By Chris Roquemore, Patten Seed Company
Some folks treat their seed like a college student – throw it out and let nature run its course. After all, everyone has to grow up at some point, and it’s time to learn how to feed yourself.
However, warm season grass seed is much more sensitive to conditions and needs structure to thrive. It needs to be coddled, micromanaged, and nourished like a kindergartener during the first month of school. But don’t worry – it will be strong and mature before you know it – though it may require some patience.
Close-up view of Zenith Zoysia seed 5 days after planting in ideal conditions
We’re here to help you understand the ideal conditions to help your young grass thrive before you declare it a “bad batch” and give up on it completely. After all, you wouldn’t do that to your kindergartener.
Our farmers at Patten Seed Company/Super-Sod have been raising grass seed a long time and learned a lot. This short blog will supply you with the most important things we have learned and facilitate the relationship between you and your new seed.
Putting Seeds to the Test
We wouldn’t send seeds out to your lawn if they couldn’t handle it. And how can we tell when they’re ready? Like most modern schools, we rely on test scores.
Getting a bad batch (the proper term is lot) of seed from us just isn’t possible. By strict federal and state seed laws, we sample our seed lots every few months. Those samples go to an independent, third-party lab that tests them for purity, weed seed content, and germination rate.
The minimum germination rate in which we can sell our products is 85% but the actual percentages from the lab are always in the high 90’s, usually 97 or 98%. That means when the conditions are correct, only two or three seeds out of 100 will not germinate.
Each bag of TifBlair Centipede and Zenith Zoysia seed includes lab results.
To put that in perspective, 1 pound of seed contains over half a million tiny seeds capable of producing over 490,000 plants! Above is an example of the information provided from the lab that we are required to publish on your bag of seed.
Patten Seed Company is farming in three states with a combined total of 15,000 acres in farm land. For seed production, these fields have to be re-worked and re-planted every 2-3 years. That means we are constantly rotating the varieties and replanting the seed in our own fields.
An aerial view of one of our seed fields
On the farm, we plant the exact same seed lots in our fields that we use for retail sales. Simply put, we use the same seed we sold to you. After doing this for over 60 years and planting an excess of 50,000 acres, we have never had a field fail. Under the right conditions your Zenith Zoysia or TifBlair Centipede will grow!
Ideal Seed Growing Conditions
So what are these magical conditions that guarantee success, you ask? They are covered at length in the instructions you will find with your bag of seed, but we will cover the basics here, too.
The most important part is ensuring that all of these growing conditions are right. If even one variable is out of whack, then germination will slow or your picky (and stubborn) seed will simply wait to germinate until the conditions are right.
- Planting depth must be 1/8”-1/4” deep.
- Soil temperature must be above 60°F.
- You simply have to have direct sunlight for 8 hours a day.
- During the first 14 days the seed bed MUST remain moist. Watering on a timer multiple times per day will work well.
Last but certainly not least; your soil has to be in order. It must be stable to prevent washing away and it must be healthy for germination. The most important thing you can do for your seed is to take a soil test, send a soil sample to WatersAg.com and let them know what you are going to plant. For a nominal fee they will tell you exactly what is going on in your soil (pH, nutrition, recommendations, etc.).
75 days of healthy Zenith Zoysia seed growth
As you can see in this picture of this 75-day-old Zenith Zoysia, there is much more going on below ground than above ground in any healthy turf!
Dealing with Weeds: The Lawn Bullies
Last issue to discuss is everyone’s favorite, weeds. You are going to have weeds. It’s just nature doing its thing and presenting growing pains. Just as warm season grass seeds are picky, so are weed seeds. There are billions in your yard right now waiting for the right conditions to grow.
When you disturb the soil and remove the competing weeds/grasses you had there, the conditions will be right for seeds that laid dormant for decades to finally grow.
Mowing is your best way to combat this, but more details are available in your instructions and we are always available to help at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the best advice on dealing with your local weeds will always be your county’s Ag Extension office. Extension agents are familiar with weeds and treatment options that are prominent in your area.
Videos Speak Louder than Words
Ok, enough with all this reading about seed growing. Let’s see what is possible when you truly cater to the needs of your seed! Here are two time lapse videos showing just what to expect when all the growing conditions are right. Both of these demonstrations were grown using random bags of seed we pulled off our retail shelf in Level Mix – a mix of 30% Soil3 organic compost and 70% sand.
51 Days of Zenith Zoysia Growth in 57 Seconds
As you can see, the tender immature seedlings of Zenith Zoysia were barely visible until day 15 even under prime conditions, and some small patches were still not completely filled in by day 51.
From Seed to Lawn: 51 Days of TifBlair Centipede
The TifBlair Centipede sprouts didn’t show up on camera until day 12 and required tremendous care before needing their first trim on day 32.
With 51 days of care, water, and healthy soil, by the end of the growing period these seeds were practically high schoolers – mature enough to handle most situations but still requiring help with the essentials – like water, mowing, and the occasional dose of fertilizer or weed prevention.
We hope this helps you understand just how much you should care for your seed to ensure your lawn becomes mature and ready for routine maintenance.
If you still have questions and want to see an even better video, click over to our additional resource for Easy Seed Planting 101.
Questions? Ask away in the comments below so we can all learn and grow together!
Chris Roquemore not only manages the Patten Seed plant where all the seed cleaning, coating, and packaging happens. He oversees the growth of thousands of acres of grass seed to ensure customers around the world receive their grass seed in perfect growing condition. Chris is constantly looking for innovative ways to help customers get the most out of their newly seeded lawns and is always up for a challenge, including the time lapse videos above.