Everyone wants a thick, lush green lawn, but not everyone has thousands of dollars to splurge on installing new grass sod. Planting grass seed is a budget-friendly way of establishing a new lawn or repairing a damaged lawn. However, the biggest question about growing grass from scratch, is how long does it take?
Grass seeds as a general rule take between one and two months to grow from seed to lawn. However, it is worth noting that there are several factors that can influence how fast grass grows including; the type of grass seed, the handling and storing of the seed itself, the weather and the soil.
Type of Grass Seed
The first thing to understand is that not all grass species germinate at the same rate, where some seeds can take as little as five days to sprout, others can take up to 30 days.
The age of the seeds can also affect their growth rate, so you should buy grass seeds that have been packaged as recently as possible. Typically grass seeds offer a two-year shelf life. Even though expired seeds won’t actually damage your lawn, they won’t be worth the effort of sowing them, because they simply won’t grow! The easiest way to check if seeds are still viable is to sprinkle a teaspoon full on a damp piece of folded cotton or thick tissue, and put it into a plastic bag, then observe them for the expected germination period to see if they sprout. If they sprout, then you know you’re good to go with sowing the whole batch.
Different grass species are suitable for different climates.
Below are some of the common types of lawn grass seed, along with guidelines as to the time it takes for them to germinate.
To add variety to your lawn or landscape you can mix grass seeds together or buy premixed grass seed packages at your local gardening store or nursery. However, it is not recommended to mix cool-season and warm-season varieties together.
Cool-season grasses are the fastest to grow from seed when soil temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees. When properly cared for, cool-season grasses can go from seed to lawn in approximately a month.
Annual Ryegrass Germination
This fast growing and versatile grass takes between five to ten days to germinate, but it is not over tolerant towards the cold.
Perennial Ryegrass Germination Time
A popular choice for lawns, Perennial Ryegrass can handle a lot of foot traffic, and takes roughly five to 10 days to germinate.
Another popular perennial cool-season grass, is often used on golf courses and takes approximately two weeks to germinate.
Kentucky Bluegrass Germination
This grass can withstand cold temperatures, but can take a bit longer to germinate between 10 – 21 days.
Tall Fescue Germination
This grass species takes 7 to 12 days to germinate.
Red Fescue Germination Time
A cool-season grass that doesn’t require much water, does well in shade, and takes 12 – 25 days to germinate.
Warm-season grasses take longer than cool-season grasses to germinate, and develop roots. As the name suggests, warm-season grasses do well in hot weather, and germinate faster in temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is a popular choice of warm-season grass and can handle foot traffic well. Zoysia takes 14 – 21 days to germinate and will tolerate partial shade and full sun fairly well.
This grass is valued for its exceptional heat and drought tolerance, but has quite a variable germination period of 10 to 30 days.
Another great heat tolerant warm-season grass, Centipede grass is a favorite for lawn owners looking for minimal upkeep and takes 14 to 21 days to germinate.
Native to North America, Buffalo grass is drought tolerant, and is a low maintenance grass that germinates in 14 to 30 days.
Best Time to Plant Grass Seed
Grass grows the fastest when the season you plant it in aligns with the seed’s natural periods of active growth. Spring is generally a good time to plant many different grass species, but there are exceptions.
Cool-season grasses such as; Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Tall Fescue, grow well during the cool temperatures of late summer and early fall. Warm-season grasses such as Bahai, Zoysia and Centipede grow fast and well when planted during the warmer temperatures of late spring and early summer.
Things to keep in mind regarding timing and temperatures:
- Refrain from planting warm-season grasses if there’s a chance of frost within the coming 60 days, when the cooler temperatures are due to hit.
- Most, if not all, cool-season grasses grow well in daytime temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.
- Bear in mind that it’s too late to plant any grasses when the soil temperature drops below 50 degrees.
Preparing Your Lawn Before Planting Grass Seed
Whether you’re planting grass seed in a new lawn or repairing an existing lawn, there are a few things you need to do in terms of preparation in order to ensure that growth is not adversely affected.
First thing to do is kill any existing weeds, and if you’re going to use chemical weed killers for this task, remember that they do have wait times between their application and the seeding of new grass. However, it is generally better for the environment if you can find a natural way to kill weeds and this will also negate the need to wait after the remedy has been applied.
Secondly, if there are any tree roots above the ground in the area to be planted, make sure to remove them in the proper manner.
Thirdly, you should create a welcoming environment for the new grass seedlings. This you can do by getting rid of any debris or rocks and carving out a smooth seed bed. Next, spread a one to two-inch layer of compost over the surface and till it into the top inch of the soil, then water well to a depth of six to eight inches.
Finally, sow the grass seed evenly, and avoid any foot traffic until the first mowing.
Watering New Grass Seed
When contemplating the watering of new grass seed, the first thing you’re probably thinking of using to get the job done, is a sprinkler. But, beware! This could potentially leave you with a very messy lawn. Lawn sprinklers can pour excess water on your grass seeds, causing them to wash away or float around… culminating in clumps of grass with bald patches in between.
So, how much water does new grass actually need and what is the best method of delivery?
Well, here we do have a bit of a dilemma, because insufficient supply of water will dry out your grass seeds, and too much water will drown them.
Preparation, again, is key here. What you need to do is create an ideal moist environment for the grass seeds to germinate so, as we said above, start off by watering well to a depth of six to eight inches several days before sowing.
After, you’ve planted the seeds, you’ll need to water the seeded area regularly with a hosepipe on a very fine spray setting, constantly changing the direction in which the nozzle is pointed, being careful not to let any puddles form (this is where your smooth preparation surface will stand you in good stead).
The best time to water your lawn is in the morning, and of course you can skip watering if you receive sufficient rainfall.
After following the above advice, all you then have to do is wait for your grass to grow. As mentioned earlier though, grass seed species grow at different rates, so first signs could appear within 5 days but could also take up to a month.
The time it takes for grass to grow also depends on the growing conditions that it is presented with. Environmental factors may be the primary factor in this regard, but your own patience and attention to aftercare could ultimately play a larger role.
When the grass reaches 2-3 inches tall it should be mown, and by no more than 1/3 of its length in order to protect it from decay. Lawn maintenance is just as important as the seeding and growing process, because improper lawn maintenance can result in a dead lawn in a very short period of time, negating all of your initial hard work.