While grass is everywhere, growing grass from seed is not always an easy process. Many people blame the grass seed for their grass seed not growing, but it is not always the culprit for the failure. There are many factors that may play into why grass seed is not growing. Here are some common reasons:
- Expired Grass Seed: Grass seed does not last forever. As grass seed ages, the amount of seed that germinates when it is planted decreases. This is especially true if the seed is not stored in cool dry place. You should buy fresh grass seed that has not expired. Many popular grass seed brands will list an expiration date on the bottom of the product bag. Try to plant your seed the season you buy it.
- Season Planted: Planting your grass seed during the right time of year is critical to establishing quality growth. The ideal time to plant cool season grass is spring and better yet fall. These seasons provide the best soil temperatures to allow new and existing grass to thrive. You will have a very difficult time establishing cool season grass in the 90°F heat of July in drought conditions. Warm season grasses found in the southern United States do best when planted in the warm temperatures of spring and early summer.
- Not Enough Water: Properly watering grass seed is essential for growth. The grass seed must remain moist. Dry seed will die out. You should water your seed at least two times per day to keep it wet. Additional watering may be required in extremely hot conditions. It is very important to keep up with the watering. Do not skip days.
- Too Much Water: Watering grass seeding too much can cause puddling in the seed area. This can disturb the seeds causing them to float away to a different area of the yard. Actively monitor your seeded area to be sure the right amount of water is being received. Adjust your watering schedule based on the amount of potential rain received in a given day.
- Vermin: A couple of years ago I planted grass seed in an area next to the street where grass had died out. About a week after I planted the seed, a huge flock of birds discovered the seed and had a field day grazing on it. I tried to chase them off but they returned as soon as I went back inside. I even tried to put my cat out there as a scare tactic, but he cowered in the bushes. I have since started to cover my seed with a light layer of peat moss and it seems to hide the seed from the animals. Some people use straw but be aware that it can have weed seed attached to it. This weed seed can germinate with the grass seed causing an undesirable germination of both weeds and grass.
- Preventers or Weed Killers: Crabgrass preventers and weed & feed products that are not designed for new grass seed can kill your newly planted seed. Read the label of any products you put on your lawn to be sure they are acceptable to use on grass seed. If you have recently applied one of these products prior to seeding, check with the manufacturer to see when it is okay to start seeding.
- Seed to Soil Contact: Grass seed needs enough contact with the soil to germinate. The seed should be lightly raked into the soil about 1/8 inch. You will not have much luck planting seed on top of hard surface soil or burying the seed deep into the earth. Use bags of top soil or lawn soil on top of the existing area that is being seeded for the best results.
- Dense Shade: It can be extremely difficult to grow grass from seed in an area that does not receive a lot of sunlight. Grass needs a minimum of four to six hours of sunlight a day to survive. This does not have to be full sunlight. Some grass seeds fair better in the shade than others. Fescue is the common choice for shade grass seed in cool season grass regions. When you see dense shade grass seed for sale, it commonly is dominated by various types of fescue. The best warm season shade grasses are St. Augustine, zoysia, and centipede. Before you plant the seed or sod in some cases, try to cut some tree branches, if possible, to let in more light to the seed area. In excessively shaded areas, you may want to consider alternatives to grass such as mulch.
- Type of Seed: Your grass seed may not be growing simply because it has not had enough time to germinate. For example, Kentucky bluegrass can potentially take 30 days just to begin to germinate (start to grow). It can take a few months after that to fully thicken up and look lush. Check out our article on grass seed germination times for details on the various species of grass seed.
- Starter Fertilizer: Many people overlook using starter fertilizer to help germinate their grass seed. Starter fertilizer provides important nutrients to the seed to aid in its growth. Having grown grass seed with and without starter fertilizer, I can tell you that it makes a noticeable difference when used.
- Soil: Not all soil is ideal for grass seed growth. It may be too acidic or alkaline to produce adequate results. Before you plant grass seed , it is advised to get a soil test to determine what to add to your lawn to adjust its pH level for optimal growth.
As you can see above, the reasons why grass seed does not grow are numerous. You should have an excellent chance of successfully growing a lawn from seed if you take note of the above information. The key is often to be very patient if you have done everything else right. Your seed will take many weeks to establish into a lush lawn.