Ask the Expert: Seed Germination, Requires Determination

The upcoming overseeding season is going to experience unprecedented challenges when it comes to seed quality and availability—learn more from our Seed Report. That’s why it is critical to make sure the seed you do have germinates and establishes. We’ve connected with John Huber, our Sustainable Products Manager, for his recommendations on seed germination.

From John:

So you’re eight months into the year and your nerves are in your fingertips because 2021 has thrown nothing but curve balls at you.

Being the optimist that I am, I always tell myself that everything is temporary. Things will get better and go back to normal. Then a tidal wave that began with a virtual earthquake in the Pacific Northwest comes crashing in on the most critical season of the year. Overseeding.

Drought, wildfires, a record heat wave, shortages, trucking delays, cost increases, a plague of voles and other destructive critters has disrupted grass seed production. This has created the perfect storm of mayhem the likes of which no one in our industry has ever experienced. What is next? Locusts, water turning to blood, hail, a zombie apocalypse? I kid, I kid.

Due to the extreme heatwave in the Pacific Northwest last month, the Oregon grass seed crop was devastated and much of the seed crop that survived is dehydrated. As a result, that hundred dollars+ bag of seed you purchased will contain more inert matter and less of the viable grass seed than you bargained for. Additionally, the condition of the seed is diminished, so germination rates will be abnormal this fall. Frustrating, I know!

But you don’t have to throw in the towel just yet. It’s not too late to salvage your seeding season if you take a few simple steps to ensure your success. At Central we have your back. We can provide you with an insurance policy for your grass seed that covers all of the preexisting conditions listed above (with the exception of zombie apocalypse).

We call it our “Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” policy, which features our number one selling seed starter from Hudson Valley Natural, Jackpot Starter15-15-5. This fertilizer was formulated specifically for maximum germination and seed establishment on existing lawns. New seedlings do not require potassium, so you don’t need to apply a 19-19-19 or similar. Potassium costs have increased significantly in the last few months just like nitrogen and phosphorus costs. The price of triple 19 is astronomical right now, so this is great news for the end user. You don’t need to pay for all of that expensive potassium.

About Jackpot Starter 15-15-5

Jackpot Starter is efficient and it will help increase germination rates for the seed you do have. It is formulated with a balanced combination of six sources of nitrogen, both slow and quick release, as well as three sources of phosphorus and ample amounts of two organic matter components. Jackpot Starter 15-15-5 delivers a three-dimensional safety net to help ensure optimal seed germination, plus root and leaf development.

  • Seed to soil contact. This is critical for seed germination. The organic matter in 15-15-5 acts as a conduit to help the seed connect with the soil. Additionally, the organic matter increases water holding capacity, thus increasing germination rates, and it contains simple organic compounds that enhance the new seedling’s ability to create their own plant growth hormones. This stimulates density that pushes growth to fill in and expand outward to establish a wider surface area of newly established turf. This plant “growth regulator” effect promotes thicker cell walls that enhance disease resistance, plus heat and drought tolerance.
  • Nitrogen: Newly germinated seedlings require more nitrogen than established turf. Jackpot Starter 15-15-5 has six sources of nitrogen that release efficiently over a 12-week period, without fear of burning or creating optimal conditions for diseases. This means, fewer applications and less labor costs for you.
  • Phosporus: Phosphorus plays an important role in various growth processes including good root development. Jackpot Starter contains ample amounts of phosphorus from three sources, two of which are from the organic matter. Furthermore, Phosphorus stimulates new root growth and enhances plant vigor early in the plant’s life. Phosphorus is most important when the grass is first establishing roots and remains important as new blades of grass continue to grow. The presence of available phosphorus helps keep the lawns lush and thick.

Proper Irrigation for Germination

With the high cost of grass seed and the fact that germination rates could be diminished due to seed dehydration, irrigation becomes the most critical factor in the success of seed germination. We recommend longer watering periods for newly seeded lawns this fall to ensure optimal seed germination.

Water multiple times per day for short periods to keep the surface area and the seed moist. Set timers to run through a watering cycle, three times per day beginning at 8 AM, 12 noon and again at 4 PM.

Watering guideline for the first two weeks after seeding

  • Pop up spray heads – 10 minutes – three times a day
  • 90-degree heads – 15 to 20 minutes – three times per day
  • 180-degree heads – 25 to 30 minutes – three times per day
  • 360-degree heads – 40 to 45 minutes – three times per day

Please note that watering requirements will vary depending on your climate zone and weather conditions.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Get a soil test from a reputable soil testing lab to determine pH levels and deficiencies—this allows you determine exactly what the soil needs to be healthy.
  • Prepare the lawn for seeding by mowing a setting or two lower than normal so you can skip a mowing cycle after seeding. Clean the lawn of debris and if necessary, de-thatch the lawn.
  • Power core aerate the lawn at the time of seeding to open the soil and oxygenate the root zone. For optimal results, use a mechanical slit seeder to ensure maximum seed to soil contact.


Rely on Central to help, whether it’s questions about the newest innovations in agronomics, recommendations for seed germination, aeration techniques, or finding the right solutions for a problem area. We stay at the leading edge of the industry and we’re ready to help you grow!


About John Huber

John Huber is Central’s Organic and Sustainable Products Manager. John started out in the Green Industry as a grower of nursery plants. John launched his own landscape company and successfully built his business into the first organic-based turf management company in south eastern Virginia.

More recently, John worked in fertilizer manufacturing using organic ingredients that increased efficiency, and delivered numerous plant health benefits not found in today’s conventional fertilizers. John brings a wealth of knowledge in sustainable solutions. And with his leadership, Central Turf & Irrigation Supply will provide the stewardship to lead The Green Industry forward, into a new era of sustainability.