July finished as the month began – wet. On site we have measured a rainfall figure of 156mm (over 6’’ in old money) for the month breaking records since reliable weather recording began in 1912. I’ve been looking at various forms of data for historical weather records and comparing with our own information for the last decade. We have had two other years where we collected over 100mm of rain on site- 2010 and 2014- the latter also saw a particularly wet autumn which continued into December. Met Office predictions for the future of our UK climate hit the headlines last week. We should expect more pronounced bouts of hot weather, with temperatures exceeding 30 to 35 degrees more often but also the frequency of violent storms which has led to the recent flooding. Transferring this to our futureproofing for the Club, we are already over-seeding key surfaces with drought resistant species to get the greens and lawns through the predicted hot spikes we will experience while also planning for increasing drainage in specific areas which could be prone to collecting water from flash flooding. It’s about dealing with these extremes and trying to anticipate a response so that, whatever the weather, Members can enjoy the facilities all year round into the future.
One side effect of the wet summer is the unpreceded amount of growth we are seeing in all shape and forms. Not just the amount of clippings the guys are taking off the surfaces in the morning and the plants in the gardens seem to be on steroids this year but also tree growth. Looking at many of the species on site this summer, their bows are positively drooping with the number of leaves. I am surprised we haven’t seen more limbs drop as the vascular cell structures in the branching systems swell with the take up of water. We have had one example of this on the 12th hole of the course last week, where the veteran horse chestnut to the left of the green had a limb drop. This has been a defiant tree in the past, having lost its leading stem previously, it threw up a lot of secondary branching to create a new canopy. Sadly, due to the previous incident it has left the core of the tree compromised and susceptible to this issue again. In their natural environment, deciduous woodlands, this occurrence is all part of the natural cycle of a tree’s life. Dropped limbs become a haven for fungus and insects on the woodland floor which devour it and make homes within it as soon as it hits the deck. Trees within the human environment have morphed to our expectations of shape, the long main stem with a full branching canopy above it which is symmetrical from all sides. Our own expectations are that trees will outlive the generation who planted them by possibly centuries is not the full truth as in reality tree species all have various ranges of life expectancy and will be dominated factors such as the environment its planted into. Like most plants we see trees for the aesthetic qualities that we place on them: shape and form, colour through various stages of the year and sometimes the variance of flower, seed pods or fragrance. The more we can learn about these giants that that stand silent around us, the more we can appreciate that they are as individual as people and have their own stories to tell.
Could ladybirds save the day?
Natural predators of common agricultural pests could save farmers money spent on insecticides while being friendly to health and environment, a study carried out in the cotton fields of China suggests. This has already been proven in domestic garden settings as a useful tool for gardeners as this canny little beetle munches through aphid attacks in the kitchen garden and borders and targets aphid swarms as they descend. Results of the study published recently demonstrated for the first time the economic benefit of using natural predators such as ladybird beetles as a form of pest control. The study estimated that cotton farmers in China could save more than US$300 million by doubling the density of ladybirds in their fields. Ladybirds are natural predators of aphids, a primary cotton pest that greatly reduces crop yields. Ladybirds provide a service that is underused and overlooked. According to the study, making greater use of ladybirds as a natural form of pest control can increase yields and save farmers time and money. For every additional 1,000 ladybirds per hectare of cotton, farmers used 0.69 kilograms less insecticide while also saving time from reduced insecticide spraying. Overall, the study found that doubling ladybird density increased incomes by approximately US$100 per hectare per year. Other predictors have been used in glass house settings for many years now for the control of sap-sucking nasties and in the agriculture and even sports setting, we have used nematodes, microscopic parasitic worms, in the past at the Club to try and reduce the effect of larger soil-based insects such as leather jackets and chaffer beetles. There are grounds for more work to be done in this area to make it more available and cheaper as a pest control. As we ween ourselves off the chemical control route for dealing with issues in agriculture and horticulture, it interesting to find that there can be alternatives that can make a difference.
Get your gloves on
The gardening team at the Club are in full weeding mode at the moment and getting on with the next project of building a herb border for the kitchen staff to use in the future. It’s a busy part of the season and here are a few jobs Steve has highlighted as priorities for the keen gardener. Some fruit trees can be pruned in summer, including plums, to avoid the development of silver-leaf disease. Trained apples and pears can be pruned in summer, as can spur-fruiting, established apple trees. Watch out for flea beetle on brassicas and related plants such as Swiss chard and rocket. The tiny holes they create don’t affect the vigour of established plants but make the leaves less appealing to eat – cover plants with fleece to prevent them being munched on in the first instance. One issue we have had occurred this year is blossom end rot on tomatoes, which is caused by irregular watering. With the hot weather in June and then a wet July some of the tomatoes have gone soft around the base and discoloured. This has only affected some varieties and not others but monitor how you water and vary the amounts depending on the weather conditions also.
Cut back summer-fruiting raspberries now once the fruit has been taken the canes of summer-fruiting raspberries can be cut down to the ground. Going on holiday? Give the plot a thorough soaking before you go, and harvest as many crops as you can, even if they’re small. If you can, get a friend or neighbour to water for you while you’re away. Also, within the garden cut flowers such as sweet peas can be cut for the house now before you go away, and you should see new flowering shoots one your return.