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.

Colorado River End South of US Mexico Border image by David M Fry

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.

Patchy Lawn with Tire Track Ruts

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.

(I borrowed that image of the Colorado 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.)

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#Seed4Yourself

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. (To read more on what I learned form the experts at Pennington, see my article – The Seeds of Knowledge :: Lawn Care Tips from Pennington Seed.)

Hotel Lucia Downtown 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.

Pennington Bloggers via Pretty Handy Girl

There’s the group and a shout to Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl for organizing. Source: unknown

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, 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.

Inland Oregon Mountainous Coast

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.

NexGen 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.

Kenneth Hignight NexGen Turf Research

Kenneth Hignight presents

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). These are the “customers needs” and what programs here at NexGen subject Pennington‘s products to.  (Well, maybe not the pets.)

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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.

Gail from My Repurposed Life Shoots NexGen Plot-Work Lawn

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

You may know Pennington, you may not (you’ve never given grass seed a second of thought) . . . they are the makers of such recognizable brands as Smart Seed and the Rebels (Tall Fescue).

And well, you can find their grass in a lot of places. Their premium Princess 77 hybrid Bermuda Grass 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.

Timothy Dahl with Russ Nicholson at the NextGen Research Center

Timothy Dahl with Russ Nicholson of Pennington

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.)

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.

Smart Seed Pallet at Pennington Packaging

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.”

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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.)

Rain Off Shelter with Gina from Shabby Creek Cottage

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.

1 Step Complete

3 Basic Tenets

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.

Plushy Grass Starting SawDust_Girl

hmmm Performs! :: @SawDustGirl really takes this blogging thing seriously. Feet: unknown

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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

Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl provided the list of bloggers, plus the photo above, here.

Please check all these sites for posts on @PenningtonSeed and follow the hashtag on twitter #Seed4Yourself.

Back Row Left to Right: Gina: The Shabby Creek Cottage; Kenny: Veggie Gardening Tips; Gail: My Repurposed Life; Brittany; Doug: Hoosier Homemade; me; Brian: Handy Guys Podcasts

Front Row Left to Right: Sandra: Sawdust and Paper Scraps; Timothy: Charles and Hudson; Chris: ManMadeDIY

Back soon with a few more posts on Pennington — I swear! See the result of grass growing experiments we performed while on this trip – first with Smart Seed and then, with 1-Step Complete.

For much more on Lawn Care, please see our category – Lawn.

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Disclosure Statement

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.