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How to Pre-Germinate Grass Seed in 4 Steps

by TurfCareBlog

How to pre-germinate grass seed in 4 steps,is a blog by Stuart Lambert who is Head Groundsman at Gloucester Rugby.

Pre germinate grass seed, why, when, and how.

The best time to consider pre chitting seed is when temperatures are lower so between late autumn and early spring as at other times there is usually enough warmth in the ground to get the seed germinating on its own. Ideally using a colder weather seed mix like MM Tetra sport will work better.

The positives of pre germinating are for times when there is only a small window, between games training etc.

See below the four steps to pre germinating/chitting seed.

Step One

Work out how much seed you are going to need and check the weather forecast for the next few days to ensure you have a window to apply the seed. Application rate of between 20-35grams per m2.

Step Two

pre germinated seed
seed into soak for 24 hours

Soak the seed in tubs or buckets for 24hrs. Then the water needs to be completely drained. You can do this via tights or pouring the seed through a sieve. Once drained put in a warm location such as a boiler cupboard or heated shed/office.

Once/twice a day for two days stir the seed around, to ensure even moisture distribution. I find tipping from one tub/bucket to another a couple of times works best.

Step Three

seed germinated
Small white shoots appear =ready

After three days with constant checking look out for the seed to chit (above image). If the seed is not ready, leave another day or until you seed the small white shoot pop out.

Once you are at this stage you need to get it out onto the field/green. Do not try and hold out for another day as it will be too far gone.

Step Four

Sowing is always better if made with a lot of seed/soil contact via a disc or dimple seeder or sorrel roll. Any machine that shallowly impacts the soil will do. Perennial ryegrass for example likes to be sown into the soil, no deeper than 15mm in depth.

The exception to this, would be on a barely grassed sandy soil where the seed should be able to pull itself into the surface. A light sand dressing may also be applied to help the seed.

Cover with germination sheets, fleece, debris netting anything to keep the birds off and keep a bit of extra warmth in.

Top Tips

Avoid frosts, young roots and shoots are susceptible to frost damage.

Check the weather before considering, as once the chitting process has started, there is no going back. The seed will ruin if you cannot get it down before roots getting going.

If you enjoyed, 4 Steps to Pre-Germinating By Stuart also also check this blog with 20 questions about Stuart- https://turfcareblog.com/ten-questions-to-ask-a-top-groundsman-stuart-lambert/

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Dave Appleby March 18, 2021 - 7:02 pm

i use a plastic box like you use for under the bed storage. fill with loam add grass seed and water .
then by next home game its nicely growing ready for bowlers footholes ..

TurfCareBlog March 18, 2021 - 7:34 pm

Good stuff Dave and thanks for the tip

Tesh April 13, 2021 - 9:27 am

As a regular home owner (trying this for the first time) with only a drop spreader, do you have any tips on how to sow the damp seeds in a drop spreader? I see that they cling together a lot. Is it a question of manually hand sowing after mixing in with soil or is there are better way?

Ben Daigle April 29, 2021 - 7:58 pm

you could try peat moss. mixed with the seed.

TurfCareBlog Reflects on 2021 | December 29, 2021 - 12:54 pm

[…] How to pre germinate grass seed by Stuart Lambert […]

Paul Jones April 10, 2022 - 7:47 pm

After soaking and draining, I also add about 5 times the volume of sand and mix well. This helps even distribution and is more visible for even application…

Rodney Seddon October 5, 2022 - 7:57 am

I’ve done 3 new lawns sowing seed y way, I used bowling Green seed, put your seed in cheese cloth let it soak for just over 12 Hours and you’ll see that the water is all brown spread it out on news paper every so often move it about then after a couple of days put it on your soil then put a mixture off soil and sand on top then within 7 days you’ll see the grass seed showing then within a month you can start cutting your new lawn, best time end off March Rod.Seddon

TurfCareBlog October 8, 2022 - 6:49 pm

Thanks Rodney for your tips

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