Hydroseeding 101: 5 Considerations for Your Lawn
Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of a hydroseeded lawn.
The process of hydroseeding is garnering attention from homeowners who want a new approach to a lush lawn, especially for large areas or stubborn spots where grass doesn’t typically grow well. 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.)
Hydroseeding was developed in the 1940s to efficiently “blow” seed onto the inaccessible slopes of highways. Still an effective, cost-effective way to establish grass along roads and other commercial properties, hydroseeding is now being used for some residential properties. If you have temperamental turf, read on to learn about the pros and cons of hydroseeding to decide if it is the right solution for your lawn.
1. Though more cost-effective than sod, hydroseeding can’t deliver instant gratification.
Sod—mature lawn grass that’s harvested on a farm and planted in a new location—offers immediate results for a finished look. It also protects soil better than conventional seeding and hydroseeding and, because it comes with a mass of roots, establishes much more quickly than seeding. All that comes with a steep installation price tag of $0.90 to $2 per square foot, according to Home Advisor.
The International Association of Hydroseeding Professional (IAHP) cites hydroseeding costs from $.06 to $.15 per square foot (prices vary depending on conditions such as grass type, soil additives, and extreme climates). But once hydroseed is applied, “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. That means copious care and no walking on the lawn until the grass is established.
2. Hydroseeding is best suited to large areas, slopes, and erosion control.
Hydroseeding isn’t the most economical approach for a small area due to the cost of its specialized equipment. It can, however, be a cost-efficient option for large properties, areas with soil erosion issues or hard-to-reach areas such as steep slopes. The value of hydroseeding is in the labor savings, as it doesn’t require an entire landscaping crew to apply seed, fertilizer, water, and mulch. Instead, the materials are applied in a single pass in just a few minutes. Each tank of hydroseed can cover up to 3,500 square feet or more.
3. It takes a lot of water to maintain a hydroseed lawn.
In the early stages, the seedbed of a hydroseeded lawn must be kept moist—a time-consuming, pricey proposition. In fact, Clayton advises, “Budget several hundred dollars for water for a hydroseeded lawn.” For the first two weeks, you’ll need 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. By week five, the lawn will need one to 1.5 inches of water per week, the average amount for a regular lawn.
4. Hydroseed in the spring and fall for the best results.
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 is normally dormant and will not germinate until the weather warms.
5. Hydroseeding is not a DIY project—so choose your professional wisely.
Specialized equipment and materials make hydroseeding a job-for-hire only. In fact, some states 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.”