What to Do if Grass Seed Doesn’t Grow?

The last thing you want to hear after seeding your lawn is that your grass seeds won't sprout or grow. Whether you have very little growth or none at all, this can be corrected with the right strategies.
Seeds on lawn

There are several reasons why your grass seed is not growing. Let’s take a look at the most common issues that homeowners experience when seeding their lawn.

  • Lawn is not receiving enough water
  • Seed-to-soil contact is poor
  • Newly seeded areas are receiving too much traffic
  • The temperature for seeding is too hot or too cold
  • The pH of the soil is not right for growing grass
  • Residual weed killers present in the soil
  • There are not enough soil nutrients
  • There is not enough sunlight

The good news is these issues are reversible. If you take the steps to correct these issues, your seeds can begin to sprout. This is important so you do not have to reseed your entire lawn. Let’s take a look at another factor in seed growth known as germination.

Grass Seed Germination

The germination process occurs when temperatures are ideal and seeds are covered by moist, nutrient-rich soil. Germination is the first stage of growth. Assuming these conditions are met, anywhere from 90% to 95% of seeds will germinate. This means 5% to 10% won’t germinate regardless of how ideal conditions are. Makes sure to only purchase high-quality seeds. Furthermore, make sure you know how to care for them. Listed below are a few instances where seeds won’t germinate.

  • The temperatures are too low
  • The seed is very low-quality
  • The soil is very dry and does not have enough moisture to support the seed
  • The temperature of the soil itself is too low

Now that you understand a bit about grass seed growth and germination, let’s explore the steps you need to take to jump-start growth.

Pay Attention to Soil Temperature

Soil temperature plays a critical role in the growth process. If you want your lawn to go from seed to grass, you need proper soil temperature. Each type of grass will require slightly different temperatures for growth. For example, warm-season grasses such as Zoysia, Centipede and Bermuda need a soil temperature of 65 to 70°F to grow. On the other hand, cool-season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Rye and Fescue need a soil temperature of 50 to 65°F to grow.

Keep in mind that soil temperatures are typically 10 less than air temperatures. It is important to pay attention to the soil temperature at the time of seeding. Your seed may be in a dormant stage until soil temperatures are ideal.

Do Not Walk on Newly Seeded Grass

Newly seeded grass is delicate and can not be exposed to too much traffic. You should not walk on newly seeded grass for 4 weeks. Even after 4 weeks, the sprouts of grass are still relatively young and can not handle that much pressure. The best option is to keep off of grass until it is mature. You can put up a sign to remind visitors to keep off your grass.

Water Your Lawn

While this may seem like a no-brainer, you actually need to water your lawn before and after seeding. When the soil is moist, seeds will sprout. When the soil is dry, seeds will stay dormant. Prepping your lawn prior to seeding by ensuring enough moisture will help your seeds tremendously. Even after you seed, make sure to water your lawn consistently. In fact, the soil needs to be moist 6-8 inches down before seeding. You’ll also need to water for 5 minutes straight after seeding and covering. This may seem like a lot of water for small seeds, however, it is necessary for proper growth.

Cover Your Seeds

According to the best practices in lawn care, seeds should be buried a quarter-inch to a half-inch deep. This is the appropriate level, as anything deeper than a half-inch will not break the surface. If your grass seeds are too shallowly placed, animals such as birds will begin to eat them. Furthermore, seed-to-soil contact is very important. To aid in this process, rake a fine layer of soil over the seeds. Next, use a lawn roller to compact them.

Test Your Soil’s pH

The correct pH is vital to the growth of seeds. Oftentimes soil pH is overlooked. Luckily, at-home soil pH test kits are available. If you prefer to have a professional take a look at your soil’s pH, you can send a sample to the lab. This will not only provide the pH, but also a full analysis of your soil’s properties. This method is more thorough than an at-home test kit. It all comes down to preference and what you need for your specific lawn. The ideal pH for grass is between 5.8 and 7.2.

Ensure Proper Sunlight

Sunlight is very important for even growth across your lawn. Shady areas are prone to below-par seed growth. If the weather has been cloudy as of recent, your seeds can suffer. A lack of sunlight can be a real problem. When grass is in the young growing stage, it needs lots of sunlight. Using specific grass seed blends designed for shady areas is one solution. The best thing to do is be patient, as the weather changes all the time.


Nutrients in the soil are key to growing healthy grass. The best fertilizer to use is slow-releasing high-nitrogen fertilizer. The fertilizer should have phosphorus. Phosphorous is essential for young roots. It should be used at the same time as seed spreading, but can be applied later on. It is always a good idea to enhance soil nutrients with fertilizer.

Stay Away from Pre-Emergent Weed Killers

Lastly, you’ll want to steer clear of pre-emergent weed killers. These substances are known to kill sprouting seeds. It is best to wait 6 weeks before applying any weed killer. If weed killer has been used within 8 weeks prior to seeding, seeds will not sprout either.

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