Grass Seed Germination: Getting the Best Results

Planting a new lawn involves holding your breath, hoping that grass seed germination goes well.  There are several actions you can take to ensure that your grass seed germinates properly, giving you the thick, green lawn you hoped for when you started planting.  Here are some pointers to help you get the best results.

Step One:  Prepare the Soil

The key to successful lawn and garden maintenance is always to properly prepare the soil.  Whether you are starting with bare ground, or are renovating an existing lawn, you can improve germination rates if you aerate the soil and top-dress it with compost.  That will break up the soil, and introduce organic matter-both of which will make it easier for the roots to grow and establish.

Step Two:  Select the Right Seed for the Location

You will often hear gardeners say "right plant, right place."  You really will have better results if you select a grass species that will do well in the area you want to plant it.  Some grass types are better adapted to sun, and others to shade.  Some like dry, sandy soils, while others need a richer base.

Step Three:  Plant at the Proper time for your Selected Grass

Some grasses are cool season, while others are warm season.  You will have better grass seed germination if you plant at the appropriate time.  Warm season grasses will grow most rapidly when planted in late April or early May.  The soil is warm, but not overwhelmingly hot.  Cool season grasses like rye and bluegrass do best when planted in the fall.  Mid-September to Mid-October works well for these.  The days are getting shorter, the soil is cooling and the nights are cool.

Step Four:  Spread Grass Seed Evenly

Using either a drop spreader or a rotary spreader will help you achieve even coverage.  Both types of spreaders will need to be calibrated for your personal use.  The speed at which you walk and the setting of the spreader will determine how much seed is put down per a specific period of time, and where it goes.  Your spreader should come with instructions for calibration.

Step Five:  Maintain Adequate Moisture

Seeds contain within them baby plants.  The plant embryos are alive, but they are metabolizing very, very slowly.  When you expose the seeds to water, they begin to "wake up," in a sense.  You need to maintain adequate and even moisture throughout the germination process in order to get even grass seed germination rates.  One way to do this is to water lightly three or four times a day, always stopping before sundown.  (You do not want fungal disease to take hold during germination.)  You can also top-dress your seeding with compost or straw to help keep the seeds covered and moist.  The germination time will vary depending upon the species of grass.

Step Six:  Stay off the Grass

You really do need to stay off the grass until it has had a chance to establish.  While that might not be directly related to germination success, it is directly related to establishment.  If you don't allow the plants the time they need to establish, it doesn't matter how good the germination was!  You need to stay off of warm season grasses for up to three months, if you grow them from seed, because they are not as easy to establish from seed.  Cool season grasses are usually "good to go" after about a month. Follow these tips when you establish a new lawn, and you will have excellent grass seed germination results!
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