The Q&A Archives: Our grass seed doesn't germinate, Why?

Question: We have tried everything over the past couple of years to have a green lawn, but nothing seems to work. We rented a rototiller and went over the entire yard, then we fertiized it, and then we spread the grass seed. It started out great, nice and green and was growing nice green grass. After about 2-3 weeks it started dying until there was very little green left to the yard. We watered each evening when the sun went down, and even spread more grass seed. Now it won't even germinate. We have more brown than green now. What could we be doing wrong? Our neighbor said the soil is sandy and nothing will grow, but he has a green yard. Help!

Answer: New grass seed must be kept evenly moist or it will die. When you water, apply it slowly and evenly over the entire area so it soaks in; the top six inches of soil should be kept moist to encourage the roots to grow deep. Over watering or under watering will both damage the new lawn, so you should dig down to see how effective your watering really is.

In the beginning, you need to water every day -- sometimes twice day. After the seed germinates, you will very gradually reduce the frequency as the roots grow deeper into the soil. But, it still should be kept moist down in that top six inches.

The best time of year to plant grass seed is early fall, the next best time is early spring. Mid summer is somewhat futile because the weather is hot and tends to be dry.

Before planting, you should run some basic soil tests to check fertility and soil pH. Then add fertilizer and/or lime as indicated by the soil tests. If your soil is sandy, adding organic matter such as compost will help the soil hold moisture and nutrients better.

Your local Penn State county extension should be able to help you with the soil testing and interpreting the results, they should also be able to recommend the best grass varieties for your local soil and also provide instructions on soil preparation and lawn maintenance suited to your local area.

Good luck with your lawn!

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