A Visit with Pennington: The Grass Seed People

April 17, 2012

A few weeks ago I wrote about my trip northwest to visit Pennington Seed and to check out the green scene in the Portland Oregon area. I had a great time and this week I’ll share more details; beginning with the first stop at Pennington’s grass seed research, testing, and packaging facilities.

Pennington is primarily a grass seed company devoted to continuously improving on the quality of grasses that are available to all growers. Their research programs have extended into the development of grasses with finer blades, deeper root systems, and darker color. Those qualities may not seem very important until you consider that these traits each contribute to a better looking lawn that’s also easier to care for.

Pennington’s Focus on Offering Customized Regional Seed Mixes

Pennington Grass Seed WarehouseOther qualities that Pennington has emphasized include disease and pest resistance, and creating grass seed varieties that can be grown and maintained with less water usage. They are involved in every aspect from development and production through to distribution, which enables Pennington to produce special mixes and custom seed blends for specific regions.

One such regional grass seed is a Pennsylvania State mix that is designed specifically for the region that I live in. Other regional blends include a Northeast and a Midwest mixture for those areas of the country.

If you’re shopping and don’t see a Pennington grass seed labeled specifically for your area, you are still assured of purchasing the proper variety mixture. That’s because Pennington grass seed is packaged and distributed based on supplying seed types that will grow well in localized areas.

The facility tour included a trip to the packaging plant where the different types of grass seeds are brought in and blended to precise proportions. The end result of all this effort and record keeping is a customized mixture of grass seeds that are designed specifically for the particular growing regions and lawns where Pennington seed is stocked on store shelves.

A Leader in Grass Seed Research and Development

Terms such as “Smart Seed,” “Penkoted,” and “MYCO Advantage” reflect the research and development that Pennington has devoted to innovative processes within the grass seed industry. A visit to the research branch enabled me to tour the trial grounds, greenhouses, and seed labs. I also had the opportunity to speak with operations personnel and plant researchers to address any questions that came up along the way.

As one researcher noted during a presentation on growing grass; “without good genetics you’re going to have problems.” That’s why Pennington puts so much effort into locating and identifying genetically strong species of grasses to use in producing their grass seed products.

This emphasis on good genetics yields grass that will be more naturally resistant against many of the problems that the average homeowner may encounter in their lawns.

On the trial grounds we walked across turf that would raise the envy of many professional groundskeepers, and in the laboratories we took a look at some of the research being conducted to help control various fungus and diseases that affect grasses. Over at the greenhouse I was intrigued by the root study tables containing long transparent tubes that allow researchers to evaluate and observe root growth deep down within soils.

Conversations that I found to be the most interesting dealt with Pennington’s emphasis on producing seed with high quality genetics that will form a solid foundation in the lawn, their awareness and work toward addressing water conservation concerns, and the discussions related to reduced chemical and fertilizer usage. They also talked about the importance given to meeting customer needs related to issues such as wear, cold, salt, and shade tolerance within lawns and landscapes.

Stepping toward a More Sustainable Lawn

I’ll admit that my lawn doesn’t benefit from a conventional feeding or weeding routine, that dandelions are welcomed, and that I purposely sow clover in along with the grass to increase nitrogen and provide forage for the honeybees!

But my yard does include large grassy spaces that would consist of bare ground or eroding paths if they weren’t protected and covered by a carpet of green grass. I’m also surrounded by borders of grass in adjoining lots… the majority of my neighbors aren’t gardeners but every one of them grows and maintains grass.

So I can definitely appreciate Pennington’s efforts to breed grass that is easier to care for, resistant to diseases, and that requires less water to maintain. Grass will continue to be used as a common and popular ground cover, so why not choose seed that is genetically strong, that displays natural resistance, and that can also thrive on less when it comes to water usage and fertilizers?

Another thing that I was impressed to see at Pennington Seed was their use of beneficial mychorrizal in the MYCO Advantage line, these types of organisms have been increasingly recognized for their importance and the role they play in plant and soil health.

Finally, one of the researchers also mentioned that they had discontinued all use of chemical pesticide controls in the greenhouse that we visited. The results experienced were an increased level of control at a reduced expense upon implementing the biological controls. And it was pretty cool to see the obvious presence of beneficials like praying matids patrolling around the greenhouse!

Next up on my tour of the Portland area is a stop at the Bee Thinking store, but I’m not done with grass seed just yet. Later I will have specific tips to share that I picked up at Pennington Seeds related to keeping your lawn green and healthy all summer long.

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.

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