April 5th - Better growing conditions on the way ?
As I scraped the ice off the van early on Sunday morning with the outside temperature showing a fairly fruity -4°C, I contemplated the fact that as usual April has started cold. More on my mind was the prospect of running my first Rutland Half Marathon, a hilly one to boot. I started training for it 2 1/2 years ago, that one was cancelled due to Covid and then last year I picked up an injury a month before that I thought would finish my love of running for good, This years run in (!) to the event wasn't without its hiccups but it's all part and parcel of distance running.....
And so 1hr 45 mins and 53 seconds later, it was done and a hilly half marathon course was ticked off my bucket list in a time I was chuffed to bits with. It was my first ever event and I was so surprised at the people I was running with. Everyone had their own style, some looked more like they were just loping along, some shuffling, but they were all shifting :). It goes against my Danish psyche a tad (Law of Jante and all that..) to talk about my own achievements, but I am so happy with this one, so forgive me this brief indulgence :)
As I intimated last week, there's plenty of cold air still about on the GFS projection, so it's no surprise that April has started cold, very cold (except today that is) and although I'm typing this after the first mild night for ages (double figures for many), it won't be long before another cold air trough swoops down for the second half of the week and brings temperatures back into single figures. There is though a glimmer of hope that something warmer may be on the cards for Easter or perhaps the second half of Easter. We will see....
So I'm doing a sort of summary of this week's weather followed by a more detailed look at the run up to Easter.
Starting off on Tuesday we have a south-north divide with the south of the U.K and Ireland enjoying mild, westerly winds and double figure temperatures whilst further north, Scotland is in the grip of some extremely wet and windy weather courtesy of a deep North Atlantic low pressure system. It is this low pressure system that will dominate the weather picture this week. So mild and largely dry for the southern half of the U.K on Tuesday, some blustery showers for the west of Ireland and very wet and very windy for Scotland.
Come Wednesday and that low pressure system is sinking south and pulling cold air with it. Scotland stays with that cooler, wetter theme with wintry showers over elevation and we see that rain sink south into northern England, Wales and Ireland during the course of Wednesday morning, The south of the U.K will hang onto double figure temperatures but Scotland will be down in single figures in that rain and wintry shower mix. The second half of Wednesday breaks down into sunshine and showers and a fresher feel to the temperatures. It will be very windy everywhere with a westerly wind in situ
That strong westerly wind continues on Thursday and from the off, it'll pull in a spell of very wet weather for The South West and this will track eastwards along the south coast during the course of Thursday morning. Scotland will see a continuation of that wintry shower mix and rain and this will sink south into northern England through the morning. Ireland will see showers push into the north and track across to eastern counties through the day. During Thursday the wind will swing round to the north west and this will pull the temperatures down into high single figures and with the strength of the wind they'll be a significant wind chill. They'll still be some showers around for the southern half of the U.K and Wales, but these will be diminishing.
Closing out the week, we are back to where we started in terms of a mix of sunshine and blustery showers pushed in by a north west wind. It will though be a much drier picture on Friday with just some showers moving across Ireland from north west to south east through the course of the day. Lot's of sunshine and that really strong north westerly wind will begin to abate on Friday to moderate to light. Temperatures stuck firmly down in that 7-9°C sort of range with cold nights appearing back on the radar.
So how are we looking for the weekend ?
Well as the GIF above shows we are on the trailing arm of that cold northerly Atlantic low pressure system so that means ground frost is very likely on Saturday and Sunday but it also means lots of sunshine for the first half of the weekend with similar temperatures to Friday. Cold, bright and dry. Sunday sees a low pressure system push rain into Co. Kerry from the off and this will move north and east across Ireland through the course of the day. This rain will also affect The South West and Wales through Sunday morning but central areas and the east of the U.K may miss it entirely. It will bring more cloud cover though so feeling a bit milder on Sunday albeit duller. That rain will continue to track north and eastwards on Sunday but may not reach Scotland till dusk. Slightly milder, duller and with a milder airstream on Sunday.
Some potentially good news for grass growth :)
So next week we look to start with quite a complicated weather picture, in short there's a lot going on. That low pressure sitting down off the coast of Portugal was responsible for pushing the rain across Ireland on Sunday and it'll proceed to do the same to the southern half of the U.K on Monday and Tuesday with successive bands of rain moving north.
Now here's why I think we have some better news in this forecast for those of us interested in growing grass.
With the wind being southerly that'll help temperatures and with cloud cover that should see frosts abating and night temperatures next week holding up.
As I've talked about before, night temperatures are the key to spring growth and this spring we just haven't had them in abundance. So although next week looks unsettled, the plus point is more growth is likely. So unsettled for the first part of next week across Ireland and the southern half of the U.K (the north of England and Scotland look drier) but by the time we reach Thursday next week and the run up to Easter, there is the potential for high pressure to begin to dominate. Now as ever there's a caveat, it's a good 10 + days out but if the GFS stays on track we may pull in some nice mid-teen weather for Easter and my won't that be welcome !!
Time isn't on my side this week so the full appraisal of March 2022 will have to wait till next week but fear not it will be done !
In the meantime I'll just look at the stats for The Oxfordshire to give us a flavour and then next week we will look at GDD, GP and rainfall across the various U.K and Irish locations we utilise.
GDD Summary - March 2022 - The Oxfordshire
So at our default location we came in at 65.3 GDD for the month of March. Looking back that represents a pretty average March from a growth perspective and if you think about it, that averages out as 2GDD per day. Now that isn't a lot of daily GDD. We know the reason why, it was those really cold night temperatures that persisted for most of the month and since GDD is based on an average of the minimum and maximum daily air temperature, it has a bearing whatever base temperature you do your calculations on.
Where does that put us for the year at this location ?
Well at the end of March, this location came in at a total GDD of 120, which as you can see when you look at previous years is average, nothing to shout about. A good March would put us closer to 150 + total GDD.
Breaking down the month into maximum and minimum air temperatures vs. growth tells a more complete story....
So we can see some days in March at this location there was no daily GDD figure at all because the day and night temperatures were too low. 04/03 - 07/03 & 30/03-31/03.
We can also see the number of days when the night temperature was above 5°C were minimal. 09/03-12/03, 19/03, 22/03 & 29/03, that is a whole 7 days in total out of 31 or 22% of the month and that's why March 2022 won't go down as a great growth month even if some of the days were warm and the second half of the month was dry.
Looking at April, what we have already had and are forecast to get over the next 10 days or so, you can see how the cold weather knocked the GDD at the start of the month and how it'll do it again for the 2nd half of this week and weekend, but it should recover and build next week, if and that's a guarded 'if' the weather stays on track.
It won't be a sudden transition and in my mind that's good because with 2 x 4-day weeks on the bounce for Easter and staffing levels at a lot of clubs in crisis, we just don't want 'grass factory' creating weather patterns.
A nice gentle uplift we can cope with, but grass factories, nope, not with Augusta just around the corner and the inevitable comparisons that brings.
Where's your Poa at ?
So back to the present day, we have annual Poa biotype commencing seeding but we are still some way away from the main perennial seedhead flush which we know from past observations is about 180GDD at this location, so some way to go yet. I've done this GDD tracking for a good time now and it never ceases to amaze me however different the weather patterns we start the year with, we invariably end up with the main Poa seedhead flush around the first week of May.
Using the projected stats above, it puts this location on a total GDD of 160.5 by 18/04/22. Now I accept a lot can change between now and then weather wise with low pressure and not high pressure dominating but we look on target to me for an end of April seedhead flush. Just saying like....
There's some great content in the latest USGA Record with an in-depth look at collar management, a possible link to their decline and PGR usage on greens overlapping onto collars and a discussion about whether they serve a useful purpose in these days of limited staff / maintenance opportunities. Great reading.
They also have a downloadable video on aeration which discusses the pros and the cons, click here to go straight to it.
With a hard growing month explained above, a tough start to April and Augusta just round the corner, forwarding this video to the vocal minority that always seem to think they know better could be time well spent !! :)
OK, short and sweet this week...
All the best...