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Date Published: 
September, 1940
Original Author: 
Dr. Munn
Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY
Original Publication: 
1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers' Guide

I was invited to appear on your program for a few minutes to talk on the subject of seeds. I can best introduce myself to say I have been interested in this subject of seeds for some twenty years, being connected with the Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, a state institution, where we are continually handling from 18,000 to 20,000 samples of seeds. Many of those are grass seeds.

Now to utilize these few minutes to best advantage, may I attempt to tell you about some of those things which are of interest to all of you.

I understand that you come from many states. Therefore, the kind of seeds used for your planting would not be the same as they are per¬haps here in the northeast or certainly in this state.

Now, having landscaped your grounds and everything is all in prepa¬ration, the proper fertilizer, the proper drainage, the proper composition, the proper soil, then comes the question of seeds, and I think I under¬stand the thing you are interested in most is the question of quality and where you are going to get them, and what kind.

Now I think first of all we have to understand and appreciate the fact that there are many kinds of seeds used for this particular purpose, and they are not grasses. Occasionally borer is used, particularly the new strain of permanent or often called "wild white clover." Perhaps I should add a little here and say that wild white clover or this permanent or perennial type of white clover when used with Kentucky Blue Grass is one. of the finest combinations that can be used for a general purpose landscape planting, because of the fact that the Kentucky Blue Grass, which is at home in all of the central and northeast is complemented by this wild white clover, which furnishes the nitrogen for the grass, thus making more or less of a permanent rotation. Therefore, you go not have the necessity of continually adding fertilizer or applying fertilizer after this turf has reached its maximum production, and you can always tell when the grass becomes lush, and that is the time to stop fertilizing.

Now then we ought, to understand that there are various strains and types of these grasses now being developed. In fact, Kentucky Blue Grass is being torn apart, so to speak, and possibly a little later there will be strains of Kentucky Blue Grass which now appears on the market as a standard commercial commodity. The same is true of the fescues. There are different types of fescue and you ought to understand what type and strain you are getting before you plant it on permanent valuable property, because they have different colors and they have different characteristics of the plant. For instance, the finest, which is probably the chewing strain of fescue, is quite different from the cheaper hard red or sheep's fescue, which you would not want in a valuable planting.

Now the same is true of the bent grasses. They are perhaps not used very much for cemetery work because they have to be treated differently, - fertilized, mown, and taken care of in a different manner from the taller growing Kentucky Blue Grass.

Now perhaps Kentucky Blue Grass is used more widely than any other kind of grass because it has that typical fine, dark green which blends with shrubbery, monuments, and things of that sort, whereas, if you used a mixture of grasses and included a slate green or one of those slatish green colors, which is typical of the fescues, you are introducing a little different color of grass.

So I think with those things in mind I must hasten on to tell you those things which I think should be of interest to all of you as to quality. I am not going to tell you where to buy your grass seed because there are many good sources, and likewise there are some sources which it is best to keep away from, according to the neutral unbiased test.

Now there is no mystery about grass seed. It can be defined as to variety, purity, viability, freedom from weeds and all those things can, be described, and if they are not described to you by the source from whom you secure the seed, then I would suggest you go where they will be described. In other words, go elsewhere. Those characteristics which are important can be described to you very carefully and very minutely so that you will know exactly what you have before you put it into the ground.

I would like to take the last few minutes to point out here something which will aid you in getting these various kinds of seed, regardless of what state you are in and have uniform typical descriptions.

The new Federal Seed Act, which controls the shipment of seed over state lines went into effect last February the 9th, so any shipment of seed made to you over a line should bear a tag bearing practically all this information. If it is shipped over a state line and does not bear this information, then it is an illegal shipment, if shipped to you as seed.

Now then, this tag or label or whatever happens to be on the bag of seed which comes over a state line - keep in mind state laws are a little different, although many of them follow the Uniform Seed Bill. The state laws are a little different and may not require all this information. Nevertheless, I wouldn't buy any kind of seed from anyone unless it is more or less fully described so you will know exactly what you are getting.

Now the kind of seed is given, for instance, Kentucky Blue Grass, and if there is, a variety of which there is not at the present time, if this were fescue, it would say "fescue", "red fescue" or "chewing fescue” or whatever kind you are getting.

Then we come to the next important point. That is purity and that should be given in percentage. I should point out first under the Federal Seed Act this tag will bear a code number so that you or an inspector or anyone interested can get that code off that bag and go through the history and record and find out where it came from, and if those facts are truthful. That is for the public protection.

In hurrying on here, it always tells you the percentage of other crop see present. For instance, in some stocks of Kentucky Blue Grass, although you don’t use them much for your particular purpose, there may be field contaminations of some other grasses and they are listed here under crop seed present.

Then the most important thing for a permanent planting is to look out for weed seeds. There are some kinds which are not important and there are other kinds which are important. If you are using a mixture, and in that mixture there is red top and it carries carroways a very com¬mon impurity to red top, you are going to have carroway in your planting and it is going to be almost permanent, because it is a deep-rooting weed, like many other kinds of weeds, so you want to know what weeds you are getting as well as what percentage. Now there may be a low percentage in terms of 0.20. It may look like a small amount, but that 0.20 may be introducing the kind of weeds which you did not want in a permanent planting.

Then the inert matter that consists usually of chaff and leafage or those things which cannot be cleaned from the shed and it also may contain things which are put in there to give it bulk or weight. Of course, that isn’t as common as it used to be because the purity will show that factor.

Now in many states there are certain weeds which are considered as obnoxious. It has to be stated. In many states buckhorn planting which is a bad weed for a permanent lawn or cemetery planting - the name and number per pound must be given on this tag. That is a thing for you to look out for. If you are in a state where buckhorn planting or any of these plantings are not obnoxious weeds, you can find out by consulting your state seed laboratory and many of the states have one which contains these particular weeds in which you are interested.

The next question of importance is that of germination, what the seed will do for you after you get it. That, too, is stated on these tags or labels and there again we have to remember that these very high-bred and well-bred grass seed types vary in their percentage so if you are buying Kentucky Blue Grass you can't always expect 90 percent germina¬tion or better, because it may be the best stocks of Kentucky Blue Grass for that year are maybe around 80 percent or 75 percent, so we have to keep those facts in mind.

The date tested - that tells you how recent the tests were made upon which this information was given.

Under the Federal Act the shipper or person to whom it is shipped - his name and address must appear on this tag or label. As I say, this has to be done under the Federal Act where shipments are made from a grower or a source to you over a state line. This information is not required when you buy seed from a source within your state, but then that state seed law operates and if it does not give this information which you ought to know land should know, then you will have to insist that it be given by the dealer or the source from whom you get the seed. As I say, if it is not given, I would be tempted to go elsewhere, so that you will know exactly what you secure or what you are going to plant before you put it in the ground, because then it is too late to take it back.

I think I have used my time, Mr. Chairman, and if there happens to be any questions I would be glad to answer them. I have seen some of these fine plantings on golf courses and lawns and cemeteries and I should say you ought to be very careful of the quality of seed you are putting on these expensive plantings.

From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940