The Grass Really is Greener in Portland, Oregon

March 17, 2012

Last week’s excursion to Portland was my first visit within the state of Oregon, but I’m already planning a return trip. This visit came about thanks to Pennington, who invited me to a Seed Summit which included a tour their plant, research labs, and trial grounds in Albany, OR where they research and test the grass seeds they produce.

Other travels have taken me to the west coast before, but never within Oregon, and I was surprised by what I found and how much I enjoyed the visit. It’s a very green state in many ways with a thriving network of organic farmers, an unusual mix of growing regions, and the ideal conditions that make Oregon the grass seed capital of the world.

Pennington: The Grass Seed People

I was familiar with the name Pennington and have purchased their grass seed blends from local suppliers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, but now I better understand of what goes into producing a reliable grass seed, and what it takes to maintain a healthy lawn. I haven’t abandoned my goal of expanding the square footage of my gardens, but grass will continue to fill an important role in the landscape.

One of the things that I found to be surprising was Pennington’s focus on water conservation and their quest to develop grass varieties that will use far less water resources. Even to the point of addressing some popular myths and bad cultural habits, like the practice that many homeowners have of increased watering to try and prevent lawns from turning brown during periods of drought.

Pennington’s answer to that dilemma has included the production of a “Smart Seed” line that not only requires less water, but also stays greener longer during extended periods of drought. This helps by eliminating the natural reaction to reach for a garden hose and water lawns that are browning and going dormant during periods of drought. I learned a lot about grass seeds at the summit and will have many more tips and techniques to share that will benefit your lawn this season.

Other Points of Interest In and Around Portland

Portland is a bustling city that has its share of cars and motor traffic, but there is also a hip mix of light rail, street cars, buses, andPortland-Mass-Transit bicycles being used to travel about town. The cabbies got me once for a forty dollar fare from the airport when I arrived in town, but that will never happen again now that I know five dollars will get you a full-day pass that’s good on all zones of the city’s public transportation system.

The taxis did come in handy for venturing further outside of the city such as when I headed out to Bee Thinking to visit with Matthew Reed and talk about Warre and Top Bar Beekeeping. I’ve corresponded with Matt via phone and email, and have purchased beekeeping supplies from his company in the past. Bee Thinking is located in a small community just off of a street lined with unique shops and businesses that included a micro-brewery and a homesteading supply store.

I spent an hour speaking with Matt and another gentleman who just happened by and shared his experience at catching bumblebee queens and introducing them into homemade bee boxes. Then there were a couple hours spent wandering around the neighborhood and checking out the other local businesses. I received tips on places to visit in the area that included a number of organic vegetable farms, and a popular plant nursery that operates a mobile store with stops in the area.

Tastes of the Town from Gourmet Food to Local Attractions

Hoyt-ArboretumMy last day in town was spent sightseeing and exploring the city. I hopped on the light rail and rode out to Washington Park where I spent time on the hiking trails at Hoyt Arboretum. It seems like you can always find green things growing in Oregon, but the arboretum was particularly lush and flowering in spite of it not yet being into spring.

The food in Portland was incredible with lots of fresh, organic, locally farmed produce featured in many of the city’s restaurants. Portland is also a haven for vegetarians and vegans as most eateries provide extensive menu selections that cater to the meatless crowd. There’s also the new food cart phenomena that’s been adopted in Portland and attracts diners to sample a wide variety of ethnic and gourmet cuisine.

I’ve already decided that I will return to Portland at some point, and any future visits to the area will include time to search out and visit some of the many organic farms and local homesteads. There’s also the Japanese Gardens, Trailblazers basketball, more great restaurants, and other local attractions that would be great to experience.

Greener Lawns Coming to a Landscape near You

I’m planning future posts that will delve deeper into aspects of trip, especially as it relates to what I learned about grass seeds and maintaining a healthy lawn. The Seed Summit was also covered by writers from the following DIY websites: Building Moxie, Charles & Hudson, Handy Guys Podcast, Hoosier Homemade, Man Made DIY, My Repurposed Life, Pretty Handy Girl, Sawdust and Paper Scraps, and The Shabby Creek Cottage.

So if your lawn is struggling, or you have questions related to growing better grass in the backyard landscape, stay tuned for more coverage on Pennington, the Seed Summit, and other exploits during my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

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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