Is my Grass Seed Dead?

Is my Grass Seed Dead?

Have you sown the grass seed in the right conditions?

To germinate, the seed needs these conditions:

  • The seed is in good contact with the soil
  • The ground temperature is above 10 degrees
  • There is plenty of ground moisture
  • The seed hasn’t been covered with peat, compost or soil

If any one of these factors isn't true then potentially the seed just hasn’t germinated and is still alive. Correcting the condition(s) may solve the problem. However, if the seed has been allowed to dry out whilst germinating then the seed is probably dead.

To understand more about what may have gone wrong read All about Grass Seed Germination

So, the above still doesn’t answer the question; Is my grass seed dead?

Test for Grass Seed Viability

This test can also be performed on seed that is yet to be sown. Perhaps you’ve just bought it or it has been in your shed for a number of years and you need to know if it will grow.

  • Take an old clean cloth and fold it into a flat pad about an inch thick. Place this in a tub or bowl that can be loosely covered and add half an inch of water. The cloth will soak up water and become saturated.
  • Scoop up seeds from a sown area. Discard empty husks and don’t worry if you get some soil as well
  • Sprinkle 20 to 30 seeds on the top of the cloth pad
  • Place the tub in a warm place away from drafts. Airing cupboards and utility rooms are usually ideal. Being in the dark isn’t a problem
  • Loosely put a lid on the tub to prevent too much evaporation
  • Maintain a water level of about half an inch until germination - do NOT let it dry out

Germination will take between 5 and 14 days depending on seed type and temperature. If the tub and pad dry out you need to start again - re-filling after drying doesn't work because the seed is now dead!

If you are testing because seed hasn't germinated AND you still have some of the original batch that hasn't been sown then run two tests together.

Count how many green shoots you have and look at the scale below. 

Percentage of Seed Germinating

  • If 80% plus germinated then all is well
  • If around half germinated double your seeding rate
  • If less than half germinated and the seed is from a sown area something is not right and the conditions need to be improved.
  • If less than a third germinated and the seed has not been sown then this batch should be discarded and fresh seed purchased.