How Often Should You Water Grass Seed – Explained

While I have a soft spot for nontraditional groundcovers like clover and thyme, I can’t deny that there are many, many places where turf grass is still the best option. Starting a fresh lawn is a big step for any property owner. But it’s also a lot of very hard work.

To keep new grass seed alive as it germinates, most people will need to water it more than once per day. Skipping even one watering session could lead to problems with germination. Miss several in a row and your grass seed probably won’t make it.

There’s nothing wrong with standing outside with a hose in hand in a pinch. Realistically, though, anyone who plans to reseed a large section of land should also invest in a simple, hands-off irrigation setup. I promise that this will save you a ton of stress and time over the next month or two! So let’s get to it and deal with the question – how often should you water grass seeds?

How Often To Water Grass Seeds

Grass seed must be watered at least once per day until it grows to several inches tall. I suggest splitting your daily watering into multiple sessions to prevent oversaturation of the soil, in particular clay soil

Grass seeds need a moist environment to properly germinate. So the goal is to keep the soil consistently moist. This is why several small applications throughout the day are better than one big soaking.

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Can You Over Water Grass Seed

Too much water can be just as detrimental to fresh grass seed as no water at all. The most common signs that you are overwatering include puddles and waterlogged soil that is slow to drain.

Overwatering can displace the seeds, especially early on before they have had a chance to sprout roots. I see this happen particularly often on slopes. Grass seed is so light that all it takes is a bit of running water on the ground’s surface to carry it away! 

Even if your new grass seed doesn’t go far, you’ll likely end up with bare patches of soil where the seed completely washed away.

Another common problem with overwatering is that it creates the perfect environment for fungi to take hold. New seeds are especially prone to damage. However, I’ve also seen fungal infections spread to the established grass around the area being reseeded.

Remember that you are not the only potential source of water for your newly seeded lawn. These problems often arise when a frequent watering regimen is combined with heavy rain.

Watering New Grass Seed

It doesn’t matter if you’re reseeding an entire yard or patching a few small areas, all grass seed needs water to germinate and grow. Some days, Mother Nature will help out with a rainstorm or two. Unless you have the best luck in the world, however, you’ll need to provide the majority of that water yourself.

The ideal watering routine should start immediately after spreading the grass seed and continue for several weeks. Some types of grass may need to be watered indefinitely, especially if you live somewhere warm and dry. 

During the first few weeks of your new lawn, you should expect to water at least once a day. More often than not, the weather will necessitate watering 2 to 3 times each day to prevent the grass from drying out.

While that might all sound like a big commitment for even a couple of days — let alone several weeks — there are several ways to make things a little easier on yourself. 

If you’re seeding more than a few square feet, I recommend investing in an oscillating sprinkler and an on/off timer for your outdoor faucet. You should also make sure to cover any fresh grass seed with a thin layer of mulch to hold as much moisture as possible.

How To Water New Grass Seed

There are several ways to water new grass seeds. I always encourage folks to use what they have available to them. What I don’t recommend doing, however, is dumping bucketfuls of water on the soil or leaving a garden hose to run unattended.

In my experience, the best way to water a freshly seeded lawn is with a hose-end sprayer or a freestanding sprinkler. If your property has an in-ground sprinkler system, that’s great! But such luxuries certainly aren’t necessary for a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Keep in mind that many sprinklers and hose-end sprayers apply water too quickly for new grass seed. If your irrigation system is watering too quickly, you might notice things like run-off, puddling, and seed displacement. I recommend investing in a system with an adjustable water rate to prevent such issues.

If you have a large area to cover, I recommend an oscillating sprinkler system. This setup allows the water to soak into the soil before applying more, reducing the risk of run-off and similar issues.

Something I suggest any time you’re starting a lawn from seed is applying a layer of straw mulch over the entire area. This simple step could be the difference between your new grass thriving versus drying out in the summer heat. 

However, be careful not to smother your grass seed under this protective layer. A good rule of thumb I use is to add straw until the area is about 50% covered.

When To Water New Grass Seed

The best times to water grass seed are the morning and afternoon. Watering at these times will protect the seed when it is at the greatest risk of drying out.

Avoid watering your new lawn too late in the evening. The lack of sun and dropping temperature will cause the soil to retain water, increasing the risk of mold or fungus growth.

How Much Water Does Grass Seed Need

Personally, I don’t feel comfortable offering blanket advice regarding the number of inches your grass seed should receive each day or week. The total amount of water is much less important than whether or not the soil under your grass seed stays consistently moist.

During each irrigation session, apply enough water so that the top inch of soil is saturated but not soggy. The amount of time this will take can vary quite a bit. For example, grass seed in a shady area will require less water than that growing in a sunny spot. 

Your grass seed’s water needs will also differ with the daily temperature and weather conditions.

How Often To Water New Grass Seed

As a general rule, I recommend watering grass seed 2 or 3 times per day until it has grown to 3 inches tall. However, there is no one-size-fits-all schedule that works for all lawns. 

Some types of soil will dry out quickly and will need frequent watering. Others will hold onto water quite well, and watering 3 times per day may result in puddles or run-off. 

To prevent such issues, check the moisture level of the top inch of soil before each watering. 

How Quickly Does Grass Seed Dry Out

For the best results, you should keep the top ½ to 1 inch of soil moist throughout the entire germination period. In most climates, it will take several hours or longer for the soil to completely dry out. 

The tricky part about maintaining fresh grass seed is that there are countless factors that can cause the soil to dry out faster than normal. 

Obviously, your grass seed will dry out quickly if the weather is particularly hot and dry. Seed growing in shaded areas is less at risk. Timing your waterings around the hottest and sunniest part of the day is the best strategy in these cases.

Soil quality also plays a big role in how quickly water evaporates. If your lawn contains a lot of sand, you might notice that the topsoil dries out much faster than expected. Amending the soil with organic matter before spreading grass seed may help.

Overall, the best way to slow down evaporation between waterings is to apply a thin layer of mulch over your grass seed. Most people use straws for this purpose. Be sure the mulch layer is thin enough to still let adequate light and air through.

How Long Can Grass Seed Go Without Water

Most grass seeds can tolerate at least a day of no water before any serious damage occurs. With that said, here’s my opinion: since starting a lawn from seed is a laborious process, it’s not worth the risk of leaving your new grass to fend for itself! 

Seeds need moisture to germinate. If your grass seed doesn’t get enough water after it’s been planted, the seed might fail to germinate altogether and die off. The only way to fix this problem is by completely starting over with a new seed.

Once germination starts, new grass seed can survive for 2 or 3 days at most without water. Even if the grass doesn’t outright die, missing a few days of watering is almost guaranteed to stunt growth. 

When To Stop Watering New Grass Seed

Rest assured, your new lawn won’t need multiple waterings per day forever. But you shouldn’t stop watering abruptly. Instead, I recommend slowly tapering the amount of water you give the grass so it has a chance to adjust.

A good strategy is to switch to watering every other day once the grass reaches 1 inch tall. Continue this for around 3 weeks as the grass continues to grow and develop a strong root system under the soil surface.

After the grass is well-established, you can transition to watering once or twice per week. This may be the ideal watering schedule for your climate and the type of grass you’ve chosen. If not, continue tapering your watering frequency until it aligns with your lawn’s specific needs.

One more thing I want to note is that as your waterings become less frequent they should also become a bit heavier. Remember, your lawn’s roots will grow just as fast as the grass blades above the soil. So you want to saturate the soil deeper than 1 inch as the lawn establishes itself.

Should You Seed Your Lawn In Dry Or Moist Soil?

For the best results, I recommend watering the area thoroughly a few days before you plan to lay down grass seed. If your local climate is hot and dry, water the soil a day or two ahead of time. You can water for several days before seeding in more temperate weather.

When prepping the ground for seeding, the goal should be to saturate the topsoil up to 8 inches deep. The simplest way to test how deeply your soil is watered is by pushing a skewer-like into the soil.

Don’t worry if the soil’s surface has dried up by the time you go to spread the grass seed. It very likely will! What matters most is that the soil is still damp below the surface. You should water the area again immediately after spreading the grass seed. This will replenish the moisture that evaporates from the very top section of the soil.

How Long Will The Grass Take To Grow?

There are many factors that contribute to how quickly (or not so quickly) grass seed germinates and grows. In ideal conditions, grass will germinate in as little as 8 days on average. And you can expect a new lawn to go from fresh seed to established grass in about 2 months.

As a rule, cool-season grasses grow faster than warm-season varieties. You can expect popular cool-season grasses like ryegrass or fescue to germinate within 10 to 14 days. Most of these grasses will reach “mowable height” within a month after seeding. 

Meanwhile, warm-season species like Bermuda grass and buffalo grass can take 21 to 30 days to germinate. Starting a warm-season lawn requires patience, though, as many varieties can take an entire year to fully fill in.

The good news is that adopting a consistent watering routine is one of the best ways to ensure your grass seed grows as quickly as possible. Other important factors include the time of year, light exposure, and the quality of the seed used.

How To Water Grass Seed During A Drought

Starting grass seed during a drought is definitely possible. But you need to be prepared to commit plenty of time to ensure your lawn gets enough water during the critical first weeks.

In extreme drought, fresh grass seed can require watering every 2 or 3 hours during the daytime. If you’re watering entirely by hand, this can easily dominate your entire life!

If waiting until the heat and drought pass isn’t an option, I recommend investing in a DIY sprinkler system attached to a timer. This will allow you to program the sprinklers to turn on as often as possible throughout the day, even when you aren’t home to do the watering yourself.

Drought Tolerant Grass Seed?

Although many popular turf types of grass tolerate drought, their seeds don’t hold up as well to heat and lack of moisture. Nearly all grass seed requires the same amount of water to properly germinate.

If you’re looking for drought-tolerant grass that likes cool weather, I recommend a variety of fescue or buffalograss. Some of the most drought-tolerant warm-season grasses include zoysia grass, centipede grass, and St. Augustine grass.

There are some specialty grass seed products that are coated with a moisture-trapping material. In my opinion, these products are hit or miss. While innovative, I wouldn’t trust these coated seeds to hold up to extreme drought much better than normal grass seeds. Also, they tend to be much more expensive than non-coated seeds.

As for ways to start seeds under drought conditions, one technique I’m familiar with is called hydroseeding. Hydroseeding uses a high-powered hose to spray a mixture of grass seed, fertilizer, mulch, and bonding agents onto the soil. 

While this technique is most often employed to seed steep slopes and other inaccessible areas, it also offers a bit of natural drought protection as the grass germinates. (Whether or not I would hire someone to hydroseed my own lawn versus waiting for the weather to improve, however, is a whole other matter!)

Verdict: How Often Should You Water Grass Seed

Consistent watering is a vital part of transforming new grass seed into a lush, green lawn. Unfortunately, it’s also something that many property owners fail to understand the importance of until it’s too late.

As a general rule, to get the best from your grass seed water a couple of times a day for the first few weeks. After that, you can taper off the amount and frequency of water to a more manageable amount. 

Outside of these basic guidelines, I definitely urge you to research the specific watering needs of the grass species you’re planting for the best results. Those needs, combined with understanding your local climate, are the secret recipe to a happy and healthy lawn.