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Eight Reasons Grass Seed May Fail to Grow

June 8, 2015

Here are eight reasons I have seen that can cause spotty grass seed germination:

1. Grass seed needs to come in contact with soil to live after it germinates.  Grass seed that lies on dead thatch in a lawn will likely not reach the soil and will likely not begin to grow.  Break up the thatch and top inch or so of soil with a rake or use a special machine called a slit seeder to place the grass seed next to the soil.

Grass seed that lies on dead thatch in a lawn will likely not reach the soil and will likely not begin to grow.

Grass seed that lies on dead thatch in a lawn will likely not reach the soil and will likely not begin to grow.  click photo to enlarge

2. Sometimes grass seed is spread on a lawn in spring after a crabgrass preventer or other weed control has been put down by the lawn owner or lawn service.  The result is poor germination.  Be sure to check weed control labels to see what the waiting period is to put down grass seed.  When seeding in spring, a special crabgrass preventer should be used that is compatible with grass seed like Scotts Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer.

3. Personally, I’ve missed an area when I spread grass seed and did not realize it until after I saw no germination in that spot.  This can happen to the best of us.  It is that tell-tale strip or space where the spreader missed (or should I say where the spreader operator missed).

4. One time I covered the seed with too much soil in one spot.  The proper method is to spread the seed and then spread the Starter Lawn Food, and then make one pass across the newly seeded area with an upside down leaf rake (tines pointed up).  Note: this is a leaf rake, not a garden rake.  The idea is to make sure the seed is in good contact with soil and that it is no deeper than the top 1/8 inch.  It is ok to still see some seed on the soil surface.

5. Seed can dry out during the critical time when the grass is germinating.  When this happens, you will likely see little to no germination in the sunny areas and good germination where the soil is in partial shade (where the soil is slower to dry).  The Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Blends, with Water-Smart Formula, really give you an edge when you are trying to keep your new seed moist.  Scotts EZ Seed also helps to hold moisture next to your seed.  Keep your grass seed moist by watering lightly several times a day.

6. A heavy rain in a newly seeded area can move grass seed to the low spots leaving the high spots with little to no germination.

7. Old seed that has been stored in the garage will likely germinate very poorly.  When seed is stored where you find big temperature changes and excess humidity the seed will likely not sprout.  Buy fresh seed and use it all up that season.

8. Years ago when we lived in Ohio, the grass seed did not seem to want to come up next to a wooded area.  I seeded several times.  Then early one morning while using my flashlight to find the newspaper in the dark, I shined it on this area I had seeded to see if my grass seed was germinating and I saw hundreds of small slugs eating my grass seed sprouts.  These slugs crawled from the woods at night and were grazing on my new grass seedlings every time I planted.  They would then crawl back into the woods during the day.  I put down slug bait and finally I got new grass.

One more thing:  Spring seeding takes longer to germinate than fall planted grass because the soil is colder.  With colder soil you can sometimes count on 2 weeks or more before you see new grass spouts.  Also, you will generally see some of the grass seed come up a week or so before the rest germinates because of the different varieties in the seed blend.  So keep the area moist a week or so after you see the first germination.

A feeding of Scotts Turf Builder one month after seeding will also help your new grass fill-in thin areas.  If you need to reseed some spots, rough up your soil a little before you seed again.

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