Building Moxie Visits the Grass Seed People :: Pennington Grass Seed
aka . . . Green: Not Just for the Irish Anymore
As part of Pennington’s Seed for Yourself Summit (< introed there), I have to pick a small, pet project area. It’s here that I’ll apply the … *ahem* . . . seeds of what I have learned. In other words, I will tackle a lawn care project AND feature Pennington Grass Seed.
NO! That’s not my project area … not my lawn! Come on! It’s actually the Colorado River about 50 miles south of the US/Mexico border. (And more on that in a minute.)
I have chosen instead to work on the fairly uncomplicated front lawn at my wife’s current (her first) “flip” project. (I wrote about that some here >> Old House Ghosts.)
Why then do I lead with that dried up old river bed? Happenstance, I guess. I just so happened to chat about it (the river bed & my trip) with airplane rowmate, a conservationist and Watershed Specialist, Scott Alexander.
An article in Southwest Airline’s Spirit Magazine got us started. Actually Scott started, when he pointed out that every. drop. of water north of that point had been sucked from the once flowing river.
Scott told me that in our region, in what we know as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the most common “crop” is . . . grass. A pretty massive area actually, and grass, well — an important part of the environmental equation.
(That image of the Colorado was borrowed from a great story by photojournalist David M Fry < there. And the word “crop” above is a correction from the original posting of the article.)
Madison, Georgia based Pennington Seed, the number one grass seed “maker” in the world, flew me and a select group of fabulous DIY bloggers to Portland.
Oregon, you see, is “the Grass Seed Capital of the World.” (I know — who knew?) It was there that we immersed ourselves in a one day “experience” involving everything . . . grass.
Together with the team at Pennington we discussed breeding and development, growing and manufacturing (packaging) as well as, Yep — planting, care and maintenance.
Oregon -The Grass Seed Capital of the World
While I did get a little q-time in Portland, with some Portland friends, a bulk of our time was spent about 1 ½ hour South in the town of Albany – at the company’s NexGen Research Center.
As it was told to us, there is one other location in the world as ideal for grass growth as this particular part of Oregon. It sits almost exactly at the forty-five degree latitudinal mark (half way between the equator and the north pole).
Within 100 miles of where we sat that day, more than 60% of all world’s grass seed is grown, cleaned and otherwise harvested.
Despite getting two days of surprisingly wonderful weather, the climate here is actually pretty predictable — moist winters with dry summers. The mountain ranges along the coast make this location perfect for “cool season” growth.
NextGen has a sister facility in Maricopa, Arizona, which is utilized as a warm weather research facility. (Maybe another trip. ;~)) Oh, and the other ideal spot — New Zealand.
The NexGen Research Center
Established in 2008, NexGen is owned and operated by Pennington, but works with researchers from leading institutions like Purdue, Rutgers, and Georgia Tech. The work being performed here targets repeatable testing and objective techniques for producing water saving (more drought tolerant), low-impact turf grasses.
Genetics! . . . In other words.
And through genetics, these seeds/our grasses are . . . designed.
Now imagine that you have to design seed (for grasses) that is capable of surviving in all of the climates and all of the soil conditions you might find, well . . . around the world. At NexGen, they have to consider wear/use, heat, cold, salt, shade (two kinds), in some cases — poor water quality, pets (sometimes good, sometimes bad) . . . and these are the “customers needs” and what Pennington‘s products are subjected to through the programs here at NexGen. (Well, maybe not the pets.)
It’s as Kenneth Hignight, Director of Research @ NexGen told us “an art.” But he continues, “Without good genetics , the rest doesn’t matter.”
Through their own research, and collaboration with other 3rd party entities, Pennington develops (scientific term) cultivars (working through cycles of selection) that are 1) more resistant to drought and disease 2) use less water 3) require less fertilizer & 4) Yes! Require Less Mowing.
For Now, A Little on Lawns (Know Your Grass)
While I’ll likely do a second posting (ok maybe a 3rd too) on facts & stats, tips & techniques (fingers crossed for next week), we did discuss planting and maintaining a lawn.
We learned that Fine Fescue is low maintenance (and found in many Sun and Shade Mixes), Tall Fescue is highly adaptable, and we learned that Perennial Rye may provide the biggest (quick) bang for the buck. We learned that Kentucky Bluegrass is often perceived as the prettiest, we learned that several species thrive specifically in Florida, and that Pennsylvania has even got its very own blend.
Some quick recommendations here: To aid in the prospect of identifying which types of grasses you are looking at in both your region or within your own lawn (‘s important to know), the company recommends attending (University) “field days” — Purdue and Rutgers have fairly prominent ones and I’m sure there are others.
If you live in area where this is not an option, look towards the knowledge of your local lawn and garden center, where they may either have an expert on staff or at least a book that could guide you in your lawn care efforts.
That is not to say of course that there isn’t already robust info available on any product’s packaging. Right on the Pennington bag, you’ll find “Hardiness Zone” info and the best time to plant by species.
The Grass Seed People
And well, you can find their grass in a lot of places. Their premium Princess 77 hybrid BermudaGrass for example – you might have stepped onto it at your local golf course or on a ball field near you. It has been sown far and wide and has even appeared in a Super Bowl or two.
They produce and sell some 200+ million pounds of grass seed a year, with offerings spanning some 200+ “mixes” or “blends” (read: skus) and there is a difference.
It is always so interesting, and as Timothy Dahl from Charles & Hudson points out, “to see everything that goes into the bag.” From the science to the research to the passion and the work. And he is right.
I was probably most impressed by the relationship that Pennington has cultivated with retailers large and small . . . making sure that seeds that will thrive locally end up in the right stores. Sun & Shade Mixes appear in the stores near you not by chance; they are in fact “regionalized” for success. (Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl has a super pic showing that here >> http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/2012/03/how-to-grow-a-better-lawn-grass-seeds-do-make-the-difference.html.)
Better Seed (Greener Lawns) Produced Through Research
Smart Seed is certified as Water Star® and requires 30% less water. If you regularly water your lawn, this can equate to significant yearly savings.
What we witnessed in terms of end product, 1-Step Complete – mulch, fertilizer and seed all in one, was all but astounding – plushy green results with less work. When asked how that was, Kenneth admit, “the mulch” but he hesitates and adjusts . . . “the right mulch.”
While originally designed for repairs (and rightly so at nearly 3x the cost of traditional seeding) Pennington may be working on options that would effectively facilitate larger scale applications of this all-in-one product. (shhh.)
No, NexGen may not have the answer to the common request . . . “We want grass we don’t have to mow!” But they are working on some big stuff. No, not spreading seed with a garden hose either … and of course, our group had some thoughts on how that might be accomplished.
Kenneth, quoting Henry Turney, says “There has never been a miracle grass. There never has been and there never will be . . . .” But Pennington appears to be getting pretty close. At minimum, as a company — they are walking the walk. Three basic tenets lead.
The company: 1) Is dedicated to making the highest quality seed 2) Preaches “Seed Matters.” From an accompanying slide >> “On the surface all seed seems the same, but each variety has unique characteristics that impact results.” 3) Scientifically researches each product they sell to ensure that they perform.
Thanks out to all our hosts at Pennington, including but not limited to:
- Ronnie Stapp, EVP of Seed Operations, Pennington Seed
- Kenneth Hignight, Director of Research, NexGen Turf Research LLC
- Mike Baker, Vice President, Manufacturing and Strategic Procurement, Pennington Seed
- Debra Hignight, Plant Breeder, NexGen Turf Research LLC
- Russ Nicholson, Senior Agronomist, Pennington Seed
Our photo up top: The list of bloggers that attended was written out by Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl here >> http://www.prettyhandygirl.com/2012/03/whirlwind-weekend-winner-of-sweet-faerie-design-giveaway.html.
Back soon with a few more posts on Pennington — I swear!
Pennington Seed, Inc. and their parent company Central Garden & Pet partnered with bloggers such as me to help educate us all about grass seed. As part of this program, I received compensation and was hosted by the company for a kickoff event. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the use of the products. Central Garden & Pet believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Central Garden & Pet’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.
About Building Moxie
BuildingMoxie.com is the do-it-together blog about house, home, and neighborhood (or 'hood for short), ... we feature a variety of topics written by, and for, both the diyer and the pro. ... Maybe you?
Hi & Welcome!
Find Building Moxie Also On:
- Where the Grass IS always Greener! | Sawdust & Paper Scraps
- Where the Grass is Always Greener | Sawdust & Paper Scraps
- the *Home* &, well, the *Improvement* in Home Improvement || DIY & Pro :: Building Moxie » The Seeds of Knowledge :: Lawn Care Tips from Pennington Seed
- The Seeds of Knowledge :: Lawn Care Tips from … – Building Moxie | The Lawn Care Tools Site
- the *Home* &, well, the *Improvement* in Home Improvement || DIY & Pro :: Building Moxie » Building Moxie Does Doors :: Installing a Door Slab & a Glass Knob, Mortised Style LockSet
- the *Home* &, well, the *Improvement* in Home Improvement || DIY & Pro :: Building Moxie » Pennington’s 1-Step Complete :: Experiment & Results
- 3 DJs and 1 MC :: Staring Up & Happy Mothers Day :: Building Moxie
- Stone Border Edging for a Garden & Patching with 1 Step Complete
- Seeding a New Lawn with Pennington Seed's Smart Seed :: Building Moxie
- Learning How to Landscape :: Building Moxie
- HomeTalk Interview :: The Story of Our Blog :: Building Moxie
- How to Grow a Healthy Lawn :: Building Moxie Does Lawn Care
- Tips for Watering the Lawn :: Planting and Watering Seed
- Tips for Watering the Lawn :: Planting and Watering Grass Seed
- How We Run :: Building Moxie Tours John Deere Horicon Works
- How to Grow a Healthy Lawn :: Building Moxie Does Lawn Care … 101
- How to Prepare to Install an Irrigation System
- Don’t Be Alarmed, Nothing to See Here :: Connecting and Troubleshooting a Hard Wired Security System
- Ready, Set, MOW! :: Mower Maintenance with John Deere & Oh, Happy Spring …
- Landscape Luxury :: Tips for Designing a Backyard Pond
- Building Moxie in a Bagster Bag :: the 2012 Year in Review … Finally, OR …
- The Basic Elements of a Monthly Home Maintenance Plan
- Ideas That’ll Light Up Your Backyard :: Four Uncommon Outdoor Lighting Ideas
About jb bartkowiak (259 posts)
A one-time construction manager, and always handyman, turned blogger and editor. My wife, Jen, and I are on our 6th property (. . . yes, together). She is a real estate agent. We have two beautiful daughters Evyn and Eva. We currently live and are restoring an 1889 farmhouse in Baltimore's Lauraville area.