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Can Grass Seed Die?

Grass seed, like any living organism, has the potential to die if not properly cared for. While lawn seed is generally resilient and can withstand some adverse conditions, there are certain factors that can cause it to die before it has the chance to grow into a lush, green lawn.

What can cause a grass seed to die?

A grass seed is like a battery, it contains within it the necessary reserves of nutrients that will give energy to the grass plant as germination is initiated. The energy is stored in the form of starch which provides a source of energy for the seed embryo. As the seed develops its first leaf and roots the energy for this will come from reserves within the seed. The grass plant needs to develop roots quickly so that it can start to take nutrients from within the soil.

What goes on within a seed when it germinates is a complex set of biological chemical reactions which all have to come together perfectly for germination to happen. Various enzymes within the seed react to degrade the starch and provide a food source for the seedling. Over time, it is possible that any of these elements can begin to degrade. The result being anything from slower germination to no germination at all.

The rate at which this can happen is unpredictable. It can vary between individual crops of seed and between different species. Another big factor that influences the long term viability is how the seed is stored. As part of a registered seed merchant, all the grass seed you buy from Grass Seed Online has been germination tested. We periodically retest our seed as required to ensure that it still maintains suitable germination. We try to use fresh seeds whenever we can to ensure best performance.

I have sown my grass seed and nothing is happening. Is my lawn seed dead?

The chances are it is not dead, its is simply waiting for the ideal conditions to come together for it to germinate. The envorinmental factors in the area where the seed has been sown play a huge part in initiating the seedling germination process. If any of these are missing or reduced, it will have an impact on the seed. Usually the seed will germinate, but it will take long and initial establishment will be slower.

What conditions does grass seed need to germinate?

Temperature acts as a catalyst for the chemical reactions going on within the seed. Generally, the lower the temperature, the slower the germination. Perennial Ryegrass will germinate at the lowest temperature of the common grass seed varieties used in the UK. Other grass seed options such as fescues and bents require higher temperatures. Germination temperature range of different seed types is detailed below.

  • Perennial ryegrass: 7°C (with a germination period of 7-14 days)
  • Red fescues: 11°C (with a germination period of 11-21 days)
  • Bent: 15°C (with a germination period of 11-21 days)

Other species such Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass and Tall Fescue seeds require warm conditions beyond that of Bentgrass. Therefore these can be slow to germinate unless sown in the summer months. Outside of the above times, grass seed will germinate but is can be a matter of weeks.

It is not always a case of the higher the better when it comes to temperatures for grass seed germination process. If the temperature is too high then soil moisture can be rapidly depleated, meaning it is crucial to have water on standby.

Some areas will naturally be colder than others and will take longer for the seed to germinate. Areas that are in the shade, wet or clay soils will all be cooler (especially in the spring months). With shade in mind, fence shade or are shade between buildings will cause germination to be slower.


Keeping you seed moist is critical in initiating seed germination and ensuring successful establishment. When establishing a lawn from grass seed, the seed will need to be kept moist to ensure the growth process continues. Over watering can cause seed to become washed away and in can sometimes slow germination. If watering with mains tap water, the water is usually a very low temperature, this can lower thew soil temperature and slow the germination. When to comes to watering, nothing ever beats natural rainwater.

A great way to ensure the seed is kept moist is to ensure is it incorporated into the to 15mm of the soil surface. If you can roll the seed in or lightly tread it, this will compress the soil around the seed. Any seed that is left on the soil surface will quickly dry out and is unlikely to germinate.

One way to preserve adequate moisture is to cover the ground and the seed with polythene sheeting to prevent evaporation. This will create a humid environment which is ideal for germination. But once the seed has germinated, be sure to remove the sheeting one the seed is up and away. Covering seed with polythene sheeting can be a big help, but it can create the perfect environment for fungal turf diseases.


A germinating seedling needs air, specifically oxygen, to survive. Plants are like any other living organism in that they require air for respiration. There is usually a readily available supply of oxygen for available, so this is rarely a problem. However if the seed is sown and the ground becomes saturated, then this will restrict the availability of oxygen to the plant.

So whilst nobody would usually attempt to sow seed in waterlogged ground conditions, it can happen post sowing if torrential downpours occur. The only defence is to wait until a period of favourable weather is forecast and try to ensure that the ground is in a favorable condition so that any excess water can drain away.


Some seeds do require stimulation by sunlight to initiate germination, this is not the case with grass seed. However if there is a lack of direct sunlight we can start to run into issues of shade. Fence shade, shade from trees, shade from objects such as buildings all have an impact on grass growth. Even in areas that are in partial shade will be affected to an extent.

Grass needs direct sunlight to photosynthesise. The amount of sunlight a plant requires is reffered to as Daily Ligh Integral, DLI for short. In lower light conditions grass plants will tend to become taller and more open, as the plant tried to reach up to find light. This results us reduced plant density that invariable leads to a more open sward, invasion of weeds and sometimes loss of grass cover.

What can I do to help my seed germinate?
  1. Before is germinates ensure that there is adequate moisture availabele to the plant. Try to ensure the seed is incorporated into the top 15mm and that the soil is kept moist.
  2. Sow when some rain is on its way. Nothing beats natural rain fall for making seed grow!
  3. Sow it when the soil temperatures are war enough. Perennial ryegrass will be the first to germinate and this will occur when soil temperatures are at 7 degrees Celsius and above.
  4. For small areas you can cover with a sheet to trap mositure and warmth in. But remmber to remove the sheeting once the seed has germinated.
  5. Waiting for the perfect conditions can be tough, but its the best way to ensure good germination.