The process of hydroseeding is garnering attention from homeowners who want a new approach to a beautiful lawn, especially in large areas that are difficult to seed. Unlike laying sod or applying dry seed, this seeding method uses a sprayer to spread grass seed, fertilizer, water, and other chemicals at one time to create healthy topsoil for your new lawn to grow.
Hydroseeding (also called “hydraulic mulch seeding”) was developed in the 1940s to efficiently “blow” seed onto inaccessible slopes. Still a cost-effective way to establish grass along roads and other commercial properties, hydroseeding is now being used for some residential properties. This advanced lawn-care technique offers several benefits for you and your yard, including:
- Cost-effective method: Hydroseeding a large area is less expensive than sodding with mature grass.
- Quality grass: Hydroseed mixtures coat grass seed in mulch and fertilizer, so seeds germinate faster than with other methods.
- Erosion control: Hydroseed holds moisture and protects against erosion from wind, rain, and pests.
- Weed prevention: Hydroseed mixtures contain fewer weed seeds, and grass seed is coated in a slurry to help germinate and stamp out weeds while growing.
- Professional application: A professional hydroseeding company can apply the hydroseed mixture quickly.
So, how does hydroseeding work?
In hydroseeding, grass seed, water, fertilizer, wood-based mulch, and a bonding agent are combined in a large tank to create a loose slurry. The mixture is then sprayed directly onto soil through a discharge nozzle. It’s an alternative to both laying down sod and conventional dry- seed application, in which seed, fertilizer, and mulch are applied individually and then watered. (Though a precise process that requires no specialized equipment, conventional dry-seed application takes longer and involves a fair amount of labor.)
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Is hydroseeding right for you?
Hydroseeding allows you to revive your lawn and strengthen the topsoil for strong, healthy growth, but it’s not for everyone. (Yes, there are still times when sod or dry seed may be the better option.) Now that you have an understanding of what a hydroseeded lawn is and how hydroseeding works, you can decide whether this landscaping solution is the best for your property. If you have large areas of temperamental turf, then read on for what to consider before hiring hydroseeding services to help your lawn.
1. Hydroseeding costs less than sod but can’t deliver instant gratification.
According to the International Association of Hydroseeding Professional (IAHP), hydroseeding typically costs from $.06 to $.15 per square foot. Its prices vary depending on conditions such as grass type, soil additives, and extreme climates.
Once the process is complete, “It takes 30 to 40 days for the lawn to come in, and you have to baby it to get it to come in thick,” says Bryan Clayton, cofounder of the lawn maintenance matching service GreenPal. This means that you will need to keep all foot traffic off the area where hydroseed is applied to ensure the grass seeds germinate. You should be able to resume mowing your grass four to six weeks after seeding your lawn.
While not instantaneous, hydraulic mulch seeding strikes a balance between cost-effective and faster growing time than other germination methods. Sod, for example, is the go-to choice for homeowners looking to have an “instant lawn” because the mature sod lawn is harvested from a farm and planted at your home. These immediate results come at a steep installation price tag of $1 to $2 per square foot, according to Home Advisor.
2. The best places to hydroseed the lawn include large areas, slopes, and other areas where you need erosion control.
Hydroseeding isn’t the most economical approach for a small area due to its specialized equipment cost. (For reference, each tank of hydroseed can cover up to 3,500 square feet or more.) Ideal areas for hydroseeding include:
- Large areas with 3,500 square feet of lawn or more.
- Steep slopes where sod lawn or other germination techniques won’t work.
- Areas with lots of soil erosion from wind, water, or pests.
The value of hydroseeding is in the labor savings, as it doesn’t require an entire landscaping crew to spend hours applying seed, fertilizer, water, and mulch. Instead, the materials are applied in a single pass in just a few minutes to areas that may be difficult to address otherwise.
3. Water soon and frequently after hydroseeding.
A hydroseeded lawn requires a lot of water during the early stages. Keeping the seedbed moist for an extended period of time can be a time-consuming, pricey proposition.
Clayton advises, “Budget several hundred dollars for water for a hydroseeded lawn.” For the first two weeks, you’ll need to program your sprinkler to water three to four times a day for at least 15 minutes. Over the next two weeks, watering should gradually decrease in frequency but increase in duration.
One month after a visit from your hydroseeder, the lawn will need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, which is the average amount for a regular lawn.
4. The best time of year to hydroseed a lawn is spring or fall.
According to the IAHP, spring and fall are the best seasons for hydroseeding because warm soil and moderate rain help young grass seedlings grow deep roots. Summer heat will help grass germinate and grow faster, but you’ll likely have to water more often. It’s not recommended to hydroseed in winter because the grass usually is dormant and will not germinate until the weather warms.
5. Hydroseeding is not a DIY landscaping project—so choose your professional wisely.
While you can take on most yard work, hydroseeding is not one of those projects. The slurry is challenging to mix when you lack the specialized equipment used by hydroseed services to ensure the proper blending of grass seed, mulch, water, and fertilizer. Some states even require licensure to apply some of the additives in the hydroseeding mixture.
The IAHP suggests using Hydroseeding Experts to find qualified, licensed contractors in your area. “Be leery of landscapers who say they can hydroseed your lawn,” Clayton cautions. “Most landscapers subcontract hydroseeding because a hydroseeding rig costs several hundred thousand dollars and very few landscapers actually own one. Odds are, they’re just acting as a middleman and marking the job up as much as 30 percent.”