You’ve heard about the newest grass seed reviews coming out. THEY claim it will grow better, thicker and stronger with less weeds and disease issues. THEY say it will provide better coverage in brown spots because it deals better with lower pH soils. THEY say it will bring about world peace, dogs and cats living together and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Okay, I admit it – I made that last bit up. But does it really sound that far-fetched from what THEY – usually marketing managers at grass seed companies – come up with, and can you really believe their reviews? Let’s look a little closer at what can make those numbers look so good.
The Job of Marketing Director
I know it’s shocking, but marketing directors are there to help sell products. Their grass seed reviews will tell you all about the successes while glossing over the failures of a particular grass seed. If their seed does exceptionally well at keeping weeds down, they will tell you all about how well it does that, not how invasive it may be in your vegetable garden. Heck, johnson grass, one of the banes of every gardener and landscaper, was brought into this country as a summertime forage for cattle; someone just forgot to mention that it spreads at the drop of a hat and is hard to eradicate as well.
Statistics can be somewhat subjective as well. Someone presenting a project they want continued will emphasize how well it worked in particular test areas, while quietly ignoring the areas it didn’t do so well in.
Where to Find Good Information on Grass Seed
So when the seed company is painting you a lovely picture, where do you go for the truth about what works well in your area? The best source for what will grow well in your county is your county extension office. They’re familiar with what is currently growing in your county, whether from common or experimental use. The county extension agent can tell you more about the grass seed you’re considering, and how well it will do in your area.
To find your county extension agent, do a Google search for your state’s land grant university with the words agricultural extension offices, and it should take you to a page to find your county’s extension office. An example search would be “University of Missouri Agricultural Extension Office“.
Beyond your county extension office, you can look for reviews online. What have other landscapers and home owners found with these products? Just remember that the grass seed that works wonders in one region may not work as well or at all in another.
What Does That Legalese On the Label Mean?
It looks rather official because it is. By federal law, seed companies are required to label what the main seed varieties are in the package as a percentage of weight, the percentage of other seed that may be mixed into the package and what they’re believed to be, the percentage by weight of weed seed, the percentage of undesirable grass seed and the percentage of inert matter. It will also include the results of a germination test and when that test was conducted, to ensure you get fresh seed.
These numbers are rather important; you don’t want to spend the same amount on the same weight of seed if they’re extremely different. Here’s a couple examples:
Grass seed A has 80% fescue, 15% undesirable grass seed and 5% weed seed, mostly thistle. It has a germination rate of 75% from September of 2011. This means that this is old seed with a poor germination rate and a lot of seed species you may not want in your lawn, including spiny and hard to control thistle.
Grass seed B has 98% fescue, 1% inert matter, 0.5% undesirable grass seed and 0.5% weed seed, mostly plantain. It has a germination rate of 97% from May 2013. This has a pretty high germination rate on fairly new seed with a low content of seed that may not be what you want, but blends in with your lawn anyway.
Don’t let the percentage of inert matter worry you too much; this is usually an ingredient to help the seed distribute better, much like the old gardener’s trick of mixing tiny carrot seeds with sand.