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  • Writer's pictureMark Hunt

26th February, 2024

Hi All,

The last blog of February, always a short month thankfully I know but this one has flown by. No let up in the weather last week with another deluge and widespread flooding. For sure this winter is affecting not just the ability to get things done, revenue for clubs as courses are closed, but also one's own state of mental fortitude, as we consider another week with rainfall. It has been a tough gig for sure.

When you see the type of rain (and I know I have highlighted this before, but last week was a good example) we had last Thursday with a narrow band of extremely heavy rain falling over a short period at a rain rate that most rootzones can't cope with, you understand why we see what we see. So we measured up to and over a peak rain rate of 185mm / hr last Thursday, that's over 7" per hour in old money and although it was 'only 9mm', that rain rate meant that we saw a repeat of flooding and facility closures as a result. There was a whooping temperature difference either side of that front as well, 11°C before it and 5°C after it !

Spring is on the way though and that means warmer temperatures, more drying days and hopefully less rain !

I managed to squeeze in a nice cycle and 2 walks over the weekend, one of them in Fineshades Wood, as I felt a requirement for 'Komorebi' as the Japanese have termed it. The definition of Komorebi 木漏れ日 (pronounced kō-mō-leh-bē) is “sunlight leaking through trees,” this word describes the beauty and wonder of rays of light dappling through overhead leaves, casting dancing shadows on the forest floor. Works every time for me in conjunction with an obligatory Flat White stop of course !

So this week we transition into March, will it be a continuation of the same or is there some light at the end of winter's long tunnel ?

General Weather Situation

Well, last week I predicted that the start of this week would be wintry in nature with easterly / north easterly winds. Hands up, the temperature bit was wrong, it is a little milder than I expected, the wind bit was right and so is the wind chill. So we have a departing low pressure system pulling in strong, gale force at times, cool north easterly winds and that means there's a chance of blustery showers pushing in from The North Sea, especially in line with The Wash, Humber and Tyne. They'll be a prominent wind chill as well so it'll feel much cooler than the thermometer says. That rain across the south of the country should fade and for all of us we will see more in the way of sunshine. So cool, windy, bright and mainly dry, save for some showers pushing into eastern areas off The North Sea. 6-8°C should be the norm.

Tuesday sees a rain front push into the west of Ireland and north west of Scotland early doors. This front will push diagonally (/) across Ireland and Scotland into North Wales and northern England. As it does so it'll fizzle out and fade so that means the east and south east should miss most of this rain and have a dry day. As the low pressure moves away, the wind will swing round to the south west, for Ireland and the west of the U.K first and this will usher in milder air. So 11°C across Ireland, but only 6-8°C across the north, east and south of the country, until that milder air arrives.

Wednesday sees another rain front push into the west of Ireland on Wednesday morning. This will cross the country and Irish Sea and bring rain into The South West, Wales, north west of England and west of Scotland as it does so. These showers will move slowly over Northern England, the north Midlands and Scotland and fade as they do, meaning the south will miss most of this. So rain for the west and north and sunshine and showers further east. As one front of rain crosses the U.K & Ireland, another pitches up on the west coast of Ireland as the sun sets. This rain front will be heavier and will provide rain, some of it heavy across all areas overnight. A strong, blustery, south westerly wind will mean temperatures will be 10-11°C.

That rain that pushed in overnight will still be affecting the southern half of the U.K as the sun rises on Thursday morning. So rain for the north of England, Wales, The Midlands and southern half of the U.K, along with showers across the north west of Ireland and Scotland coasts. This rain will cross the U.K slowly on Thursday pushing down into the south of the country later in the day. So a wet day overall with a heavier rain front across the south of the U.K and showers across the west following on behind. That strong south westerly wind will continue so it will remain mild with similar temperatures to mid-week.

Closing out the week, we have another deep low pressure dominating the weather picture. This one sits north of Scotland and so will have wintry showers associated with it over the north and elevation. So Friday will see a band of rain pushing across Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales through the day. Originating in the north and pushing south and south east through the day and not clearing till the afternoon. Scotland though being closer to the centre of the low pressure, will see rain, sleet and snow continue through the afternoon. Now despite the winds being south westerly in nature on Friday, they now originate from this cold low pressure so we will see a pronounced drop in temperatures at the end of the week with 6-8°C more likely and a pronounced wind chill.

The outlook for the weekend is definitely mixed as that low pressure will swirl rain showers across the south and south east of the U.K on Saturday morning. Away from this rain, we will see a drier picture for Ireland, Wales and Scotland. This southerly rain will push northwards through the day into The Midlands and northern England, so a chance of a shower later. Remaining cool despite the south west wind direction with similar temperatures to Friday. Sunday looks the better day of the weekend I think, with more in the way of drier weather and it'll feel milder as well, with temperatures climbing into double figures in the sunshine. Now for the west and north, they'll pick up a more northerly airstream, so remaining cooler over the weekend.

Animated GIF courtesy of

Weather Outlook

After yet another unsettled week, is there any let up on the cards ?

Well possibly, yes....

So we start next week with that low pressure butted up against a continental high pressure. So I'd say still unsettled for the start of next week but more sunshine and showers than heavier rain. Remaining cool but as we go through to Tuesday we begin to see a change as a ridge of high pressure pushes up from the south and the jet stream lifts northerly. This will begin to funnel southerly wind up from the south with drier and warmer conditions prevailing. Dare I say it, it might even feel 'Spring like' !!!

Later in the week, that Atlantic low will probably push closer to Ireland and Scotland so it'll introduce showers to those areas but I think currently this ridge of high pressure should hold the worst at bay.

Now it is caveat time......This weather scenario with the deep Atlantic low pressure to the west and high pressure ridge preventing it progressing eastwards is finely-balanced, it could easily change. Fingers crossed we get the weather break we need, the industry deserves it.

Agronomic Notes

So first up, I am continuing my chart of cumulative G.P measured from February 1st, comparing 2024 with 2023. As discussed in previous blogs, this is to see how quickly we get recovery from aeration carried out at the end of January. These stats are from Sevenoaks, Kent and show that we are 2/3 of the way towards full recovery (I tend to associate a combined G.P figure of 9.0 with enough growth to gain full recovery from early season aeration). With milder weather potentially for next week, we could hit that benchmark figure by mid-March possibly.

One size hat doesn't fit all...

Now, I know a lot of courses simply wouldn't have been able to get their machinery out of the sheds to carry out this type of work and nor indeed may they be able to do so currently if they have aeration planned for the 1st week of March. I understand and appreciate this. It may inevitably mean that spring aeration is cancelled on some courses simply because revenue has already been impacted badly by the weather and management may understandably not want to risk more negativity / threat to revenue by aerating in March / April and witnessing poor recovery if the spring is cold.

Now there is a conversation to be had here because it is a valid point. So too though is the requirement to get air in the ground, particularly because with so much rain, the ground has sat water-logged and anaerobic (oxygen-deficient). It is quite simple, the grass plant requires oxygen and water contains less than air does, so they need to breath.

Creating a better surface by O.M removal and generating more root development by soil exchange all have their places as well and we must also think ahead to what summer 2024 may bring. Roots are our insurance policy in a water-deficient period. They enable the grass plant to survive periods of drought more efficiently and with less stress. Less plant stress = less risk of plant diseases like Anthracnose, one of the worst diseases for damaging the turf surface during the peak playing period of the year (August / September). So aeration isn't just about the present, it is about heading off potential issues in the future. Issues that could impact the playing surface and therefore revenue badly.

Maybe there's a case for changing the aeration type for the spring to less disruptive, narrow diameter, solid tines or vertidraining to achieve venting of the soil and a stimulus to root development and either reschedule organic matter removal (if that's what you were intending) or change the method to remove it. (maybe utilising more verticutting through the season as an example). There is a way to tick both boxes for sure and above all communication is key between greens / grounds staff / management and members alike.

This is when it comes down to having a proactive relationship, benchmarking and data to inform the discussions that need to be taken. Year-on-year surface organic matter measurements taken at the same time of year, from the same greens and analysed by the same lab, using the same methods is key. How else can you make the correct decision ?

Another factor is the greens you need to aerate because as we know, not all surfaces grow at the same rate. Surfaces in full light have a greater photoperiodicity (posh way of saying more light), so these grow more and create more organic matter, which can then accumulate. On the other side of the coin, surfaces in shade tend to have less organic matter and sometimes not enough to withstand the wear and tear of foot traffic and contain a pitch mark. So if you have both types on your facility, you wouldn't want to use the same aeration methodology, would you ? One size hat doesn't always fit all. A tailored approach is more apt and usually more effective.

OK, that's me for this week, 'tempus fugit' and all that.

All the best.

Mark Hunt

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