WBUR

Local Man Invents New Uber Grass

WAYLAND, Mass. — The first thing you notice about Jackson Madnick’s house in Wayland is that there’s no lawn. He lives by a pond, so for eight years he experimented with grass seed by growing batches of it on his patio.

“We had thousands and thousands of little cups with numbers on it and I kept a log book,” said Madnick. And he examined the seed in relative secrecy.

People would come by and ask about the little cups of dirt on his patio. Madnick said he would just tell them it was “for a little experiment.”

“I didn’t know whether it would ever turn into something as useful a breakthrough as it is,” Madnick said.

Jackson Madnick, the investor of Pearls Premium grass seed, lies down on lawn seeded with his ultra low maintainence grass. (Photo by Monica Brady-Myerov)

Jackson Madnick, the inventor of Pearls Premium grass seed, lays down on lawn seeded with his ultra low maintainence grass. (Photo by Monica Brady-Myerov)

Madnick’s breakthrough is called Pearl’s Premium Low Maintenance Lawn Seed. Once it’s established, it doesn’t need watering or fertilizing. The grass also stays greener in the winter and it grows slowly, so it needs less mowing.

“It’s very, very lush. And if you feel it, it’s deliciously soft,”  Madnick said, lying on a Weston lawn grown from his seeds.

Pearl’s Premium Low Maintenance Lawn Seed is a mixture, not a hybrid, of seven different seeds that have roots up to 12 inches deep — six times the norm, which allows it to access moisture deep in the soil.

“Many people call it ‘miracle grass,’ ‘the holy grail of grass.’ It’s not that,” Madnick said. “It’s just a very slow-growing native grass. It grows in many places that other grasses won’t, like (in) low light and poor soil.”

Madnick is an electrical and mechanical engineer who has invented and designed things his whole life. But this science experiment could make him a millionaire.

Landscaping is a $38 billion industry. The patent is pending on his seed mix but it’s already being sold at Whole Foods and online at The Home Depot. Some cities and towns are interested because it might save them a lot of money.

“If this grass seed does what it claims, this has huge implications on cost savings for the city,”  said Maria Rose, Newton’s environmental engineer.

Newton manages hundreds and hundreds of acres of publicly owned land and is testing Madnick’s seed in Newton Corner.

“This is a Pearl’s Premium planted last year and you’ll see it’s a very deep, rich green — very thick,” Madnick said, grabbing a tuft.

“What matters to me is knowing that I’m dong something to preserve the health and children and animals in our world.”
– Jackson Madnick

Newton is also interested because it could mean a significant reduction in the use of fertilizer on public lands. Research shows lawn fertilizer can increase health risks to children and pets. And a federal law will soon require more than 30 communities in the Charles River watershed to cut down on phosphorous runoff by more than 60%.

Rose says that while there are other organic grasses, Madnick’s is the only one she’s come across that doesn’t need fertilizing.

“Trying something like this before we start asking residents to do it was our way of saying if this works for the city there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for homeowners and contractors alike,” Rose said.

For the town of Littleton, the seed’s potential to reduce outdoor water use is attractive.

Savas Danos runs the town’s Water Department and says the town uses a lot of water.

“We have a lot of homes with lawns”, Danos said. “We typically would have a high per capita consumption in the summer time and a lot of that is for keeping your lawn green.”

That’s why Littleton has decided to sell Pearl’s Premium at cost to residents. It typically costs 20% more than regular grass seed. But it’s not really the money that motivates Madnick, the inventor.

“What matters to me is knowing that I’m dong something to preserve the health and children and animals in our world,” Madnick said.

Madnick named the grass seed after his mother, Pearl, who used to care for stray animals and who taught him to care for the environment.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • Wendy Langlois Williams

    I jumped out of bed and am ON MY WAY to buy Pearl’s Premium!!  I’ll let you know! 

  • http://www.ayardandahalf.com Carolyn Edsell-Vetter

    I was tickled to hear this story on a day when we were reviewing lawn installation with our crews!  Having designed, installed and maintained many organic and sustainable landscapes using this and other products, I’d say that like many other high quality, weed-free grass seed mixes, Pearl’s can be  sustainable choice for the appropriate application and with good soil preparation and maintenance. 

    However, a lawn’s success depends on proper seed selection for the conditions.  Fescue blends like Pearl’s will perform better than the standard bluegrass in light shade, and as advertised, will require less inputs of water and nitrogen.  The tradeoff is that fescues grow in clumps rather than spreading, and so are less tolerant of wear from regular foot traffic. Many of us want lawn area for kids and pets to play on, so in those conditions, fescue requires regular overseeding to create a dense turf.

    Any well-maintained turf, organic or conventional, will require some upfront cost for good soil preparation, as well as ongoing inputs of maintenance and materials.  Consumers concerned about sustainability, whether environmental or
    economic, should limit lawn areas to the size necessary for play and
    enjoyment, rather than using turf as the default landscape element for its relatively low up-front cost.  

  • redhead02139

     In the picture caption, “lays” is incorrect and should be replaced with “lies”.

  • Keosha Johnson

    Thanks redhead02139, we have edited the photo caption. 

    • VIsForVitality

       When does the editing take effect? I’ve refreshed this page and still see this error in the caption. Like redhead, I look to WBUR/NPR to provide accurate content that’s grammatically correct and a step above other news sources. When it’s not, the content (and WBUR) looks unprofessional.

  • Spiers

     In my humble opinion and experience, Jackson Madnick is a terrific salesperson first and foremost. I wish WBUR had spoken to an independent source regarding this “miracle product.” 

  • Jack

     There are over 8,000 of these lawns all over North America and many side by side comparison with other grasses. And the vast majority of people, unless they do not water it to get established, or have soil problems, all confirm the benefits of this grass. Of course this is not a miracle. The company does not call it a miracle grass, just some of the customers throw terms like that around. People who want a lower maintenance grass they cut once a month or a healthier grass for children and animals say that kind of thing. From what I understand, WBUR did interview a number of independent sources and communities using it regarding this grass. Many third party expert evaluators have grown the grass. Why not cut your grass less often and help save our precious water resources with a deeper root drought tolerant grass?  We should be preserving our precious water resources and our world with drought tolerant types of grasses like this. Because it needs less nuitrients, it can get by with minimal organic fertilizer, rather than chemical fertilizer with pesticides. This grass may not be right for everyone, but many who want a more sustainable solution like it. Life is short and we have a very finite world, so we need to do what we can to protect our waters. The EPA claims a significant amount of clean drinking water used on lawns. The EPA also is concerned with standard awn care run off and how that effects our lakes, ponds and drinking waters.Dr. Alex Lu, toxicology expert with the Harvard School of Public health is concerned about using less chemicals in our environment, likes this grass.  Many other health experts, builders, architects, dog lovers and landscape designers like and use this grass as well. 

    • avid gardener

      One positive thing about lawn grass is that it can tolerate some foot traffic.  How does Pearl’s grass hold up to being walked on?

      • http://twitter.com/PearlsPremium Pearl’s Premium

        Hi avid gardener!@2f2a9f57058d1f4d4508ef73e303da60:disqus  Pearl’s will do very well with normal lawn traffic, kids, pets, etc.  Please note that for at least the first 30 days, you should try and minimize all traffic on the lawn to allow the seed to germinate properly.  Thanks for commenting!  -Jenifer (Pearl’s Premium, http://www.pearlspremium.com)

  • xray

    The new grass must be an offshoot of my weeds. They grow without watering, fertilizer, resists elimination by mechanical and chemical means, and needs no mowing.
     

  • John

     Pearl’s Premium is a great grass, it is composed of many great grasses, that have proven track records. It is however not the be all and end all of low maintenance lawns. There are many other grass mixes out there that have been around for a while that are as equally as good, but perhaps not promoted as strongly. I would submit Prairie Nurseries ‘Eco-Lawn’, Tom Cook of Oregon State University’s ‘Ecolawn’, North Country Organic’s ‘Eco Blend’, and many of the Jonathan Green grass seed mixes. Low maintenance lawns  start with good soil preparation, Proper watering techniques to establish the grass, proper mowing heights and making sure that the mower is sharp, and matching the pH with the grass seed you have chosen. If you do not want to mow as much, then leave the clippings and use a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen, this will work if you use any of the above mentioned seed varieties, some commercially available seed mixes tend to be heavier feeders.
    Pearl’s is a great seed, but it is not the first, there have been others out there, but Pearl’s seems to be the heaviest hitter in the advertisement league, and for that hats off. Anything to get people to take better care of their environment.

    • Johnh254

      Been 5 days with no response from the company, just wondering what they are thinking. Pound for pound, I bet the North Country could take them! I was wondering if the Pearl’s gut ever tested against the Eco-Blend?

  • Jack

    Pearl’s was tested by a science teacher in Connecticut against 3 other grasses in 4 quadrants of his lawn. Two years later he over seeded his whole lawn with Pearls to even it out with what he considered the best of the four.

  • Metaltec

    Can it be used on a baseball field?

  • Jackson madnick

    No it can not be used on a playing field or wet land or cut very short. It needs to be cut only once a month to a minimum height of 3 inches tall in spring and summer and can be cut back to 2 inches for fall and not cut in the winter of course.  It is a very good grass when cut tall for use on most of our countries grass areas. Many people have grown it side by side with other grasses and found it lower maintenance. The only people who say it is not better are people who are just conjecturing and have not tried it for themselves or work for one of the other grass seed companies.  Just ask who they work for or do they have personal experience with it, before you take there advice or comment. It is not miracle grass, just very good ultra low maintenance grass to save water, time and money…if that interests you. We need to do what we can to conserve water and protect children, animals and our earth

    With this record heat fring lawns if is a good time to do over your lawn to something more drought tolerent. 

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