Will grass seed germinate on top of the soil?

Seeding your lawn isn’t always as straightforward as you think, however, it certainly isn’t rocket science. Grass seed is a living thing that should be given the same level of care as you would any other plant or shrub in your yard. So if you’re wondering if grass seed will germinate on top of the soil have a read of this article and I’ll give you all the answers you need:

Will grass seed germinate on top of the soil snippet lawn

Table of Contents

Will grass seed germinate on top of soil?

Yes ish…the seed needs contact with the soil and it will struggle if you leave it on top of the soil. Ideally, you want to provide good contact and this is easily achieved if you tread in after spreading. While your grass seed will need sunlight to help aid the grass seed germination process, it will also need adequate amounts of nutrients, heat, moisture and air circulation which the soil will be able to provide at this depth. Remember not to over tread in as they won’t be able to get enough natural light.

Why grass seed is not germinating

There are actually quite a few factors as to why your grass seed isn’t growing properly. Realistically, your seed needs near-perfect conditions so that its transition into a luscious green lawn is pretty much guaranteed. So let’s have a look at some of the problems that may occur:


During the summer months, a lot of lawns struggle to retain enough moisture which can directly cause drought. This obviously has a negative effect on grass seed as it needs water to germinate and establish properly.

When the lawn and soil are too dry, to begin with, it’s not going to be able to retain some of those vital nutrients that are absolutely essential such as nitrogen and phosphorus. This will have a pretty big impact on the growth of your grass as it simply won’t be able to utilise the sources needed.

Quick Tip

I always double up my watering (twice a day) to combat my dry lawn, and it’s given me brilliant results. To check if your soil is moist enough for germination, drive a metal skewer into the soil; if it can reach 6.5 inches deep, your seeds will have more chance of growing. If not, you’ll need to start watering more frequently!

grass seed moist


Compaction is a problem when it comes to trying to grow grass seed, and it usually happens when there’s too much foot traffic or heavy items such as lawnmowers or wheelbarrows on the lawn. If the soil is unable to breathe, then that means the roots will also be struggling to get access to vital oxygen levels.Seeds require air to germinate – respiration breaks down the food supply within the seed. This stored energy then allows the seed to reach towards the sunlight and ultimately break the surface of your soil.

Quick Tip

You can check if your lawn is compacted by simply screwing a metal rod into the ground; if it’s difficult to push through, then you have a problem. The best way to solve this one is actually by breaking up the soil using a reak so that it is crumbly.

grass seeds germinate


So we know that your grass seed will not grow if it’s planted too deeply. This is because it needs sunlight in order to photosynthesise and produce energy for growth.But what you may not know is that there are actually two types of grass seed: warm-season and cool-season. The former type needs around 10 hours of sunlight to germinate, whereas the latter only requires six. If you’re unsure as to which one you have, have a read of the packet before planting.


Weeds are pretty much the bane of every gardener’s life, and they can have a hugely negative impact on the growth of your grass seed. This is because they will directly compete with your grass for vital nutrients, water and light which will stunt its growth significantly.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you carry out regular weed control measures such as hoeing, hand-weeding or using a herbicide. I would also recommend mulching which is basically covering the area with a layer of organic matter such as compost or straw. This will help to suppress the weeds and help your grass seed grow.

grass seed uncovered

Improper Soil Preparation

There are a few key things you need to do in order for your grass seed to have the best chance of germinating. Firstly, you need to make sure that the soil is able to retain moisture by amendments such as topsoil, compost or manure. Secondly, the area needs to be free of debris such as rocks and sticks which can prevent proper growth. Finally, you’ll want to make sure the pH level is somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0 as this will create an optimal environment for growth.

If you’re not sure about the quality of your soil, it’s always best to get a soil test done so that you can make any necessary adjustments before planting.


If you want your grass to be strong and healthy, then you need to make sure you’re using the right fertilizer. This is because it contains vital nutrients that will help to encourage growth.The best time to fertilize your lawn is actually before you plant the seed as this will give the soil a chance to absorb some of those nutrients. You can also add a little bit more once the seed has germinated but make sure you don’t overdo it as this could burn the roots.

Pick a suitable beginner fertilizer with the correct amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and distribute it across the soil. It’s also a good idea to water the fertilizer lightly.

You can have a read of an article I wrote about which covers the 5 best lawn fertilizers that you can purchase. 

cover grass seed


The weather is something that you obviously can’t control but it will definitely have an impact on the germination of your grass seed.

For example, if it’s too hot then the soil will dry out quickly which will make it difficult for the seed to germinate. Alternatively, if it’s too cold then the seed won’t be able to break through the surface of the soil.

Ideally, you want the temperature to be around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit for cool-season grasses and 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit for warm-season grasses.

Want to learn when to seed your lawn in the fall? Have a read of an article that goes through this question in detail.

Bird Food

So if you have planted your grass seed deep enough (around half a centimetre) then you probably won’t have to worry about birds eating it. However, if grass seed exposed then they could definitely be a problem.

The best way to stop them from eating your seed is to put up some bird netting which will create a physical barrier. You could also try using visual deterrents such as shiny objects or even a scarecrow of some sort.

Lawn pests also attract birds, which is why you may want to know about how to remove armyworms from your lawn which I have written about.

birds will eat grass seed


In order to have the best chance of germination, it is important to make sure the soil is properly prepared, free of debris, and has a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. So let’s summarise:

  • Your grass seed will struggle to grow if you leave it on top of the soil
  • The ideal depth to plant your grass seed is 0.2 inches or half an inch
  • There are issues that will stop germination
  • Your grass seed is not getting enough light or too much
  • Your grass seed isn’t getting enough water
  • Soil compaction can suffocate grass seeds and stunt growth
  • Weeds will compete for nutrients and light
  • Improper soil preparation can stop germination
  • The pH of your soil needs to be between 6.0 – 7.0
  • Fertilizer is a good idea but don’t use too much
  • The weather can stunt germination and dry soil
  • Birds can eat your grass seed so install netting or visual deterrents
uncovered grass seed
Share your love
Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

I hope you enjoy reading some of the content and ideas from this site, I tend to share articles and product reviews on a daily basis, so be rest assured… you won’t run out of things to read!

Articles: 345