Grass Seed Caution

slavetograssSeptember 19, 2011

A year ago I took on a major lawn renovation project where I tilled the soil, adding new top soil, soil amendments, lime, and fertilizer. Since we seem to be prone to hot, dry summers lately in my area, I selected Rebels Fescue seed made by Pennington which is advertised to be drought resistant and to develop 40% more root growth. A year later all my work was wasted and my Pennington, Rebels grass is all dead. I phoned Pennington to explain my experience and see if they would stand behind their product. Pennington stated that they will only honor claims if within 60 days of purchase with all packaging and proof of purchase. I wanted to share my poor experience with Pennington seed and warn others of the company, and their policies, behind the seed.

I spent this past weekend doing a re-reno on my lawn... more hard work... this time with Scotts seed. Only time will tell if I shall see a better result this time around.

Be careful with Pennington seed products... not sure they care much about you, the consumer.

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I hate to break it to you, it's not the seed, it's the person taking care of the grass. If the seeds sprouted and looked good for a while, then it wasn't the seed. (The Rebels is one of the better big box TF blends you can get). Grass needs only a few things: good soil, nutrients, sun, and water. I suspect one or more of these requirements were lacking, most likely water. Also disease can wipe out a stand of grass in a short period of time.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:53PM
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Thanks for the input tiemco, but the seed never came in that well... very poor germination rate. All proper care was provided. I hate to break it back to you, but the Rebels seed seems to be an issue. Please read the reviews on Rebels on any search you care to do. The problems seems to be much greater than this user error. I and many other consumers seem to disagree that 'Rebels is one of the better big box TF blends you can get'. The data and results tell the story. Just trying to keep others from the wasted effort and financial loss of using Pennington Rebels... a very costly mistake by me.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:26PM
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The seed producers test the germination of the seeds they sell. That germination was printed on your bag of seed, and I'm betting it was around 85%. Your low germination rate could be due to several factors , but again the seed is tested prior to shipment, so it probably wasn't the seed unless it was stored improperly. Just because you read a few negative reviews regarding the Rebels mix means nothing. The fact is most people that try to grow grass have very little knowledge about growing grass in general, and when they fail, they usually blame the seed. Tall fescue is one of the easier grasses to grow, but unfortunately it is prone to brown patch in the summer, which can wipe out a yard in short order. Most of the cultivars you see in the big box stores are mediocre at best. They were usually brought to market a decade ago (or more) and newer better performers have been introduced. Again, the Rebels are generally good performers, better than Vigoro's, or Scott's (although some Scott's blends contain Faith, a very good cultivar), but with Scott's you are usually overpaying because of the Watersmart coating. If you were really serious about your lawn you would have avoided the big box stores altogether.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:36PM
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Do you work for Scotts or something?

Sorry I don't think it was the seed. And how can u expect a seed company to "make good" a year later? Sound like you dried out the seedlings and it all died.

Like tiemco said, you probably won't find a better TTTF seed in a box store.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:05PM
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Can you take us through the process you followed? You told us what you did before seeding, but not what you did after seeding.

Where in PA are you? PA is a not a small state and the climate and soil varies considerably depending on where you are.

When did you put the seed down last year? After purring it down, did you use a roller on the lawn? How often did you water? For how long each time? How long did you water that often? When you cut back, how often and for how long each time did you water?

What kind of winter did you have? How long after you seeded did you get your first hard frost? How much snow did you get and how long was the lawn covered with snow?

What did you do in the spring? Did you water at all this summer? How much rain did you get?

Now that I've asked a bunch of questions, I'm going to make some general comments about TTTF and drought tolerance. TTTF is often touted for its drought tolerance, but in some ways and under some conditions, it is less drought tolerant than KBG.

If the soil is such that it can develop deep enough roots, it will generally require about 3/4 as much water as KBG to stay green. If it can't develop deep roots, it can actually require more water to stay green than KBG. It sounds like you dealt with the soil portion, so it should have been able to develop the deep roots.

If TTTF can develop deep roots, it will generally stay green longer without water than KBG will. Both TTTF and KBG will go dormant after enough time without water. But TTTF has a shorter window between going dormant and going dead than KBG. And once dormancy breaks, if there are areas that died, KBG will spread through specialized roots called rhizomes to fill those spots in, but TTTF is a bunch grass and spreads very slowly through a process called tillering, where it sends up a new plant right next to the existing plant. So if the lawn is without water long enough, you'll get bare spots, but KBG will fill those spots in, while TTTF will leave them bare.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 12:17AM
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jdo053103(7b - NC)

IT'S THE SEEDS FAULT!!!! - i love it.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Hey Slavetograss, I have grown a lot of grass, in a lot of places. You stumbled on something I learned a long time ago. The Pennington, Rebels seed is bad stuff. I have had very similar results as you describe. Thanks for getting the work out... it is about time folks learn about Rebels seed and Pennington. Better luck this time around!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Hi, GrassGuy1. I can understand that you're frustrated that people are ridiculing you for complaining about the seed, but if you read all of the posts, you'll see that I was actually trying to be helpful

I posted a bunch of questions for you when you were still using your original user name. If you can answer those, we might be able to help you succeed when you next reseed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read this for more information

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:04PM
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Some of you old time Wrestling fans might understand this, but is Slavetograss and GrassGuy1 kind of like Johnny Weaver and Mr. Wrestling #1. There the same person.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:48PM
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jdo053103(7b - NC)

how pathetic. i know a sod farm in the raleigh area that sods with pennington.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:15PM
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jdo053103(7b - NC)

what i mean is if they use it for sod, how bad can it be. i have heard good things about pennington and i have used rebels in the past with good results. any seed will do well if properly cared for.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:05PM
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The OP talked about Pennington. But later posters liked or disliked Rebel. But talked about it as though it's what the OP used. Is The Rebels brand made by Pennington? Thanks.

I'm doing a shade lawn in maryland pedimont area. Trying to decide what seed will be best. Pennington dense shade or The Rebels shade mix.

Based on a prior experience I want to avoid Scott.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:03PM
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The Rebels blend is sold by Pennington. How shady is the area you want to seed (how many hours of full sun does the area receive on a cloudless day when the trees are all leafed out)?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:48PM
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I'm about to buy some seed to overseed my lawn in NE Florida. I am going to use Bermuda and the current lawn is St. Augustine (damaged by pests and drought). Pennington was going to be my choice - it is available at Lowe's (qualifies as big box store?). Anyway, I was afraid of this years ago - spending time worrying about the details of my lawn when there is so much more happening - stop it!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:04PM
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I am really more of a cool season grass guy, but here's what I do know about Bermuda. The best Bermuda comes from sodded varieties, not seed. Tif419 is ubiquitous, and the best performer. If you are going to go seeded most people in the know recommend a mix of Yukon and Riviera. The stuff you find at big box stores is usually common Bermuda and of mediocre to low quality. Hopefully the poster Texasweed will be along shortly to help you out, as he was a Bermuda sod farmer and knows more about Bermuda than everyone on here.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:25PM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

maduce, go to to read up on the various Bermuda seeded varieties.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 5:01PM
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I've had better luck with Pennington then Scott with grass seed. But I'm going with Outside Pride next time.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Re: Outside Pride seed. Having just reseeded with their Midnight KBG and OSP perrenial rye, I can tell you that their seed descriptions on the website are very true when detailing color and texture. When they say "dark green" it really is dark green, fine blade etc. I made a bit of an error in choosing what I did because my existing lawn isn't as dark as the new seed I planted, but that's certainly not the seed's fault. Wish my existing lawn was as pretty as the patches!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 11:56PM
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I've tried Scotts and Pennington KBG and TTTF mixes. I buy whatever is on sale. Both companies have produced good results. One time I bought Scotts "Heat Tolerant Blue" (which is actually mostly TTTF) and it was rather expensive since it had the water smart coating. I wouldn't recommend the water smart coatings for either Scotts or Pennington especially if you have an irrigation system. You get less grass seed by weight with the water smart coatings on your seed. Waste of money in my opinion. This year I would like to get a good NTEP rated cultivar for a KBG overseed. Something not from HD or Lowes maybe online retailer or a local nursery.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 2:51PM
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Sorry to bring this back from the dead. But I am someone who actually worked with the research trials on multiple different TTTF and the 5 best are not avaiable to home owners and rounding out the bottom were K31, pennington smart seed and the rebels. So hearing the seed is bad does not surprise me the overal quality of the plots was mediocre and brownpatch was an issue. So for someone who doesn't know what they are doing (slavetograss) this is not easy.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:27PM
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I used Rebel's Tall Fescue seed on my (once) beautiful lawn only to have nothing but weeds grow throughout. With EVERY seed, there is now a weed!!

It was the sorriest mistake I ever made with my lawn care that I work sooooo diligently on!

I have since put a turf builder down (Scotts) in hopes of stagnating the weed growth but are there any other suggestions to rid me of these completely??

Any help/advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Sound like user error. Have to agree with Tiemco.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 9:19PM
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"Sorry to bring this back from the dead. But I am someone who actually worked with the research trials on multiple different TTTF and the 5 best are not avaiable to home owners and rounding out the bottom were K31, pennington smart seed and the rebels. So hearing the seed is bad does not surprise me the overal quality of the plots was mediocre and brownpatch was an issue. So for someone who doesn't know what they are doing (slavetograss) this is not easy."

So where can I see the trial results?
Who is on the top of the list?
I live outside Portland Oregon and just used Pennington Sun and Shade mix and it looks tons better than the old grass we have in the yard. It seemed to germinate ok. It is way greener than whatever old grass is in the yard right now. It is so much greener that we are thinking about tearing up the rest of the grass eventually. But don't want to commit to removing grass from half an acre for a seed that has problems. We just put this seed in this late spring so don't have a long track record with it so far.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 4:27PM
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@deanne - To begin, big differences in climate between PDX and PA. I live outside of PDX as well. Keep in mind that Pennington grows a huge amount of seed grass here in Oregon and is well respected from both community giveback and quality perspectives. I'm a bit biased in the sense I did my Horticultural Sciences internship with them my senior year at OSU. The point most were trying to make was that there was clearly user error, not issues with the seed. "Smart" seed in general is a waste of money simply because you pay for coating and get very little product comparatively. Don't worry about it if it's working for you. Biggest part is the maintenance, as it seems you're well aware of. In the meantime, check out the NTEP results for grasses that perform best in our region.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 9:17PM
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Reading all the reports on the Pennington Rebels grass seed, I need to clarify my expierence with this over priced over hyped seed. I am an assistant ground keeper at a top tier golf course in the Mid-West. I have a degree in ergonomics and know what I am about to share with you all. The seed is not a complete blend as stated on the bag, I have had it tested and have found it to be neither drought resistant nor as someone said an 85% germination growth. I live in a very volatile climate that either has too much rain or not enough. What people need to understand is that when using any type of seed, follow the instructions, but also use some helpful articles on grass growth in your area and what types that are best suited to your climate. With that being said, I sliced my front yard, aerated it and put down a mix of medium nitrogen and clean top soil mix before putting any seed down seeding, approx 10 days. I did not roll the soil as not to choke off the oxygen that the yard desperately needed. I bought 2 50 llb bags of the seed and semi overseeded and then came back 7 days later and seeded again . At that time I hand raked the entire lawn as to make sure all the seed was well distributed and covered. As luck would have it, I got rain for the next 3 days off and on and keep the soil at a wet but not muddy surface. After a few days of sun I started to see massive growth and got another .25 inch of rain. The next 5 days were warm ( 75-80) so I watered for 2 hours every 10 hours for the next 3 days then stopped for 1 full day. It looked great and I thought I had done what was necessary for a full lawn to hold up to the heat that was expected. As soon as the temps got to around 85-90 degrees, i started seeing broadleaf weed growing and went and hand picked it out of the beautiful lawn I had.
To make a long story short, the seed has turned a dingy brown and lost it's root base. I don't recommend Pennington seed of any kind, even the patch filler is a rip off, it does work, but only for maybe about 6 weeks and then it does the same thing.
I have have documented the progress and ph level of the soil and have time lapsed photos of the yard but they will not stand behind their product, even though they say in plain english, 100% money back guarantee.
I am lucky, we are moving a hole on the course and I am in the process of slicing very strong zoysia right now and thats what is going down. Pennington is no better that the cheapest seed you can buy.
I am done, don't waste your money folks, contact a locl company and ask them what mix the use for your area and either have them do it or try to do it your self. Just so you all know, it is July 20th and the average temperature so far in the St. Louis area this year is 88.6 degrees, perfect growing conditions, bad seed. 1 other thing, check your local water company and ask what % of floride is in the water, it does make a difference.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:40AM
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Gigmac25, your post is intriguing, but unfortunately you are either a bad lier, or a poor assistant greens keeper. First off, your degree should be in agronomics, not ergonomics. I suppose this could be a typo or an incorrect autocomplete, but it raises a red flag immediately. Next you say you have had the seed tested for drought tolerance. This makes no sense as a grass' drought tolerance is something that can only be determined on mature grass, no the seed or the seedlings. I don't quite know what you mean that it's not a complete blend, you'll have to explain that one. Another issue I have with your story is that you chose to purchase this seed at a retail store when you work at a golf course! I'm sure you have access to the best seed available, and being an assistant greens keeper with a degree in agronomics, you should know that there are newer, much better cultivars available. One also wonders why you seeded twice. Is this some golf course secret? From your weather descriptions, it sounds like you seeded in late spring, or maybe early summer. Someone with an agronomics degree should know this is the worst time for seeding a cool season grass. Do you have an idea why your grass turned brown or do you just attribute that to the seed being bad? Well if you don't know it is probably due to fungal disease, lack of water, it being too hot for the seedlings, or a combination of all three. This can be avoided by seeding at the correct time. I can assure you that July in St. Louis is the worst time of the year for cool season grass, especially newly seeded tall fescue. Regarding fluoride levels in water, if you are talking about what the water company adds for tooth health, it has no effect. If it's well water, then a high level could be an issue, but most well water is tested for that and adjusted if it's too high. Regarding Rebels, while it is certainly not the best tall fescue you can get, it's also not the worst. I wouldn't use it as I know there are many better tall fescue cultivars available outside of the big box stores.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:04PM
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First of all, I just this minute joined this forum, and am amazed at the amount of nastiness I saw in responses on this topic. "It's your fault!" etc. I had thought that people who were into growing grass would be more civil towards each other. Sad to see this is not so.

Anyway, I joined this forum because I, too, bought Pennington's seed, and am just curious as to when I should be seeing new growth. It has been ten days and not a single sprout yet. Area of new seeding is automatically watered, and there are no area of real concern re: mud or mushiness etc. So, when should I have been seeing growth? The last time I seeded I used Scott's Bermuda grass that was recommended for the region, and started to see aggressive growth with days. Not so this time. Any ideas? Is it a problem? Or am I too impatient?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 1:43PM
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I planted rebels fescue about a month ago and it took about 14 days before I saw anything, and I'm still seeing new germination here and there.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 10:46PM
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This is in regards to the Pennington Guarantee. It is bogus in my opinion. I have used Scotts in the past and have had good to excellent results. The cost of seed is expensive and when I saw the Pennington Guarantee, I was intrigued. If they say it will grow, and it doesn't; why wouldn't you try it?
Well here is where it gets interesting. After 45 days of planting the seed I got next to zero results. Pennington tells you to send them the UPC of the bag and the original sales slip within 60 days. I did that. They also informed me that they would look into the matter and "IF THEY" determined the seed was at fault, they would return my money. That's not much of a Guarantee.
I was told it probably was because it was not stored correctly at the Store - Not my problem, I can't be expected to see how products go through the supply chain.
Needless to say they have refused my refund. They told me I should go back to where I purchased it and ask for a refund.
Well a couple of problems there. The bag is gone (I cut out the UPC from the bag and they won't give me back the original sales receipt)
This is not a product I would recommend. These people have a bogus product and they don't stand behind their product like they say they do.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 11:54PM
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