Throw and Grow

The nickname my Penn State professor gave Perennial Ryegrass has stuck with me all these years.

Tom Watschke was one of those teachers you were fortunate to have, one of the truly memorable ones through all your years of schooling, due to his knowledge, wit and sense of humor. While writing this blog, I was saddened to learn from an internet search, that he passed away in November at the age of 76. However, I was pleased to learn from his Obit that “His most influential studies revealed the positive influence of turfgrass on mitigating the movement of fertilizers and pesticides into waterways.”

The nickname ‘Throw and Grow’ was due to Perennial Rye’s (P. Rye) super fast, 5 to 7 day germination rate, especially when compared to Kentucky Bluegrass, which could be as long as 21 days. Since my years under Dr. Watschke’s tutelage on main campus, it seems lawns consisting of only P. Rye have become much more common, as opposed to traditional grass seed mixes that contain a 3-way mix of Kentucky Blue, Red Fescue and P. Rye.

Even in my later years of landscape contracting, when I would custom order 50 lbs. bags of 3-way Turf-type Tall Fescue seed blends, I’d make sure the seed mix would also contain a desirable, named variety of P. Rye. We were taught that if P. Rye exceeded more than 10- to 20-percent of a seed mix, it would dominate the stand of grass, since it was so much faster germinating, crowding out other turfgrass varieties.

An odd occurrence between my Penn State years and now, was the predominance of “Penn State Mix” becoming so widely available on the market in Pennsylvania. While Penn State does hold the rights to several varieties of grass seed, beginning with the word “Penn,” this seed mix was never licensed, or even endorsed by the university, to the best of my knowledge.

That belief was confirmed by a turf professor at Penn State:

“A lot of companies that sell turfgrass seed in Pennsylvania market something called ‘Penn State Mix.’ Penn State has absolutely nothing to do with these companies, the makeup of the mix, or the seed. These mixes can contain just about anything – sometimes you’ll find it’s a good mix, but sometimes it’s very poor quality.”

PETER LANDSCHOOT – Associate Professor of Turfgrass Science at Penn State

Yet while tying all these story threads together, it’s interesting to note that “Penn State Mix” seed labels I’ve studied over the years, contain primarily P. Rye or “Throw and Grow.”