How to Tell if Grass Seed is Germinating (Ideal Requirements)

Germination is the initial growth process when the seed absorbs enough moisture to start sprouting. Grass seed will germinate in 3 to 4 weeks if the soil conditions are favorable. The seed germination process requires three basic conditions: air, warmth and moisture. Light is also necessary once the seed has germinated.

The germination rate of new grass typically varies based on the type of grass. Some grasses take longer to germinate, while others take only a few days. Generally, it should take between 5 to 30 days for most grass seeds to germinate. When it’s time, you’ll simply seed the young shoots sprouting from the ground.

Soil and weather conditions are also factors in the germination of grass seed. Although you can start a new lawn any time of the year, the seed may take time to germinate if it does not get the ideal conditions needed for germination. The following are important conditions for the germination of grass seed:

Air or Oxygen

When seedling sprout through the seed coat, they require oxygen to grow and develop. The sprout will simply die if soil is saturated with moisture but lacks air. This problem is usually common with compact clay soil. Adding compost into the soil before planting can help to aerate the soil.


Soil temperature is supposed to be within the appropriate range to initiate the germination process. Warm-season grass requires a soil temperature range of 55 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while cool-season grass prefers 45 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to check soil temperature and not air temperature before planting your seed.


Moisture is also a necessary condition for the germination process to take place. The seed absorbs sufficient moisture to soften the seed coat before sprouting. Moisture must be adequate throughout the process. The seed will dry out and stall germination if the water is too little. On the other hand, excess water can cause the seed to rot.


Light is essential for the healthy growth of grass seedlings. The seed may fail to germinate in shady areas of your lawn. Cloudy weather can also lower soil temperatures. This can have a negative impact on the germination of warm-season grass. Ensure the seeded area receive an adequate amount of sunlight.

What to do if Grass Seed won’t sprout

Various factors can cause poor or failed germination. They include Inadequate soil moisture, poor quality seed, wrong temperature, inadequate sunlight, lack of nutrients in the soil, unsuitable soil pH, presence of weed killers in the soil, traffic on a newly seeded area and improper seed-to-soil contact.

So, what do you do if grass seed doesn’t grow? It is important to diagnose the issue to find the exact cause and solution. The following tips can help to initiate the germination process of dormant seed.

1. Keep Soil Moist

The seeded area must be kept moist for germination to take place. Before planting your seed, the soil should be moist for at least 6 inches deep. Water again for about 5 minutes after spreading the grass seeds on the ground. Water twice daily until the seeds germinate. The soil must be moist for at least 1 to 2 inches deep during germination.

2. Check Soil Temperature

Grass seed won’t grow if the soil temperature is wrong. Different types of grass require different temperature ranges to germinate. Warm-season grass requires a soil temperature of at least 55 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while cool-season grass prefers a soil temperature range of 45 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Test soil pH

Grass seed will not grow if the soil pH is incorrect. Most grass grows best in soil with a pH range of 5.8 – 7.2. If you have tried everything, but your grass still fails to grow, it’s high time to check soil pH. Simply take a sample of your soil to a nearby agricultural extension or garden center for testing.

This should tell you the kind of soil amendments needed for your grass. You may have to lime your lawn to raise pH or add sulphur to acidity.

4. Fertilize Soil

Grass seed require adequate nutrients to grow and develop. Apply a starter fertilizer rich in nitrogen and phosphorus to stimulate shooting and proper root development. New lawns require these nutrients to kick-start their growth.

5. Keep Off Newly Seeded Area

Reduce traffic on the newly seeded ground for at least 4 weeks. Wet soil and grass seed can stick on the soles of your shoes and be carried away. Grass seedlings are also very delicate; a simple step on them can easily kill them. Limiting pets, stray dogs and cats from accessing the new lawn are also important.

6. Cover Grass Seed

Grass seed may fail to germinate if they are not covered well with soil or mulch. Uncovered seed is also vulnerable, and it may be eaten by birds, blown away by wind or swept away by surface water run-off. Be sure to bury seed for ¼ inch deep into the soil or cover them with a layer of mulch.

7. Use High-Quality Seed

Grass seeds won’t grow if you planted poor quality seeds. When shopping for grass seed, be sure to check the package for expiry dates. Try to check the price tags also. It’s not always a good idea to buy a product with the lowest price. It may have some shortcomings.

Also read: Will grass seed germinate on top of soil?

Final Thought

Seeding a new lawn comes with high expectations. However, it may also bring great disappointments, especially if you did not do the right thing when seeding. It should take between 5 to 30 days for the grass seed to germinate. If this doesn’t happen, re-evaluate the soil conditions and use the right seed for your area.

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