Grass Clippings

Has the weather finally turned?

It has been an interesting season so far, with the gulf steam channelling polar air down towards the country keeping the weather on the cooler side for longer than expected. Ground temperatures have been static, so little growth has emerged. April’s frost records have broken (our) records for the number of frosty mornings observed on the course and May has followed a similar pattern up to this last weekend. Finally, the wind direction has changed bringing in Atlantic air from the west which is milder and has the slight advantage that the moisture load is also greater. I say advantage in that moisture will arrive as cloud in the form of a low front which perpetuates as rain and warmer temperatures. As I have penned previously in Grass Clippings this has been a cold and dry spring and we hope that this break in the weather will rehydrate areas and allow the soil to recharge before the heat turns up a notch. It will also help to develop some of the areas we have previously over seeded, earlier in the season on the courts and golf areas and see more of the seed come into fruition.

I am sure that Members are aware that the padel courts are now in use, in the area where once the old junior tennis courts were sited. There is still some remedial works to be done in and around this area, which includes structural maintenance to the walls in the area and repairing the haul route that was created to bring in the materials. We need to re-turf the area in front of the bandstand and part of lawn four which was used as a haul route. We shall be softening the area with planting and landscaping in the autumn once the walls are repaired and the scaffolding is removed and the summer heat period has passed.

A Festival for the People

This summer is the 70th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, which to me had always been something confined to a quaint segment of UK history till I stumbled upon a guide from the event in a book sale a few years ago. The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition and fair that reached millions of visitors throughout the in the summer of 1951. It is optimized by the Skylon and generally remembered by the last fragment of the architecture from the main exhibition site, the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. Post-war Britain was still a society in disarray, the capital like many cities across the land was marred by the bomb devastation from five years of air raids. The Treasury was basically bankrupt and rationing was still enforced for most of the population. The land fit for heroes was still in transition and as one commentator from the time simply put it, ‘everything was drab, drab and drab’. The prime mover for the event was cabinet minister Herbert Morrison whose original plan was an idea to mark the centennial of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The proposal was expended through government discussions to focused entirely on Britain and its achievements by showcasing Britain as a changing society and its achievements through inventiveness and genius. A now cleared site on the South Bank was to be the centre for the venue site but it was also marked by events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (the Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington (Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power). To be inclusive as possible celebrations took place in over a dozen prime location cities and towns as well as minor events elsewhere. The Festival Ship Campania, loaned by the Navy, docked in ten port cities, and carried a traveling exhibition to mirror the main event, that was visited by almost 900,000 people. Over 8.3 million people visited the main South Bank site over the course of the summer, with the more relaxed ‘fun park’ of Battersea site tallied over 8 million visitors. The legacy of the exhibition is in the fact that it helped reshape British arts, crafts, designs, and sports for a generation.  Journalist Harry Hopkins highlights the widespread impact of the ‘Festival style’. They called it ‘Contemporary’. It was clean, bright, and new … It caught hold quickly and spread first across London and then across England … In an island hitherto largely given up to gravy browns and dull greens, ‘Contemporary’ boldly espoused strong primary colours. But the fact that makes the Festival remembered as being a success, even by its critics, is testament to the fact that it gave a sense of hope and sparked the imagination of the population which became the catalyst and drive for design innovation and applied use of science and technology in the sixties and beyond.

No Mow May

Last year, the UK basked in the driest May since 1896 and the sunniest spring since 1929 and survey data reveals spring flowers wilted in the drought, with 56% fewer dandelion flowers and 40% fewer daisies on our lawns. Overall, lawn flowers dipped by 19% under the unseasonably searing spring sun. This research is the first recorded evidence that spring drought periods affect the timing and quantity of flower production on lawns, as early flowers wilt and summer species bloom earlier. With ongoing climate change, this could have important implications for delicate plant-pollinator relationships. These findings underline the important part anyone with a lawn can play. The organisation Plantlife’s #NoMowMay campaign urges all lawn owners – from gardens to parks to school playgrounds – to leave the mower in the shed for May to maximise spring flower and nectar production. Lawns are sometimes considered to be ‘wildlife deserts’ but this new Plantlife research shows them to be true biodiversity hotspots.

Every Flower Counts surveyors recorded 97 species of pollinators on their lawns, including 26 butterflies and moths and 21 different bees, including fewer common species such as pantaloon bee, wool carder bee and ashy mining bee. How to mow your lawn for wildlife. To maximise the number of flowers and nectar on lawns Plantlife recommends a ‘Mowhican’ style cut in gardens, with some areas of lawn cut once a month and others left long and uncut. This gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover the chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold. Areas of longer, unmown grass complement the short sward as they welcome a wider range of flowers, including nectar-rich plants like oxeye daisy, field scabious and knapweed.

In your garden

Mr Vass is our resident potato guru – well, he does like chips! His sage advice for this time of the year is to earth up your crop once the new stems reach about 20 cm. If you have never dabbled in the dark arts of the Solanaceace family, which includes our favourite tuber crop as well as tomatoes, then earthing up involves drawing up the soil over the stems of your crop to cover two thirds of the new shoots. It helps protect the plants from late frosts and prevents the tubers from turning green and poisonous in the light.

Solanaceace are otherwise known as the nightshade family and by now you have probably got an inkling this includes the deadly sort. A favourite poison of the murder mystery writer Agatha Christie, most of the genius do have a toxic alkaloid solanine as part of their make-up. If you are ever tempted to allow the flowers of the potato plant to develop into fruit, then these small green tomato-like fruits should be removed around small children who may be tempted to try one thinking they will be like a cherry tomato.

Sow climbing, runner and French beans under cover now and plant out in June, once the chance of frost has passed. Continue to successional sowing of carrot, beetroot, spinach, and salad crops through the month to extend your picking season as long as possible. Many herbs can be directly sown outdoors this month, which will relieve the pressure on your burdening windowsills and glasshouse production. And finally, keep up with the weeding around the vegetable patch, however laborious this may be. Young plants will soon be out competed for sunlight, moisture, and soil nutrients if a healthy crop of weed seedlings take a hold. A healthy root system on your veg will allow them to romp away and grow faster and stronger if you take care of the competition now.

Peter Bradburn, Course and Grounds Manager –