018 and 2016 together and also 2013 and 2017 together.

2013, was of course the long, cold and dry winter / spring but to me it is interesting how closely they resemble each other. Both sets are within 10mm of rainfall of each other on 20th May, uncanny.

I wonder how long the 2018 and 2016 comparison will hold for because looking back to 2016 we had a warm and wet June and then a hot and dry July followed by a pretty good August as well. I wonder if 2018 will follow suit ?

Short and sweet this week.

All the best.

Mark Hunt


May 14th

Hi All,

At this time of year I think you see nature at its most vivid green with the air full of the scent of blossom (not great news for everyone I appreciate).

I had a friend over from Breckenridge, Colorado last week, he’s English, but settled over there and loves the mountain life and scenery in the U.S. He said to me that the first thing he noticed when he got out of the airport was the perfume-like smell in the air and the colour green. The depth of green is just so fresh and vibrant, it’s a pleasure to walk along the hedgerows and lanes lined with Keck (Cow Parsley to you), Pink and Red Campion’s and White Dead Nettles. I pick the flowers off the latter, squeeze their narrow tubes and suck the nectar out, it’s a lovely natural sugar rush whilst I’m plodding along 🙂

We got 8mm of un-forecasted rain on Saturday, came out of nowhere, all the models had Friday’s Irish rain dissipating as it came over The Irish Sea through the early hours of Saturday morning. About 4 p.m. my Netatmo weather station pinged me a notification whilst I was fishing to say more than 0.3mm of rain had fell over the last hour, a rogue shower I thought, not a bit of it, it rained all evening.

Just goes to show with everything available forecasters still can get it wrong and rainfall / snowfall are the most ikely culprits when they do.

Ok onto more mundane thoughts and that’s this weeks weather…

Now the good news is that last week we were due to have a low pressure system drop down later this week but that isn’t appearing now, so we are going to stay dry on the whole but we have a significant drop in temperature mid-week that will have you reaching for your extra layers for a day or two.

General Weather Situation

So Monday is pretty straight-forward, dry for everyone but initially we will see plenty of cloud cover over Ireland, western and eastern coasts. This will burn off during the morning to leave long spells of unbroken sunshine and pleasantly warm temperatures. Temperatures will be slightly cooler along the coasts, mid-teens being the order of the day here but it’ll rise to high teens and even touch twenty degrees in the south of England today. Winds will remain northerly orientated swinging round from north-west to north-east.

Tuesday sees a rain front push showers into Connacht during the morning and these along with thicker cloud will cross Ireland through the first part of the day. Elsewhere a dry start again with the sun soon breaking through to pick temperatures up. That rain across Ireland will move into the west / south-west of Scotland after lunch and push across country during the rest of the day. Further south we may see some showers spark off across northern and central regions later in the day but these will be hit and miss and almost un-forecastable. Cool under that thicker cloud and rain for Ireland and Scotland in the low teens but away from the effects of that rain front, expect high teens / low twenties and light north-easterly winds.

Wednesday sees the boot on the other foot with the north-east wind pushing cloud and Haar off The North Sea into The Midlands and southern England, whereas Scotland and Ireland will miss the effects of this and have much sunnier weather. That thick cloud cover and absence of sun will introduce a chill into the proceedings for central and northern England and parts of Wales keeping temperatures down in the low teens. Maybe West Wales will just miss the effects of this and see some sunshine over the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline. Mid-high teens for Ireland and Scotland in the sunshine and low teens for everyone stuck under the effects of the Haar. Late in the evening you may just see some sunshine here as the cloud cover breaks but that’ll drop temperatures even more to give a chilly night.

We keep that north-easterly / easterly wind through Thursday and that means eastern regions will remain on the chilly side but we will see more in the way of sunshine for central and southern regions on Thursday, though it’ll be hazy in nature. So western areas will benefit the most from being furthest from that easterly wind, borne on a colder than usual North Sea. The lower than normal sea temperature will be a feature of this year I think because whenever the wind swings north-easterly or easterly we will see a pronounced drop in temperatures. Currently the sea temperature off Norfolk is 9.5°C, which I think is a couple of degrees lower than normal. So Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the west of England will continue to benefit from the warmer temperatures with mid to high teens likely. Another chilly night for central areas.

Closing out the week on Friday we see a similar picture though with lighter easterly winds they’ll be less cloud cover and that’ll allow temperatures to rise a little over mid-week. Dry again for most of us with only a weak rain front likely to bring showers to Donegal and the north-west of Scotland through the afternoon. Similar temperatures to Thursday, mid to high teens depending on cloud cover.

With high pressure sat over us this coming weekend I think it’ll be another cracker with long spells of unbroken sunshine for Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. Later on Sunday, a weak rain front from a nearby low pressure system may just try and push into north-west Connacht / Donegal but other than that, nothing to fret about. With less cloud cover and light winds I expect most places will see high teens to low twenties through the course of Saturday and maybe a little cooler for the west / north-west of Ireland on Sunday with that cloud cover.

Weather Outlook

I expect high pressure to stay in charge through the early part of next week so a continuation of the dry and settled conditions for most of us. I say most of us because that low pressure system that tried its best to push rain into north-west Ireland on Sunday will gradually nudge the high pressure away eastwards and that’ll mean an increasingly unsettled picture for western / north-western areas from Wednesday with rain possibly affecting southern and central areas towards the end of next week.

Agronomic Notes

Uptake windows and growth…

That rain on Saturday night coupled with warm day and night-time temperatures really moved growth on again and as we can see from the Meteoturf graphic above, that growth spike will continue unabated through today and tomorrow but come Wednesday we see a pronounced drop-off in Growth Potential with declining temperatures. I’ve documented the Meteoturf output below so you can see the type of information it is providing and hopefully assisting you when making management decisions.

So for me I’d apply anything isn’t critical to plant uptake (wetting agent for example) during the ‘downside’ of the Growth Potential chart and then products that require uptake (Nutrition, PGR’s, biostimulants, fungicides, selective herbicides and the like) on the upward part of the chart at the end of the week.

There’s been no research into this but I think products like PGR’s are very sensitive to temperature in terms of getting good uptake and therefore regulation.

The above uptake scenario is particularly relevant if you are maintaining turf with a high % of Poa annua present because currently the grass plant is in seedhead mode and the majority of carbohydrate reserves are being diverted away from the leaves, up the plant towards the seedhead.

It is therefore difficult to get the plant to respond to nutrition, PGR’s, iron products, etc. during this period. It is more of an issue when you are dealing with the annual biotype of Poa annua than the perennial one because the former produces a lot more seed heads and as it does so its basal leaves thicken and pale off making it very obvious to the eye within a darker stand of turf (ryegrass for example)

Geographical Comparisons – Growth and Rainfall – Scotland

Last week I asked for anyone who could share GDD / G.P / Rainfall data in Scotland, Wales and the north-west of England and I am indebted to Darren up at Machrihanish for answering the call. Really grateful as it allowed me to carry out a west vs. east comparison for Scotland with respect to growth stats and rainfall. Now many moons ago I use to work all of Scotland from Port Logan up to north of the Black Isle and so I am well-versed in the differences between locations in Scotland, so I thought I’d compare west vs. east using some of Darren’s data and a location on the coast in Fife.

I looked at Growth Potential and Rainfall as my comparison stats and I was amazed once I’d charted it out to see the similarities in terms of Growth Potential from two opposite sides of Scotland. They both got off to a slow start, with the west nudging head but from the middle of April, the east showed a faster growth curve to the point at the end of April when they share almost identical readings.

Now I know if I chose somewhere up on the north-east coast it would be a very different story but it is interesting nonetheless to see how closely the two Growth Potential curves follow each other.

The same cannot be said for rainfall though and again this comparison closely correlates with our west-east model in terms of rainfall totals, with westerly locations tending to come off worse.

Next week I should have a little more time so I’ll do Ireland and England, west-east and see how the cookie crumbles.

Enjoy the sun, wrap up well mid-week and don’t forget to use plenty of sun block come the weekend 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt

May 9th

Hi All,

Two days late this week with my blog due to the Bank Holiday here and work commitments.

Speaking of which wasn’t it a cracking Bank Holiday with some truly beautiful weather and very high temperatures capped I think with an early May Bank Holiday record measured at RAF Northolt at 28.7°C.

Got in some lovely walks including this one around Rutland with Eyebrook reservoir in the distance, scene of a lot of my fly fishing and one of the most-used reservoirs by the Lancaster’s of 617 Dambuster Squadron for practice in WWII. Along with the good weather came two new residents to my newly revamped garden. Last year I moved house and inherited a ‘modern style’ garden complete with decking, patios and mostly hard surface areas. A lot of work, 11 mt of vegetable topsoil later and a second mortgage spent with RHS Wisley and my local plant nursery, The Plant Man and it’s now naturalising well as a shade garden. Lot’s of log features, ferns and the like have encouraged a number of bird species to frequent (A Blackcap this week was a new visitor) and last week after making a number of 13cm x 13cm holes in gates, fences (my neighbours love me) and the like (earlier in the year), I was joined by 2 Hedgehogs that I feed nightly, cracking.

Ok enough of me, onto the weather and as you all probably know, our high pressure scenario is due to come to an end today / tomorrow with the arrival of a cool, Atlantic low.

The GIF below from Unisys Weather captures the scenario well.

Image courtesy of Unisys Weather

General Weather Situation

So today we see the beginning of the change to a more unsettled and cooler outlook with the influence of the above low pressure being felt first across Ireland and the west of the U.K during Wednesday. This process starts with a bad of rain due to push into the west of Ireland around now (7 a.m.) and move quickly eastwards across the country through the morning reaching the east of Ireland / west coastline of the U.K by early / mid-afternoon. Away from this impending rain front we have a lovely dry and settled start to the day after a cool night and very heavy dew. Cloud cover with build across The South West and Wales through the morning in advance of this rain front and this cloud will extend eastwards through the afternoon by which time we will see rain into the west of Scotland, Wales and the north-west of England. By late afternoon the west of Ireland will begin to clear that rain and the sun will break through but further east that rain front will be across western coasts and the middle of the country reaching eastern areas overnight into Thursday. Feeling a good bit cooler than of late with Ireland in the low teens and central and southern areas in the mid to high teens I think. Scotland with a bank of thicker cloud will be similar to Ireland down in the low teens after some lovely weather of late. Winds will be light to moderate westerly / north-westerly.

Onto Thursday (I must say I like 3-day blog weeks :)) and that rain is projected to clear the rest of the U.K overnight leaving behind a vestige of showers across north-west Scotland. They’ll continue to be some light rain showers across the western coastline of Scotland through the morning but these will eventually dissipate. Elsewhere after overnight rain we will see a bright start to the day in central and eastern regions and not a bad day with plenty of sunshine for the U.K and Ireland, mixed cloud cover and temperatures pushing up into the low to mid-teens in that sunshine. Winds will be moderate north westerlies, weakening as the day goes on to leave most areas with a calm, dry and sunny end to the day.

Closing out the shortened week on Friday we see the next chapter of that low pressure play out with a heavy band of rain moving into the west of Ireland in the early hours of Friday morning bringing heavy rain to Kerry I think. This front will be slow-moving and so the rainfall totals associated with it will be a good bit higher than the one on Wednesday.  East of that impending rain, the U.K will enjoy a dull, cloudy and dry start to Friday as cloud cover pushed in front of that low pressure tends to dominate the weather picture. That band of rain will stay over Ireland throughout Friday slowly moving eastwards and not clearing the west of Ireland till last afternoon / early evening by which time it’ll be approaching The South West.

So you can probably guess that Saturday’s outlook for the U.K is unsettled with that band of rain crossing The Irish Sea late on Friday night to give heavy bursts of rain overnight for Wales before clearing east into The Midlands and north of England through Saturday morning. At this stage it looks like the south-east of England will miss the worst of it but I think we will see heavier rain for North Wales, north-west England and the west of Scotland through the first part of Saturday. That rain looks to concentrate across Central Scotland through Saturday to give some pretty hefty daily rainfall totals I’m afraid. By Saturday afternoon we will see a band of showers crossing Ireland and a clearing picture across the southern half of the U.K with some showers later for The South West and Wales. Cooler in that rain with temperatures in the low double figures across Ireland, Wales and Scotland, perhaps a degree or two higher for Central England. Winds will be westerly veering south-westerly and then northerly for Sunday which will drop temperatures a degree or two. Sunday looks the better day of the weekend, still with the threat of rain across the south-east of Munster during the morning but elsewhere plenty of sunshine and some hazy cloud cover. That change in wind direction will usher in some thicker cloud for north-east / eastern coasts on Sunday with some of that cloud thick enough to give rain along its leading edge. So sunnier and brighter the further west you go on Sunday with similar temperatures to Saturday.

Weather Outlook

Actually next week doesn’t look too bad I’d say with low pressure influencing our weather early in the week bringing a sunshine and showers-type scenario to the U.K and Ireland with more threat of rain I think across Ireland, the north-west of England and Scotland on Tuesday / Wednesday a.m. With a westerly airflow in situ we will pick up some milder air and a return to more normal temperatures for this time of year, mid to high teens I think will be the order of the day. Towards the end of the week there’s a suggestion of a new low pressure coming in which will bring more rain to Ireland and the southern half of the U.K but that’s a good way away at present so let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

Agronomic Notes

As this is my first blog of May, we have the opportunity to look back on April and the year to date.

April 2018 GDD – Thame Location

The GDD total for April came in at 99.5 which represents not a bad growing month however as more detailed analysis below will show it was a topsy-turvy one from this perspective.

In isolation April provided nearly double the amount of growth we had in January, February and March combined and 5 times the growth of March alone, illustrating just what a crappy month March 2018 was.

Cumulatively for the year, 2018 is unsurprisingly classified as an under-performer, GDD-wise, with a running total till the end of April of 156.5. It does indeed share a good deal of similarities with the other SSW-affected years of 2010 (159.5), 2013 (119) and 2016 (137.5) in having a low spring total.

In comparison with last year, 2018 y.t.d has recorded nearly 50% less GDD for the first four months.

GDD Comparison – April 2018 – U.K Locations

Firstly, a quick word of thanks for the growing number of people sending me in data on a monthly basis, many thanks, still short though for Wales, the north-west, north-east and Scotland though.

So analysis of the U.K locations shows a very variable GDD picture with our east of Scotland location running at nearly half the GDD of our Devon location !

Fortunately for Fife the same can be said for the rainfall total which goes some way to compensate I think…:)

In general The Midlands comes out favourably with higher GDD totals than most locations further south which must be a first I reckon. Rainfall-wise a good deal of similarity with 75mm looking to be about average for the month.

You can download this chart here ;

GDD Comparison – April 2018 – Irish Locations

A much cooler April for Ireland compared to the U.K sites and I’d say the western side of Ireland looks milder to me than the east or south.

That said there was a really significant flip side to this coin when it came to rainfall and so I’m sure the lads in Kerry, Mayo, Sligo, Clare and the like will be tutting and rolling their eyes to the sky at my stats above showing rainfall and E.T loss for the Thame location and wishing it was them. I had to create a different graph for the Ireland locations simply to fit on the rainfall totals for Valentia, Cork and Limerick, with the latter exceeding 10 inches of rainfall during April.

Of that total, nearly half of it came on the days of the 6th and 16th of April, with > 40mm of rainfall in a day measured at a number of locations across Ireland on the same dates. So it’s no wonder it was milder as well because the low pressure associated with that rainfall will have pulled in milder air, little compensation I know so I’ll shut up about it now.

You can download the above chart here ;

April 2018 in more detail…

Ok I cheated a bit here because I’ve added on the first 8 days in May as well to illustrate the growth peaks and troughs we have experienced over the last 5 weeks…

Again emphasising the worth of tracking growth patterns using GDD / G.P we can see the two significant peaks in growth that we have experienced during April and the early part of May.

Now in other years we would be bemoaning the growth peaks for too much grass, clipping yield, etc but after the memories of March 2018, I didn’t hear one peep of protest 🙂

Those 5 days of growth during mid-April transformed many a lagging-behind turf surface, be that a golf green, winter tee, cricket outfield, square and football pitch alike and brought a smile to many a strained face as an aside (including my own it has to be said 🙂 )

Following that though we dropped off a cliff with those cold, dull days of late April representing minimal growth and reflecting poor uptake conditions as well. Plenty of sites marched right up to Poa seedhead development at this point and although seedheads weren’t visible on the turf surface, the Poa plant had already flicked a switch away from leaf / root growth towards seedhead development. So associated with this spell of cold weather also came a Poa plant going off colour and with a reduced growth rate to boot that wasn’t keen on responding to nutrient, iron or PGR inputs.

Thankfully we turned a corner when we turned the page of the calendar over to May as the graph above illustrates with a welcome rise in temperatures and grass growth although in central and southern England, the temperature got high enough to put Poa annua under stress.

Looking at the first 8 days of May, here’s how the rainfall and E.T levels panned out at the same location…

So the combined E.T loss was 25.9mm with 7.6mm of rain to compensate but that still left this location -18.3mm, which is significant over such a short period.

Now a lot of you will be reading this and remarking how this chap can’t seriously be moaning about things drying out when the site has only just become workable and of course I’m not.

I’m just making the point that at some locations, the grass plant went under pretty severe stress over the last week or so and in the case of Poa annua this will have driven the seedhead process forward significantly.

I got asked recently what drives the seedhead process for Poa annua and if the factors differ between the Poa annua annual and perennial biotypes ?

Honestly that’s too good a question for me (another way of saying I’m not clever enough to answer it in I suppose 😛 ) but I would say this. Elevated stress periods,  particularly high temperature and the reciprocating lack of moisture will cause nitrogen uptake to drop in the Poa annua plant and this I believe is a major contributory factor to seedhead development and expression. Run your plants too low on N and expect to see a continued seedhead flush. Now I’m not saying lash on N, you should know by now that isn’t my bag, it’s a question of balance, (isn’t it always) keeping the plant healthy and not over / under-fed.

O.K that’s it for this week, hopefully we will be back to Monday as the blog day next week and in the meantime I wish you all the best for the rest of this week.

Mark Hunt




April 30th

Hi All,

A short blog this week because I have to be down south at lunchtime for a meeting so I’ve got up extra early to get this done. The main talk of today  is the low pressure system over Holland bringing a ‘months worth of rain in a day’ to some parts of the east and south-east of England.

You can see it’s orientation on this graphic from Meteoblue shown below ;

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

Currently its tracking as shown below and has already given 15-18mm by 7 a.m. this morning to some parts of East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Sussex, with the rainfall rate falling at 3-6mm per hour. It’s really slow-moving because of the trough pattern in the jet stream so that means it’ll rack up some hefty rainfall totals through the day (hence the ‘month of rain in a day’ quotation floating around the media)

Image courtesy of Netweather Extra

Another less disruptive but by no means any more welcome feature of this low pressure is the temperature. With sleet and snow forming higher up in atmosphere within this system, the rain and air temperature will be unusually cool so currently I’m sitting here at 4.5°C and I wouldn’t expect it to get much above 6°C all day. Factor in the strength of the wind and it’ll feel more like 1-2°C with the windchill. All in all not a nice day for people on the receiving end.

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

Interestingly if you flatten the world out, you can see our European trough event is one of 3 currently going on in the path of the sub-polar jet stream with the eastern seaboard of the U.S also on the receiving end and Alaska (where I’ll be shipping out to again this year for my dose of true wilderness) also getting a cold, wet start to their spring.

General Weather Situation

Now last week I was forecasting that this low temperature trough was here to stay this week but the weather gods have smiled on us (for once) and better weather is around the corner.

Owing to the time constraints I’m under today, this week’s weather will be in abridged, summary form ;

At this point I’m tempted to write “Starting off crap but getting much better by the end of the week”, oh dear, I just did 🙂

So this week we have that high rainfall event for the east and south-east of England kicking off a cold, dull and pretty windy Monday for everyone. As mentioned earlier, that low pressure is slow-moving so I don’t expect it to exit East Anglia till later tonight making it a very soggy day on the beach at Holkham I’d say, definitely not a bucket and spade jobbie. North and west of this rainfall, Monday looks dry, windy, cold and dull with better temperatures into the low double figures for Scotland, Ireland, Wales. Winds will be northerly for the south of England and north-westerly further west and north.

As that rain departs eastwards overnight, a new frontal system is into the west of Ireland in time for the morning dash in Kerry and Connacht. This rain will move slowly eastwards across Ireland on Tuesday and make landfall across the west of Scotland and north-west England on Tuesday afternoon. It’ll then move across eastwards for the rest of the day affecting Wales and The South West from early evening onwards clearing Ireland as it does so. Temperature-wise, a bit of a role reversal with England and Wales picking up low teen temperatures and Ireland and Scotland will be cooler under that rain and cloud cover at 10°C. Winds will be a welcome westerly 🙂

Wednesday sees that rain affecting most of the U.K, heavier across the southern half of the country mind. Ireland looks to have a mix of sunshine and showers, whereas Scotland starts dry and then sees rain, sleet and even snow (at elevation) move in later in the morning. By lunchtime that rain should have cleared southern England and Wales leaving showers and sunny conditions behind it. Ireland likewise, with showers still affecting western and northern areas. Similar temperatures to Tuesday, cool over Scotland, just scraping double figures, milder across the west and south, especially once that rain has moved through with low to mid-teens on the cards. Winds will vary from south to north-westerly.

Thursday looks a better day for most, certainly for England and Wales anyway. They’ll be showers from the off across the north-western coast of Scotland and these will move inland during the morning, pushing into central parts later in the afternoon. Ireland starts dry but cloud cover will thicken progressively through the morning with rain projected to arrive in Connacht during the early afternoon pushing showers across most of the country later in the day. England and Wales look to have a dry day, clouding over from the west for the 2nd half of the day but by and large nothing to complain about. With sunshine breaking through the cloud cover and a light westerly wind, temperatures will rise towards the upper teens down south, so good drying weather for you guys affected by Monday’s events. Scotland will see a wet end to the day with heavy rain for the north and west I’m afraid and cooler temperatures.

Friday sees the week finish with thicker cloud and rain for Ireland and Scotland, clearing from the south and east through the day. No such issues further south across England and Wales with another good drying day on the cards with the sun breaking through in the afternoon to give a sunny and warm end to the week, with temperatures in the mid to high teens again I reckon. Low teens for Scotland and Ireland and away from that rain it shouldn’t be too bad a day here. Winds will be light to moderate and welcome westerlies.

With this weekend being a U.K Bank Holiday I reckon things could be fine and dandy across Saturday and Sunday with high pressure building and plenty of warm sunshine and temperatures pushing up into the high teens and low twenties by Sunday. Maybe a bit of extra cloud cover on Monday with some showers for eastern areas of the U.K and maybe western areas of Ireland and Scotland but otherwise a cracking forecast to leave you with 🙂

Weather Outlook

Next week looks to continue the fine weekend with high pressure sitting across the east of the U.K. So fine and settled I think, still with the chance of showers across the south-east and south-west / west during the first part of the week but a south-easterly airstream should vector up some warm air from the continent. From mid-week, an Atlantic low pressure system will make its presence felt across Ireland and the west of the U.K with thicker cloud and showers from mid-week onwards. Just how far east that low pressure moves later on next week, time will tell, but I’d reckon on unsettled for Ireland and the west and staying largely dry with warm weather for central and eastern regions. Scotland should see some welcome warm and dry weather as well.

Agronomic Notes

Ok as explained earlier, a bit of a short blog this week so here goes…

GDD – Year to date

I know we will be doing a more in detail look at April on next Tuesday’s blog, but these stats are taken from my Netatmo weather station here in Market Harborough and offer a good view on what we’ve been through…

So you can see the fit’s and starts of growth (inclined areas of graph) through March and then the really steep during April incline representing that very warm period mid-month. As predicted a few blogs ago when I chatted about Poa annua seeding, that mid-April warm spell has taken us right up to perennial Poa annua biotype seedhead initiation territory and then the cold spell since has slammed the anchors on good and proper.

You can see the growth profile better when you look at daily growth potential for April below ;

So you can see that growth really dropped off last week with no clipping yield at all projected from daily G.P. Now all that is set to change with the improving forecast this week…

As you can see growth is picking up through the week, slowly at first but by the weekend we will be motoring a tad…

Perennial Poa annua biotype – Seedhead Flush

So if you haven’t seen the start of the seedhead flush already, you will if your total GDD is up towards the 180 mark over the Bank Holiday weekend. So the end of this week would be a great time to drop in some cultural Poa seedhead work, you know grooming, brushing, Poa busters, maybe a nick down in cutting height and a light topdressing to keep an even surface, you know that type of thing…

Amazingly we can see great consistency in terms of when we hit 180GDD, Poa annua seedhead flush initiation AND had an SSW-event. I’d say it’s pretty much set that the first week of May is as near as damn it seedhead initiation when we get a cold spring due to a SSW event. Cracking data that if I do say so myself.

Growth Flush

It also means we will see a strong initiation of growth during the 2nd half of this week and over the weekend, so outfield areas, tee banks, bunker banks and the like may benefit from a PGR application (with some iron as Poa will be more prone to discolouration if it’s heading towards seeding) to nip that flush in the bud and make sure you don’t come back after the Bank Holiday to clippings round your ankles. The growth will I think be largely welcome in pushing that last bit of recovery from winter into the dim and distant past and repairing any damage from Leatherjackets, quite an issue this last month or so in some areas.

End of week = better spraying conditions and better uptake

Looking at spray days, it’ll vary with area of course but I’d be targeting Thursday onwards because the warmer air temperature will give you much better uptake than if you apply earlier in the week. (though that’s unlikely with Wednesday’s general rain and the strength of the wind as well)

The same applies for any liquid nutrition / foliars you are thinking of applying and of course selective herbicide.

Disease Activity

No blog would be fit and able if I didn’t mention disease I’m afraid.

There’s been a lot of it about of late because of the high rainfall, high humidity and almost deadpan day and night temperatures. That lack of growth over the last 5 days (shown above) has meant that grass has been unable to grow away from a pathogen and so we have seen localised flare ups of Microdochium in particular. With warming temperatures and humidity dropping towards the end of the week I would expect the balance to tip in favour of grass growth and away from pathogen growth with respect to Microdochium nivale.

We will see more in the way of Fairy Ring activity I think, particularly Superficial with a moist rootzone and plenty of temperature but I don’t rank this as a cause for concern in terms of maintaining surfaces.

Ok short and sweet this week, but ‘tempus fugit’, the M40 and M25 beckon… (groan)

All the best..

Mark Hunt




April 23rd

Hi All,

Well that certainly was the week that was….

Summer temperatures, huge growth flushes and venues going from closed due to water logging to hand watering dry areas within a week of each other. Plus someone managed to cock-up the publishing of this blog for which I apologise, thanks to Paul for sorting it out. Last week when I was out walking in Leicestershire and Rutland, some parts were up to your ankles in mud and the same areas yesterday were dusty, dry and cracked…that’s some transition (but a welcome one nonetheless:)).

Couldn’t believe how quickly things dried up and how much growth the countryside put on in just a week, wow, the power of nature, you could definitely hear things growing as someone commented !

Nevertheless, I did say last week (and the week before) that we weren’t out of the woods yet from a jet stream perspective and as you’ll see as we go through this blog, normality (for this spring) beckons….I’ll give you a taste below when you see Meteoturf’s GDD/ G.P projection for this week and last week, that’ll give a clue…

As you can see, quite a drop-off in temperature on the way, not to mention potentially some heavy rainfall…So we are going from a warm air peak to a cooler air trough over the space of the next week or so.

Firstly let’s put some detail on it..

Tuesday sees rain that crossed Ireland on Monday move into Scotland and the western coastline of the U.K overnight pushing across The South West, Wales and the southern half of the U.K during the early hours leading up to dawn. By the morning rush hour, the heaviest of the rain will be south-east and east of England orientated leaving behind thick cloud and some showers for the west. Ireland and Scotland look to start dry but by mid-morning they’ll be some rain into Connacht, east Leinster and the north-west of Scotland. South of this rain it looks like an improving picture as that southern rain moves off into The North Sea with breaks in the cloud and sunshine breaking through. For Ireland we will see some heavy showers push across country during the 2nd half of the day, though with plenty of sunshine in-between. Close to tea time we see more rain push into Wales, The South West of England and move eastwards on Tuesday evening to give a wet end to the day anywhere south of Newcastle. Scotland looks to have a half reasonable day with some rain lingering across the north-west but otherwise pretty dry. Temperature-wise, expect low teens for Ireland, Wales and England and a couple of degrees down on that for Scotland with a moderate to strong westerly wind.

Onto Wednesday and the rain that crossed England and Wales overnight will still be lingering across East Anglia by dawn. Thereafter we will have a typical April day, sunshine and showers with a cooler than of late, westerly wind pushing those showers along. By the afternoon those showers will be concentrated across Ireland and the western coastline of the U.K with sunnier intervals further east, but again expect them to move eastwards during the 2nd half of the day. Temperature-wise, similar to Tuesday with low teens for England, Wales and Ireland and just into double figures for Scotland.

Thursday follows a similar pattern after a dry start, although this time I think the showers that crop up during the late morning will be mainly focussed on the west coast of the U.K and Ireland, with longer spells of rain for Scotland. More in the way of sunshine I’d say on Thursday, except for western parts where you’ll see more of the showers and Scotland of course. As we approach Thursday evening I think we will see longer spells of sunshine across Ireland, England and Wales with rain lingering over Scotland. Similar temperatures for Thursday and again a strong to moderate westerly wind in situ for all of us.

Friday sees the arrival of cooler air and thicker cloud so a much duller day to finish off the week and a cooler one to boot, albeit with lighter winds. Initially I think that cloud will thin over the U.K and Ireland during the morning to leave long clear intervals with good sunshine, however as we move into the afternoon, we will see that cloud build again and rain move into The South West and across southern counties of England and Wales. A very similar picture for Ireland, early cloud thinning to give sunny intervals, only to be replaced by thicker cloud and rain showers for the 2nd half of the day, concentrated across the south and Midlands. Scotland sees rain from the off for the north-west and Highlands, with some of that rain, wintry at elevation. As we progress through the morning, that rain clears to longer spells of sunshine and a dry end to the day. Cooler on Friday with the cloud cover despite lighter southerly winds with temperatures just scraping into low double figures.

Onto the all important weekend and a change in wind direction to easterly, (yes remember them) with low pressure sitting just off Kent heralding a not-so-great weekend to come 🙁

Tricky to say where the rain will be concentrated on Saturday during the 2nd half of the day, but at this stage it looks like north-west coasts, The South West, Wales and southern half of England as well as across Ireland. Feeling much cooler with that easterly wind and cloud cover, another couple of degrees down on Friday I’d say unfortunately. Sunday sees that low pressure system spin another rotation across the south of England so more rain expected for the southern half of the U.K and Ireland I think though possibly feeling slightly milder as the wind swings southerly from easterly. Temperature-wise I’d say low double figures for the weekend, possibly pushing a bit higher on Sunday with that change in wind direction but a long way shy of where they were this weekend.

Weather Outlook

So are we returning from whence we came or should we keep that sun cream handy ?

Now things can and do change with this weather lark and believe me when I say it, I hope they may do else next week at this stage looks pretty crap to be honest. The low pressure that affected our weather over the weekend looks to stay close at hand for the early part of next week so a wet start I think, albeit we will have lost those easterly winds so mild in the rain 🙂

We look to continue that unsettled theme through all of next week, with another deep Atlantic, low pressure projected to take over mid-week, next week bringing south-west winds, mild temperatures and sunshine and showers (more of the latter than the former though) for all of us. A wet start to May beckons then….

Agronomic Notes

Growth Spike…

Well last week was pretty remarkable when you consider it growth-wise with as many GDD / G.P recorded in 7 days as we’d pretty much had in the entire year up to that point.

You can see from the Growth Potential Stats from the Northampton location, just how pronounced that growth spike was…

Five days on the bounce when the grass was growing at maximum rate, with more growth produced in those five days than we had for the entire months of February and March combined, quite amazing.

Now I know we have had these growth spikes before in prior years but of late they have been in the first and second weeks of May, rather than mid-April. It was though a very welcome period of not just warm but dry weather so we dried out as well. Hopefully most of you got some dry cuts into fast-growing grass to the point where you got on top of it and picked up nice definition to boot 🙂

Looking at our picture y.t.d, we are however still behind last year, some 20 days now though we have caught up some.

Here’s how the picture looks in terms of a comparison with prior SSW-event years, again using data from the Northampton location.

You can hopefully see from the graph above that we have now caught up with 2016, remain ahead of 2013, but lag behind 2017.

How we are improving our forecasting…

The last thing I’d like to say about this growth spike was that we saw it coming so you all knew about it a week before it appeared and hopefully were better prepared for the consequences.

It wouldn’t have been that long ago that not only wouldn’t we have been able to accurately forecast this but also to correlate its likely effect on grass growth and general agronomics.

I’d like to say cheers to Meteoblue for this one 🙂

In this way I think we are improving as an industry and if anyone asks me why recording GDD / G.P and rainfall is important, I’d point to the start to the year we have had in 2018 as a worked example. If they still can’t see its relevance, then it’s not for them fruity pie 🙁

Consequences of growth flush…

Now last week I talked about how the perennial biotype of Poa annua seeded on the 5th and 7th May in other SSW-event years as we hit a cumulative GDD total of 180 for the year. Well alot of locations will have hit (or will hit) a cumulative GDD of 180 this week, so I expect to start seeing more and more seedheads from perennial biotypes as we go through the week.

Now if you then take into account that we are due to hit the brakes in terms of growth rate (as opposed to growth)  later this week and return to a more normal April scenario, I think that means we will just see increasingly more and more seedheads as we close out April. Obviously we can’t do anything about them from a PGR perspective but if I was looking to put some cultural work in place, I would focus on this week because currently we have temperature and next week, being unsettled, means life may be trickier to get the work done. I’ll be taking some Poa plants apart later this week for a look-see and will duly report back.

The main seedhead flush will probably be reserved for the next growth spike after the cooler interlude we are heading to at the end of the week / next week.

Weeds a plenty…

Of course it’s not only grass that has hit the turbo button over the last week, you only have to look at the crops in the fields and see Winter Rape coming into flower, tram lines deepening as wheat and barley get a march on and hedgerows burst into blossom and leaf. Dandelions, Plantains and Daisies are all in full growth and therefore very receptive to the application of a selective herbicide. Given for some areas we have a spray window this week and a pretty low chance of the same next week, then ‘Tempus Fugit’ my friends 🙂

Disease but at least it grew out rapidly…

The early part of last week with its cloud cover and high humidity combined with milder night-time temperatures saw plenty of Microdochium activity around on greens surfaces. Fortunately the growth spike we saw soon afterwards has meant most of this has grown out as quickly as it appeared and with drier days and lowering humidity later in the week, conditions tipped away from activity. The combination of very warm soil temperatures and high E.T would normally have kicked in some new pathogens like Fairy Ring but as yet I’ve had no reports along this line.

It was also warm enough to germinate spores of Anthracnose last week but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will see the disease at a later date because we need prolonged periods of plant stress somewhere down the line for it to develop fully. Time will tell…

Lastly I’ve been getting lots of reports of grub activity last week, principally Leatherjackets. Noticeable I’m sure because affected areas weren’t responding growth-wise as temperatures rose. Nothing we can do here but tap our fingers and whistle Dixie and hope that our industry has an effective tool in the toolbox some time soon..

Ok that’s it for this week…

All the best….

Mark Hunt