What could be more exciting in the world of gardening than the earliest camellia flower to unfurl, the taste of your first sun-ripened strawberry, and grass seed.
What? Grass seed, I hear you say…
Well, yes … strange as it might seem, I’m getting really excited about some of the new developments taking place with grass seed, and I’ll tell you why.
When it comes to grass, not all seed is the same. So, if you’re thinking about sowing a new lawn, thickening-up an existing one, or repairing a few patches then please don’t just pick up the first packet of seed that comes to hand and think “This will do the job”. It may, but it might not!
To start with there are different types of grass, and also different varieties of these grasses. Seed packets are usually mixtures of different grasses, and for home use you really want fine-leaved, dwarf and compact varieties of hard-wearing grasses like amenity Perennial Ryegrass, Red Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue, Chewing Fescue, Browntop Bent and Hard Fescue.
Nothing new so far, but stay with me …
Plant breeders put a tremendous amount of work into developing new varieties for different situations and uses, whether for sports fields, football pitches, golf courses, bowling greens or other amenity areas. Each variety has its own merits. Some are finer, others coarser. Some tolerate drought, others shade. Some are very cold tolerant and survive bad winter weather, while others return with vigour after periods of drought or waterlogging.
‘Quality’ grass seed costs more than a ‘bulk standard’ cheap one, so a budget packet of grass seed might look like a bargain with a price to match, but might not perform as you’d like in the long run. And that’s where specialist grass seed companies come into play, selecting the best new grass varieties to put in their mixtures to deliver the results the consumer expects from their finished lawn.
Now, seed types and varieties aren’t the only variable at play here.
Lots of work is being carried out into treating or coating these selected seeds in different ways to offer additional benefits. Some coatings absorb moisture to ensure better germination, while others contain fertiliser to ensure emerging seedlings have the nutrition they need for strong, healthy growth. Other grass seed packs contain micorrhizal fungi, that grow in a close relationship with grass roots to improve water and nutrient uptake. And let’s not forget that grass seed proves very attractive to hungry birds, so the best brands of lawn seed contain a bird repellent too.
At a recent garden press event I was interested to see yet another new development. Coming to a garden centre near you soon will be Johnsons After Moss Lawn Seed. This contains one of the latest varieties of Perennial Ryegrass, one that has much finer leaves than most normal ryegrasses. It also produces a much larger root system – some 25% bigger they claim – so the roots delve deeper into the soil. This wider reach means the grass has a greater source of water available so it will stay greener for longer during dry weather, and recover more quickly after a period of drought too.
But why ‘Anti Moss’? Well, anyone who has killed an area of moss in their lawn and been left with a large grass-less patch will know how hard it can be getting grass to establish in this area. Moss often regrows, smothering those precious new grass seedlings before they have a chance to establish. This new grass seed has been coated with calcium carbonate that dissolves to make soil surface conditions more alkaline, and less conducive to moss regrowth that prefers acid soil conditions. It can be used to repairing patches or sprinkled over thin grass (a process called over-seeding) to thicken it up once moss has been removed.
So this is why grass seed gets me excited, as choosing the right product can ensure your lawn looks great regardless of the weather.
And nothing looks better than a great looking lawn!
OTHER LAWN SEED MIXES TO LOOK OUT FOR…
EcoSure Lush Lawn Grass Seed
Coated with micro-nutrients and seaweed to promote strong growth, as well as a bird repellent.
Westland Gro-Sure Multi-Purpose Lawn Seed and Westland Surestart Tough Grass Lawn Seed
Both coated with Surestart, a micro-nutrient coating that ‘significantly improves germination and aids quicker establishment’. Organic compounds in the seed coating attract and retain moisture around the seed, while plant hormones stimulate growth and micro-nutrients help strong healthy roots develop. The coating also acts as a bird deterrent.
Empathy Supreme Green Lawn Seed (endorsed by the RHS)
Contains ‘rootgrow’ mycorrhizal fungi. The addition of Rootgrow is claimed to help grass seedlings produce larger and more robust root systems.
Miracle-Gro Patch Magic
Contains grass seed, feed and coir compost.
Westland Aftercut Patch Fix
Has a similar mix of ingredients along with a pet urine neutralizer and seed that is resistant to urine.