Easter Sunshine brightens up the Gloom
By Laurence Gale MSc
After all the recent poor weather, and the trials and tribulations faced by many groundstaff, the Easter period finally brought us the sunshine we have all been waiting for. Consistent, warm weather with air temperatures rising regularly above 14 degrees, promoting some much needed plant growth.
Interestingly, the cold, dry winter proved to be a bit of bonus for many local authorities. At this time of the year they are normally struggling to keep up with their grass cutting regimes, a problem compounded by holiday breaks and the usual spring flush of growth. Thanks to the unusual conditions, the grass verges and public open spaces were drier with less vegetation, allowing easier and earlier mower access without damage and more efficient grass cutting cycles, thus saving on time and resources.
The evidence of this early start can be seen on many highway verges and traffic islands, some authorities have achieved five cuts this year already. There are cost benefits but, more importantly, from a general public point of view, there is a much improved appearance.
This has also been the case with many golf courses. Colin Robinson, the Course Manager at the John O'Gaunt club in Bedfordshire, was able to get on top of his mowing regimes prior to the Easter holidays, generally a busy time for all courses. Colin was able to aerate his greens twice during the winter, using his vertidrain set at 225mm, with some heave set on the tines to open up the surfaces.
The dry weather has also helped him complete his spring renovations earlier, being able to spread and brush in his top dressings more efficiently.
Whilst there have been some gains, it is probably fair to say that more than most have suffered. I am particularly thinking about the cricket and tennis Groundsmen and, to a lesser extent, the bowls Greenkeepers.
Similar problems have been experienced in tennis, having predominantly clay soil structures, which are generally slower to warm up. With soil temperatures remaining below 10 degrees C for the best part of March it was no wonder we saw no meaningful growth. Even the grounds where an early feed had been applied were not getting any real benefits.
With winter hopefully behind us there will be many Groundsmen and Greenkeepers looking forward to the warmer weather now forecast and, at the same time, grateful for the April showers to water their facilities.
The weather has always been a controlling factor in what we can achieve in the turf grass industry and this year, like every year, it has set many challenges. In the main most groundstaff manage to overcome these challenges and often benefit from the experience. It's what makes our industry so diverse and interesting.
I am sure after a couple of weeks we will all be wondering what the fuss was about.