How Long Do Grass Seeds Take to Grow? Expert Tips For A Luscious Lawn

Looking to revive your garden with a new patch of green, but not sure where to begin? There are some basic key elements to consider to get you on the right turf.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains grasses are categorized as either "cool" or "warm" season grass, according to their growth cycle.

Cool season grasses can be planted when temperatures are cooler and days are shorter, while warm season grasses require warmer temperatures and longer days for growth.

Here, we compile the best gardening tips for those looking for a luscious lawn.

How Long Do Grass Seeds Need to Grow?

Speaking to Newsweek, author and house plant expert Lisa Eldred Steinkopf said the length of time it takes for grass seed to germinate depends on the type of grass you're growing. For example, Kentucky bluegrass will take longer to germinate than the fescues and rye.

Grass germination periods can also depend on the temperature, which of course varies by geographical area.

Grass should be seeded when soil moisture and temperature are optimum for germination in your area, the NRCS says.

Plant expert and author, Barbara Pleasant, told Newsweek: "In the U.S., turfgrass specialists in every state publish lists of the best lawn grasses that can be grown from seed. Following regional guidance ensures that you will choose the best species for your soil and climate."

When Is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seeds?

Grass seeds can be planted in the spring or fall, when the weather is cooler. Be sure to get the right type of grass seed for the area you are planting (sun or shade), Eldred Steinkopf said.

For grass seeds planted in spring, you'll have to wait at least two to three weeks (or more) for emergence, according to an article from the Kansas State University.

Pleasant told Newsweek: "For best results, seed lawn grasses in spring. We do this every year, seeding over spots damaged by weather and animals. When kept slightly moist, grass seed is up and growing in three weeks, and continues to fill out through the summer."

A grass field outside a home.
A sunny grass field seen outside a home. Grass seeds can be planted in the spring or fall. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Choosing Grass Seeds

Pleasant said it's best to shop for grass seed locally. Grass seed mixtures that follow state extension service recommendations are usually available from independent garden centers and grass and feed stores.

Determining which grass seed to plant depends on the location and type of care, as well as use the lawn will receive, says The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station of the state government.

For example, Kentucky bluegrass thrives in well-drained conditions with full sun exposure. With no irrigation, it can turn brown during hot and dry summers but will usually recover when the cooler, rainy days return.

Fine fescues are better for locations with less optimal conditions, such as where fertility is low or excessive drainage prevents adequate moisture. They will do well in sun or shaded areas.

Pleasant told Newsweek: "Traditional lawn grasses that 'knit' themselves together, such as bluegrass and fine fescue, make a resilient turf for family play, but they often require inputs of fertilizer and water.

"There is a trend toward using drought resistant buffalo grass and other low-growing native species in areas where water has become a serious issue. Where too much water is an issue, low-growing native sedges are emerging as good lawn alternatives," she explained.

A hand spreading grass seeds.
A hand spreading grass seeds. iStock/Getty Images Plus

How to Plant Grass Seeds

Before planting your grass seeds, among the most important steps is to have the soil tested, says The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

A soil test will provide information on soil texture and organic matter content, the relative acidity (pH) of the soil as well as whether or not limestone will be required.

The test will also report levels of plant nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to help determine any fertilizer additions that may be required.

Once you're ready to plant your seeds, rough up the soil and add good topsoil in low spots or in areas where you feel better soil is needed. Then level the area before sowing your seed, Eldred Steinkopf advised.

A patch of green in a garden.
A patch of bright green grass seen at a garden. iStock / Getty Images Plus

"You can spread it [the grass seed] by hand pretending you are feeding chickens as you spread it. If you have a larger area a spreader used for fertilizer is a good idea," she said. There are large spreaders as well as handheld spreaders available. Follow the directions on the bag of grass seed to see how much should be spread.

You'll want to cover your seed with straw (or other commercial products specifically designed to cover grass seed), as this helps keep birds from eating it up and protects it from erosion when it rains, Eldred Steinkopf said.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says one or two bales of straw per 1,000 square feet will help lock moisture in the soil. After the seeds germinate, do not attempt to remove the straw, the department advises.

The department also says it's important to keep the top half inch of the soil moist until the seeds germinate and emerge. This may mean daily watering.

Eldred Steinkopf explained it's important to keep your seed moist as the germination rate will be reduced if it's left to dry out.

Water droplets seen on grass.
Water droplets seen on grass. iStock/Getty Images Plus