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Hi All,

After the successive frosts ahedgepigst the end of last week, and a beautiful, bright, cold Sunday, we’re starting to feel the onset of winter in earnest. Nature is the same, my 2 baby hedgehogs are feeding up like mad, trying to build up their fat reserves before they hibernate (22nd November last year) and I can see big flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing on the move , blown in from Scandinavia to over-winter on our berry crop. It’s certainly going to feel alot more like winter over the next 10-14 days as a northern and at sometimes, easterly wind flow shape the weather. Towards the last week of this month, we may even briefly see the first snowfall of winter in some northern parts, but we’ll see…It will be a drier picture though on the whole this week, despite today’s grimness.

General Weather Situation

Nov11thpeak2013

Monday’s mild air peak – Image courtesy of Meteoblue

For Monday, a dull, wet, but milder start to the week for many as a warm pressure peak briefly passes over the U.K and Ireland, pushing up those temperatures into the teens in some places. It will unfortunately be short-lived as cooler air follows it. So we have rain for most today pushing across from Ireland, who should be clear of it by the afternoon. For the U.K that rain will gradually fizzle out, but in some places it’ll take all day to do so. For Scotland and the north, it should be a brighter end to the day. Temperatures will be mild, early to mid-teens for some and winds will be blustery from the south / south-west.

Tuesday, looks not a bad day for most, save for some persistent rain running along the south coast of England and the north west of Scotland. Certainly drier and brighter for most, after a mild night, but with a cooler north-westerly wind keeping temperatures just into double figures, normal though for this time of year.  During the afternoon, it should turn brighter for many and that rain should fizzle out to leave a nice end to the day.

Wednesday, sees a much cooler start to the day, with a risk of ground frost in the north.  It will however be largely dry and bright, on the cool side though with a light westerly wind strengthening as we go through the day and marking the arrival of another low pressure system. This is projected to push rain into west Munster and Connacht by sunset and this rain will then move eastwards over Ireland and into Wales, the west coast of England and Scotland later into the evening.

Overnight into Thursday, this rain pushes down across the U.K, but lightens as it does so, so for most it’ll be a duller day, with showers and a cool, brisk, north-westerly wind. The bulk of the rain will be confined to the north of England and Scotland, further south they’ll be the chance of rain, but amounts will be light.

For Friday, we still have that north-westerly wind in place, pushing lot’s of cloud, but not much rain over Ireland and the U.K, so a dull end to the week. The exception could be the west of Ireland and England / Wales, where that cloud cover may break to leave a sunny end to the week.

The weekend at this stage is looking dry, cool and dull for Saturday, perhaps with some breaks in the cloud on Saturday afternoon, but don’t hold your breath 🙂 . Later on into Saturday, a band of rain is due to push into north-west Ireland and overnight into Sunday move into Scotland, Wales and the north of England, but it will be lighterning as it does so. Sunday looks dull, with some light rain further north, but for most a dry day, cool again in that north-westerly wind. There’s a chance the sun will break through that cloud, so all in all, not bad.

Weather Outlook

Next week looks to start off with a weak, Atlantic high pressure in charge, so settled, dry, and cold is my forecast for Monday, Tuesday, but by mid-week an eastern-originating, low pressure is projected to pull into cold air from the continent and give us a wet mid-week / Thursday period, particularly in the east / southern part of the U.K. By the end of next week, a peak pattern is building in the jet stream, really pronounced in nature and for me that means cold, dry and settled, fog and frost, no doubt.

By watching the weather over the last 10 years or so, I think by the end of November, we get a good signal as to how the winter may shape up to be. Usually for us, winter starts after The New Year, however the pattern is usually set earlier. It’s very interesting to see the projected formation of a peak pattern in the jet stream and what will be critical is exactly how it orientates itself, longtitudinally – If it sits to the west of us, it’ll bring cold air down from the continent, if it sits to the east of us, we will have a mild, dry winter. Currently I think the projection is for it to sit to the west, so that could mean a cold end to the year 🙁  (Bets on Paddy Power!)

Grass Agronomics

Disease pressure

Well the recent colder spell of weather has pushed the soil temperature down and that’ll actually reduce the disease pressure, but only temporarily because today’s milder air and particularly tonight’s, will see an increase in activity unfortunately.

Thereafter, the drier theme to the forecast (not for all I know) will mean a lowering risk of disease, particularly new outbreaks. Applications of systemic fungicide made this week (after today) should tick through quite happily to the Christmas period / end of the year and by that time if you haven’t had much disease, your risk is much lower. I would back them up with a 1/2-full rate contact, mixed in with that systemic though because the colder theme (north winds) will slow uptake of the systemic (regardless of mechanism) and we are likely to have developing disease on the grass plant Monday / Tuesday, even if you can’t actually see it yet.

Nutrition requirements are low, with the grass plant ticking along at a much slower growth rate due to shortening days and cooler soil temperature’s. Light rate liquids, with iron, once the weather has dried up will work well, as will high iron granular ferts on low use areas, particularly if moss is present.

Winter Cutting Height

Always a controversial one, but looking at some greens lately that have gone up in cutting height, the grass is dense, but prostrate, particularly bentgrass and for me I can’t see the benefit in having a large, flat leaf blade that’s shading out other grass plants. I have no scientific evidence for this statement, other than what I’ve seen as I’ve gone around golf courses over the last 24 years (cripes), but a tighter-mowed surface (not shaved though) seems in my opinion to offer greater photosynthetic efficiency, than a higher cut surface.  If asked, I always work on an over-wintering cutting height of 4mm on a Poa / Bent green and have consistently seen surfaces go through the winter at this height with no issues.One point to make though is this depends on surface organic matter levels amongst other factors, because if you have high surface organic matter, the mower will ‘sit in’ to this when it’s wet and give a much lower cuttign height than the bench set, so be warned. For this reason, there’s also likely to be a difference in cutting height between greens in the open and those in the shade, with the latter, lower in organic matter and hence more likely to be closer to bench set height.

Bearing in mind since 2008/9 we’ve had some pretty hard winters, that height has been tested for sure. Other than the perceived advantage in terms of photosynthesis, there are other benefits, not least when it comes to next Spring. With a mixed Poa / Bent sward, when you come out of the winter at 4mm, the physiological difference between the grass plant species is much less obvious, whereas at 5mm or above, you have floppy bent (that’s often growing) and upright Poa (that isn’t)

Drop me a comment on your experiences if you’re happy to share them 🙂

regards

Mark Hunt