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What is Hydroseeding?

Hydroseeding is a convenient, cost-effective way to plant grass seed, but like seeding and laying sod, it has its pros and cons.

Hydroseeding iStock

More efficient than traditional seeding and more affordable than laying sod, hydroseeding strikes a fine balance. Although the name sounds pretty high-tech, hydroseeding can be done DIY-style or by a professional lawn care company. You’ll likely see the best results by going with a professional, but if you’ve got money on the mind, you can find a hydroseeding starter kit on Amazon, or maybe even your local garden store. Most people recommend hiring a company for their equipment and expertise.

Our top lawn care provider recommendation doesn’t offer hydroseeding, but can help your lawn with a comprehensive selection of services—from aeration to overseeding, and from weed control to pest control. After you’ve gotten your lawn hydroseeded, we recommend you hire TruGreen to maintain your hard work and keep your lawn lush and green. If you’d like to get a free quote from TruGreen, call 1-866-817-2287 or fill out a simple form.

Read on to find out everything you’d want to know about hydroseeding.

The Process of Hydroseeding

Simply put, hydroseeding is a technique that spreads a specialized grass “slurry” evenly over bare ground to grow grass and prevent soil erosion. This slurry is made up of grass seeds, mulch, water, fertilizer, biostimulants, and occasionally green-tinted dye.

It’s a clever mixture, because the fertilizer boosts growth, the mulch bonds the seeds to the soil, protects them from the elements (like wind or too much sunlight), and ultimately adds extra nutrients by decomposing on the growing grass.

Hydroseeding is also called hydromulching and hydraulic mulch seeding. If you haven’t heard of hydroseeding or any of its other monikers before, it may sound a bit mysterious. But it’s a proven process that’s been around for more than a half-century.

Pros & Cons of Hydroseeding

Compare the advantages and disadvantages of hydroseeding.

Hydroseeding Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Affordable compared to laying sod Less cost savings on a smaller lawn
Can use customized seed blend Takes longer to see results than sod
More efficient than traditional seeding More expensive than traditional seeding
Grass germinates fairly quickly Requires intensive watering for first few months
Results in more uniform look than laying sod (seams) and traditional seeding (may be patchy) DIY hydroseeding is less effective than DIY sod and traditional seeding
Hydroseeded lawns are typically healthier than sod lawns (sod can dry out between being moved to your lawn and being installed)

Hydroseeding Basics

And now, hydroseeding. This process is the middle-of-the-road approach in terms of cost, labor involved, and growth rate. However, you might say hydroseeded lawns are the most attractive, once they’ve been established. Traditionally, seeded lawns can grow in patchy, and lawns made of sod might have visible “seams” or gaps. Meanwhile, hydroseeding spreads the slurry evenly for a more uniform look.

How to Hydroseed

The process of hydroseeding, whether you tackle it yourself or hire a professional, involves the following steps. For the best results, hydroseeding should be done between March and October.

1. Select your seeds

Unlike laying sod, with hydroseeding, you can use a custom grass blend made up of different species, each with their own beneficial traits. Your starting point should be the weather where you live. Then, you could select your blend based on a variety of characteristics you’re after, like heat-resistance, disease-resistance, or drought-resistance.

If you hydroseed yourself, you can ask your local garden center about which grass blend will work best. If you hire a professional, they can guide you through the decision and provide the blend.

2. Perform a soil test

Soil tests are key no matter what type of seeding you choose. You need to make sure your soil has the right pH—not too acidic, and not too alkaline. Most grasses thrive at a soil pH between 6.5 and 7. You can adjust your soil pH as needed with lime amendments, organic material, or sulfur, depending on its level.

If you’re DIY-ing, you can buy a commercial test or purchase an at-home kit, then send a sample to a company or university to analyze. Or, the professional lawn care company you hire to hydroseed will perform the test.

3. Clear off the ground

Unlike laying sod, you should only hydroseed on bare soil. Pull any weeds and remove any debris to give your grass a clean slate.

4. Grade the soil

Next, you should create a grade about 2.5 to 3 inches below the ultimate grade you want. This will keep the slurry from reaching your house or any other structures, where it might cause some moisture-related damage.

5. Apply topsoil and compost

To start things off right, you should apply a 2-inch blend of topsoil and compost to give your lawn the nutrients it will need to grow strong and lush.

6. Re-grade the soil

Take the time to re-grade, making sure your soil is completely smooth. The smoother the surface, the better.

7. Prep the hydroseeder

Add your special blend to your hydroseeder, turning on the agitator to create a thoroughly mixed slurry. Professional lawn care companies will have the best, commercial-grade hydroseeders, but you can rent or purchase your own.

8. Spray

Finally, the fun part. Spray the hydroseed across the soil with your hydraulic machine.

9. Next steps

After this, it’s all about maintenance. For the first two months after hydroseeding, you’ll need to take special care to make sure your lawn is moist. Watering two to three times a day for the first few weeks is important, and you can gradually water less (but more than usual) the next six to seven weeks. It’s key that no one walks on the lawn during this time—kiddos and furry friends included.

With hydroseeding, you can start to see grass sprouting in as soon as seven to 10 days, depending on the grass type (for instance, rye grass will germinate faster than Bluegrass). You can start mowing after four weeks.

How Hydroseeding Compares to Other Methods

Laying sod, traditional seeding, and hydroseeding all have their unique perks and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at laying sod and traditional seeding before we take a microscope to hydroseeding.

Sod

Sod is the fastest, most expensive way to establish a lawn. According to crabgrasslawn.com, sod pallets cost 70% more than hydroseeding—for instance, a lawn established with sod could cost up to $10,000, while hydroseeding the same size lawn would cost between $2,500 to $5,000, including the cost of hiring a contractor.

The clear benefit of sod is that it’s fully grown, built-in turf that you can sink your toes into immediately after installation. You can lay sod any time of year, though late spring to late summer is the ideal window. Sod doesn’t require much maintenance or watering. It typically takes a few weeks for sod to take root in a lawn.

The cons of sod are its high price tag, limited grass seed options, and its potential to be unhealthy. Because sod is grown, then cut and installed, it can be less hardy than a lawn whose seeds are planted directly in the soil from the get-go.

Seeding

Traditional seeding is the cheapest of the bunch, often coming in at less than $1,000 for a lawn that would cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for hydroseeding. However, this method takes more time than hydroseeding, and it takes the longest time before you see results, since it can take up to six to 10 weeks for a traditionally seeded lawn to become fully established and able to handle foot traffic. The time of year you seed your lawn depends on whether you live in a cool grass, warm grass, or transition zone.

The greatest pro of seeding is its affordability, and its biggest con is the time it takes for seeds to germinate.

While hydroseeding is cheaper than laying sod, it is most cost-effective on larger lawns because the set-up and equipment will set you back the same amount for a smaller lawn—even though you’ll need less hydroseeding overall.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the seeding method you choose comes down to your priorities. Do you want an instant lawn, and money is no object? Sod may be your solution. If you’re on a tight budget but have time in spades, traditional seeding could be just what the doctor ordered. Both of these options are more DIY-friendly than hydroseeding.

If your needs and preferences fall somewhere in the middle, you should consider hydroseeding. With this method, you can get a hardy, healthy lawn in two months made up of your custom grass blend with minimal effort and cost. We recommend contracting with a professional lawn care company to see the best results.

Spring is here, so you should take your pick pretty soon. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet—well, you know what we mean.

If you’d like to take our recommendation for TruGreen, our pick for most comprehensive packages, you can reach the company for a customized quote at 1-866-817-2287 or fill out a simple form.

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