Grass seed that doesn’t germinate is one of the most frustrating problems to run into. It’s happened to me and it is not a rare problem. Often, it’s not even something you have control over but there are steps you can take to ensure that this is not the case. Learn how to identify the cause of your slow or zero rate of germination and how to fix it.

 

Why is my Grass Seed not Germinating?

There are 7 primary reasons why grass seed isn’t germinating. Poor germination conditions are the root cause of all but two of these problems. Certain conditions are required to get grass seed to germinate properly. This is unless the seeds have been left to sit for too long or you have been sold poor seeds.


Grass Seed Not Germinating – The Main Causes

To answer the question fully, “Why is my grass seed not germinating?” you’ll need to consider the following 7 primary causes.

Temperature

For best germination, grass seeds should be kept at 65F. Warm-season varieties should not be allowed temperatures to drop below 65F during germination. Although germination will be slower for cold-season varieties, you can allow them to germinate at a lower temperature.

Water Level

Grass seeds should be kept damp throughout the entire process of germination. This can be done by watering your lawn multiple times per day, purchasing coated seed or coating the seed after purchase. Seeds that are allowed to dry out during germination may not germinate properly.

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Storage Length

Although grass seed can survive for many years in storage, it will lose around 30% of its germination rate after the second year. This is especially true if the temperatures in the storage facility are allowed to fluctuate. If seeds are stored for three or more years, they may not thrive even if they germinate in the best conditions.

Time

Cool-season grass varieties take about 7-10 days to germinate. On average, warm-season varieties take 2 to 3 week. Some grass types may take up to a month for germination and have a low success rate in germination. If you’re still wondering how long your particular grass type may take to germinate, you can read more about that in this article about seed germination times.

Light

For grass seeds to germinate, they need some light. This is why the ideal cover depth for grass seed is no cover to 1/8” of cover.

Insects

Insects can destroy or eat grass seeds. This is usually found in the grass seed bag when it is stored and is less likely than poor germination if there were no insects on the seed before it was planted.

 

Poor Seeds

If none of the above causes you to experience low or no growth, it could be that you were sold bad seeds. This isn’t uncommon and can be caused by several events during the life of these seeds. This is often not the fault of the seed manufacturer or the seed farm.

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Most seeds with poor germination are damaged from shipping or warehousing. Sometimes, shipments or warehouses may become too cold or hot to sustain the seeds. Or they may stay too hot or cold for too long. These types of incidents are rarely reported or recorded. There are usually systems in place to help you get compensation for these errors.

What to do when your Grass seed is not germinating

Just because grass seed isn’t germinating doesn’t mean it’s dead. There are many reasons your grass seed won’t germinate. Here are some steps you can take. If these steps fail, you can often recover some of your investment and start over with fresh seeds.

Prepare for an indoor test

I recommend that anyone planting grass seed should have at least 10% of the bag to fill in any empty spots once they start germinating. You can also use these seeds to perform a germination testing. This will help you eliminate the guesswork of determining whether the seeds are capable of germinating. This is why I do it often when I seed a lawn.


These steps are necessary to prepare a germination testing.

  • Wash your hands.
  • Make small plastic sandwich bags, small glass containers, or small plastic containers. Make sure that all bags or containers are clean and brand new. This test can be invalidated if there is too much bacteria.
  • Use a paper towel or napkin to dampen the towel.
  • Sprinkle 20 seeds on one-half the prepared paper towel, napkin, or napkin.
  • Fold the other half the napkin or paper towel over the seeds.
  • Place the seeds in the container.
  • Seal the container.
  • The container should be placed in an area that is at least 65F and receives some natural light. A great way to speed up germination is to place the container on top of a freestanding refrigerator. In most climates, a clean windowsill is a good choice.
  • Wait for the seeds to germinate for at least one week. The seeds will be good if they sprout. If there are no sprouts check that the paper towel/napkin is still damp. If the paper towel or napkin is too dry, it may not be sealed properly and you will need to re-try the test. You can add more water to make it slightly damper, but not as much, and wait another week. It is common for warm-season grasses to not germination before the second week.

Check the Temperature

What temperature has the temperature been in the last week below the ideal germinating temp? Did it ever stay below 45F longer than 48 hours? If it did, it could have fallen into hibernation and will require several days of warm weather to get it back up.

Temperature changes such as these should not cause any damage, provided the seeds aren’t damaged. If you are only seeding small areas, you can wait until the weather warms up before you plant the seeds. If this is the case, you can place a sheet of clear plastic over the area to increase the local temperature and speed up the germination process. Use a solid-colored sheet of tarp. Light is vital for grass seeds to germinate.

Reduced Cover

If the seeds are buried more than 1/8” you should work to uncover them so that they can get at least a faint amount of light.

 

Increase watering frequency

Misting your lawn or the area you’re trying to get the grass seeds to germinate at least 4 times a day for 1 to 2 minutes each session, in addition to a short morning watering session of 3 to 5 minutes is recommended. For the entire germination period, you want to keep the area moist. In hotter and sunnier conditions, you may need to add more water.

Wait

It can take several weeks for grass seed to germinate, especially warm-season grass seeds. Keep an eye on your calendar and make sure to follow the steps before you start reseeding.

Find and eliminate an infestation

You will not see sufficient germination rates if there were any insects or evidence of them in the grass seed packaging. To achieve good germination, you may need to use insecticides if your lawn is showing signs of insect activity. Make sure you only use seed- and sprout-safe products

Contact the manufacturer

Grass seed still not germinating? You should now contact the distributor or manufacturer for your grass seeds. You can find contact information online or on the seed packaging.

If the seeds prove difficult to germinate, the manufacturer may offer advice and compensation, provided that you still have proof. This should be your last resort. While I have found it reliable for replacing sub-par items, the replacement process can take a while and there is a small possibility you will not receive anything at all.

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