Tuesday, April 5, 2011
A few years ago I was talking with a homeowner who asked, “Do you grow the grass seed behind your warehouse?” I chuckled since we only have about 25 acres of property here at Jonathan Green. I bet most of you do not know how grass seed gets from the farm to your lawn; let’s explore this phenomenon.
Oregon is the largest producer of quality grass seed in the world! There also are large production areas in Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. There are thousand of acres devoted to grass seed production in Oregon for all of the major lawn grasses including, Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, Fine Fescues (Creeping-Chewings-Hard), Kentucky Bluegrass and Bentgrass.
Let’s use Perennial Ryegrass as an example. Once a variety of Perennial Ryegrass goes through the breeding process; a small amount of seed is available to plant into larger scale production. The farmer is usually offered a contract to grow a certain variety of Perennial Ryegrass and an agreed upon number of acres are determined between the farmer and the seed company who markets the variety. Different grasses yield a varying amount of seed per acre, which helps determine the price per pound offered to the farmer.
Usually a farmer will plant his fields of Perennial Ryegrass after ground preparation in the fall, with a drill seeder at a very low seeding rate per acre, placing each seed a few inches apart in rows about six inches from each other. Jonathan Green fertilizer and weed controls are applied in the fall and spring. In late spring, these individual plants fill out and look much like a bunch of porcupines in the field, but of course they are green grass plants. Shoots start to develop sending up seed heads to be pollinated by Mother Nature.
By the end of June the seed heads are full and plump and golden brown, ready to be harvested. A swathing machine cuts down the grass plants and lays bunches in windrows, similar to wheat being cut for harvest. A few days later, a combine picks up the seed and starts to separate the chaff from the viable grass seed. Trucks haul the large amounts of seed into cleaning warehouses where the seed is cleaned, classified, tested, bagged and shipped to New Jersey.
At the Jonathan Green warehouse we mix the different grasses that we market into specific mixtures in large drum-type mixers that look like concrete mixers. These mixtures combine different percentages of the grasses so they perform best in sunny or shady areas; or drought or traffic conditions. The seed is mixed as a percentage by weight, so a 2,000 pound batch mix may contain 1,000 pounds of Perennial Ryegrass, 500 pounds of Creeping Red Fescue and 500 pounds of Kentucky Bluegrass, like baking a cake; you have to follow the directions!
Once this finished bag of Jonathan Green grass seed is shipped to your local store, it contains a wealth of information. The mixture name determines its proper area of use like, Jonathan Green Heavy Traffic. There is also information regarding the quality and performance expected of this mixture. On the back of the bag you will find the proper directions for planting success. Also, by law, there is a seed analysis tag, which tells you detailed ingredients by grass type, a germination rate and any crop or weed seeds if present. The tested date shows when the seed was tested in the laboratory to determine the germination percentages. Remember, grass seed is only harvested once a year during the summer months. Grass seed sold in the spring of each year goes through a laboratory test to assure proper germination rates for labeling.
For the last step you will need to determine which Jonathan Green grass seed mixture is the best for your lawn and how hard you want to rake the soil to prepare the ground for seeding success. Good luck!Back