Seeding a lawn in fall but miscounting the days until the first frost. Seeding a lawn in spring but realizing that it’s a false spring. Getting tired of picking the weeds off of a warm-season lawn while the seeds you planted are “taking a break”- these are all situations in which I have wanted to speed up grass seed germination. Maybe you’re in a similar boat. No matter what your reason is, below you can learn if and how grass seed germination can be sped up.
Can Grass Seed Germination Be Accelerated?
Yes, there are a few things you can do while you are preparing to seed a new area that may speed up germination and early growth. However, once you have planted those seeds, there is very little you can do to speed up germination, especially if you’ve already been waiting for the process to start for a week or more. If you disturb an area that has had grass seed in it for a week or more, you risk further delaying the germination process.
Normal Grass Seed Germination Times-frames
For a cool-season lawn, you should be looking at about a week between planting and germination, on average. For a warm-season lawn, you may be looking at 2 to 3 weeks. But there are a number of factors that could affect how long it takes grass seed to germinate in your specific case.
How to Speed Up Grass Seed Germination – 7 Things to Try
Grass seed germination is easy to speed up in only one scenario: your seeds are too dry. In every other scenario, you may not get the exact results you want or have been expecting.
Here are a few things to try.
Water Frequently and Lightly for Quicker Germination
The only proven way to hurry along the germination of already-planted grass seed is to water or “mist” your lawn as many as 8 times a day for only about a minute a session, longer for hotter weather. Make sure this doesn’t saturate your yard. The water should almost completely evaporate between watering sessions. Do not water your lawn at night or in periods of complete darkness as this may increase the risk of your lawn developing a disease or your seeds becoming moldy.
Add a Coating or Buy Coated Seed for Quicker Germination
If your grass seeds have not been coated for moisture retention and you haven’t planted them yet, you can purchase a coating. Coating seeds yourself is a relatively easy process. For small lawns, all you may need to do is pour the coating and all but 10% or so (reserved for filling in later) of your seed in a large bucket, then mix the two until the seeds have taken on the color of the coating.
Gloves and other protective gear may be required. Always follow the directions of the seed-coating manufacturer. Larger lawns may require that you coat your seeds in several separate batches to achieve even results.
You’ll likely be surprised by what a difference using coated grass seed vs uncoated can make.
Make Sure Your Soil is Prepared for Faster Germination of Grass Seed
Loosening the top two inches and dampening the soil is key for successful soil preparation before you seed any area. Skipping this step may delay germination.
Plant Your Grass Seed When the Temperature is Right
Temperature is a key factor when it comes to successful grass seed germination. Make sure temperatures are within the ideal range for germination of your specific grass seed type. Cool-season grasses will have a much lower required temperature than warm-season grasses.
Plant Seeds After First Frost for Faster Spring Germination
If you have the time, one of my preferred methods of grass seed germination involves prepping an area and then waiting to plant the grass seed until after the first hard frost of winter. This means the seeds will stay dormant and go through a more “natural” winter before germinating in the spring. It feels like this leads to better, more even results and a faster fill-in rate compared to seeds that are planted once everything else has already begun to green up.
Don’t Bury Your Grass Seed
One of the most common lawn-seeding mistakes is burying grass seed. Like many other seed types, grass seeds need a lot of light to germinate. If they get covered up too much, they may not germinate at all. Too much cover is also often responsible for seeds that do germinate running out of steam before they can reach adequate sunlight. Stick to light cover, if necessary, but no more than 1/4” in all cases. Light cover of 1/8” or less is ideal.
Leave Your Grass Seed Undisturbed
While it may seem obvious, grass seed that is walked on, or around which the earth is moved frequently after planting is less likely to germinate. While you may already know to avoid walking on your newly-seeded lawn, you should do what you can to discourage neighbors, pets, and wild animals from walking on the area as well. If your grass seed seems to be coming up in a patchy way that has no other explanation and you can clearly see that the area contains grass seed, you may have a problem with wild animals walking on your lawn at night.
Grass Seed Germination Isn’t Something You Can Rush
If you have done all of the prep work that you should have, grass seeds will germinate in the shortest amount of time, every time. There is no way to further speed up this process, as long as you’re already working with ideal conditions.
If conditions are not ideal and you have already planted your grass seed, the best thing to do is to mimic ideal growing conditions for your grass type. Often, this means making sure your soil stays damp but not too wet and gently removing any excess cover, if possible.
The weather can be unpredictable. Not all that long ago I attempted to plant a large section of lawn where a bed of plants used to be. It was early spring and things were going well- the seeds had germinated in just over a week and it looked like the spread was even. Then a cold snap set in. Temperatures below what the new sprouts could take lasted for weeks. By the time it was over, there was almost no grass remaining.
knew that the grass seed I had was good from my “test” a few weeks before and I still had some of the bag left (reserved to cover up any bald spots.) Though it wasn’t as thick of a cover as the first pass, I used that seed to fill in the area and, as it was the right grass type for the climate, the area filled in completely by the start of fall. Even if your seeds don’t make it because of poor weather conditions, you can always try again.