Sow There!: Choosing the right lawn seed for Chico, 12/08/17

Bermuda grass --- evil and invasive, yet still sold at a reputable seed store near you.
Bermuda grass — evil and invasive, yet still sold at a reputable seed store near you.Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, courtesy of University of California Integrated Pest Management

Not too long ago, I wrote a silly, yet heartfelt column about planting grass seed simply to watch it grow. I waxed about the sweet color of new grass — hopeful sprouts stretching toward the sun.

After the recent drought, many of us learned that grass comes and goes and that Bermuda grass is here to stay. Yet, I plant more seed most years because tender, new grass is the next best thing to peeking through the windows in the maternity ward.

In that column, I specifically mentioned Chico blend seed. When I first starting buying this mix, I had not yet started lying about my age.

Why had I made a commitment to this seed and only this seed? I wondered what was in it that makes the seed blend deserve to be sold under the name of my hometown.

I called John Growdon, at Northern Star Mills. The seed is sold in a metal bin with a silver scoop, both which may be older than both John or me.

Chico blend is certainly time-tested, John attested. He’s been at Northern Star Mills for 36 years. The grass seed was in stock before his boots first made an echo in the hulking historic building. A few seeds in the mix have changed, but the basic formula is the same, he said while the cash register clattered in the background.

The mix: Ryegrass, bluegrass and fine-bladed fescue.

This combination grows well in this area, takes wear-and-tear and is pretty. By pretty, that’s where the “fine bladed” fescue comes in. People who want “pretty” tend to like the “softer texture” of the thin-bladed grass, John said.

“It isn’t the most drought-tolerant,” of the special mixes at the store, he said, intending to say more.

“Um. What?” I gulped.

I’ve made mistakes in the past. However, I think this is one of the few mistakes I’ve made over and over again for decades.

If I wanted a soft-textured “pretty” grass, I would make sure I watered my lawn in the summer. I do not know if I am factually correct, but I am going to pretend that my lawn looks terrible because I have been planting the wrong seed.

John took the time to talk about other types of lawn seed available at Northern Star Mills. I’m guessing that’s one of the reasons he has such a faithful clientele; He takes the time to be informative — if people bother to ask questions.

He mentioned Bermuda grass as the most drought tolerant of the seed he carries.

I was quick, but good-humored, with criticism for choosing to stock the noxious seed in the same building where I shop. He agreed but said his customers still buy Bermuda grass for pastures.

Perhaps the Rising Moon blend was next for me, he suggested quickly, changing the subject.

I certainly like the name.

Rising Moon.

It sounds like a record label or a fancy perfume.

Even though the name is not nearly as prestigious as “Chico Blend,” I knew his advice was something I needed to hear.

If Rising Moon would tolerate my neglectful summer watering habits, I should consider it as an alternative to my nearly-dead side yard. The key seed in the mix is a dwarf turf, tall fescue, he explained.

I’m sold.

I’ll be yanking more Bermuda grass this winter. The soil is moist. I’ll have more time when I get done with classes for this semester in the teaching credential program. When I see a bare spot in the future, I’ll head down to Northern Star Mills and share more of my opinions about Bermuda grass with John.


I’ll be glad to have the break from classes, but I’m realizing that teaching is a difficult job in more ways than I would have imagined. After the end of this month, I’ll have to say goodbye to more than two dozen third graders who I loved from day one. Next semester I’ll student teach at a different school in a different grade level.

We’ve gotten to know each other. I’ve helped them learn — little by little, or by little leaps. Now it’s time for goodbye? It feels like going to summer camp, bonding over marshmallows, and waving from the back of a station wagon.

I also don’t know what I will do without my mentor teacher, Diane Clark, who has provided me more wisdom than I have yet to be able to digest. I hope she knows I have so much more I want to ask. I plan to pester her for advice until she puts a block on her phone.

Follow garden enthusiast Heather Hacking on Twitter. For email:, and snail mail, P.O. Box 5166, Chico CA 95927.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.