Trouble getting grass seeds to germinate?

Did you plant a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn and your grass seed failed to germinate properly?
That's very common. Grass needs three things to germinate. Good soil to seed contact, proper temperature and water. Lots of water!

Good soil contact is achieved by raking the soil to loosen it, then using the back of the rack to press the seeds in and/or top dressing with compost. Soil temperature should be above 70 degrees farenheight. This is one of the reasons fall is the best time to seed in this area. The soil will retain a lot of the heat from the summer while the opposite is true in the spring.

Keeping the seeds moist is where a lot of people seem to fail. If the seeds dry up after being planted and moistened, they die. So it's very important to keep the seeds moist. A good watering schedule is to water the seeds 3 times a day for the first 2-3 weeks then 2x a day for 2 week followed by once a day for 2 weeks until all the seeds have germinated. Keep in mind, if you have a mix of seeds, some varieties will germinate faster than the others. Kentucky bluegrass is the slowest cool season grass to germinate. If your mix has fescue and bluegrass, don't stop watering just because you start to see germination. The bluegrass might not have germinated yet.

You don't want to drown the seeds, just keep them moist throughout the day. This can be accomplished by watering around 10 minutes at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. Then as you water less frequently, increase the amount of time you water. Once the seed is established you can go back to your normal deep and infrequent watering schedule.

This is a lot of watering and is hard to keep up, especially if you don't have someone home all day or have an automatic sprinkler system or even a small automatic lawn sprinkler setup. Because of this, a lot of people have problems getting a good potion of their grass seed to germinate.

Luckily, a company called Zeba came out with Zeba Seed Coating which helps seeds retain moisture. The coating absorbs up to 400 times it's volume of water to keep the seeds moist, even with less frequent watering.

One of the first products to use the Zeba seed coating was Patch Perfect. You know, that magic grass that used to be on late night TV infomercials. In addition to the Zeba coating, it had a coating of fertilizer. The product didn't seem to get good reviews though. The problems seem to be that it didn't cover nearly the area claimed and the quality of seeds weren't great.

This past year, Scott's started using the Zeba seed coating as well. The Scotts Water Smart Grass Seed comes in many varieties and it seems like all the locally available Scotts seeds are now Water Smart coated. They even have a line of seed called ez seed that is similar to Patch Perfect.

Some other seed farmers are using the Zeba technology, but not many. What if you want to use something better than Scott's or other seeds you find at places like Home Depot or Lowes? There is such a thing. One popular blend of kentucky bluegrass is Galaxy Kentucky Bluegrass Blend another is Best of the Blues Kentucky Bluegrass Blend. It has a very dark genetic color, and good resistance to drought and disease. But you can't get it with Zeba seed coating as far as I could find. The Zeba coating isn't something you can buy a small batch of and coat seeds with yourself either. So what do you do?

Normally, you would just cover your seed with straw to help shade the sun and keep the seeds moist. But that can be messy and not very effective. Encap has a product called Lawn Starter Mulch. It uses their Seed Watering Technology which are crystals that swell up when they absorb water. When they stop sparkling, it's time to water again. Similar to the Patch Perfect seed.

It's easy to apply with either a drop or broadcast spreader and one bag will cover 1,000 square feet.

It's not terribly expensive and the shipping is reasonable if you can't find it locally. If you're using an a quality, expensive grass seed, such as the Glaxy Blend, it's a good investment to help ensure you get the most germination you can.

If you're trying to grow grass on a slope, Pennington Seed Mat can help to keep the seeds in place and moist.
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  1. Good information. I'm glad I stumbled across your site. Check out what Pennington Seed has available ( I've seen their product used and have seen some great lawns because of it.

  2. Robby,

    Thanks for the comment. I was considering mentioning penkoted seeds but I decided to focus more on keeping seeds moist. Penkoted seeds to well for resisting insects and diseases (fungus).

    A penkoted, zeba coated seed sounds like it might be an interesting combination.

  3. very helpfull thanks so much