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.
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
✔ Customizable seed blend
✔ More efficient than traditional seeding
✔ More uniform look than laying sod or traditional seeding
✘ Requires intensive watering initially
✘ DIY hydroseeding is less effective than DIY sod or DIY traditional seeding
Hydroseeding 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Our Rating Methodology
To provide readers with the most objective, accurate, and detailed recommendations, the This Old House Reviews Team continually researches lawn care service companies on the market. We take the following steps to obtain up-to-date information about the industry and each company we review:
- Analyze more than 100 customer reviews from third-party review sites, such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and Google Reviews, for each company
- Secret-shop for lawn care plans and packages to get a sense of cost, offered services, and the overall shopping experience for prospective customers
- Speak with representatives on the phone to simulate the customer service experience from each provider
- Update information on a regular basis to ensure the most accurate information when plans or services change with each company
We use the data from our research to build an in-depth rating system that allows us to score lawn care providers on a 100-point scale. Here are the factors in our evaluation and their designated scores:
- Plan options (30): As one of the most important factors for homeowners shopping for a lawn care service, this one is weighted heavily based on each company’s lawn coverage. Companies that offer more options, such as irrigation, weed control, seeding, and aeration services in addition to a general plan, score higher than others.
- Trustworthiness (30): Each company’s reputation is another significant factor for homeowners to consider before signing up for a plan. We scored providers based on their BBB score, accreditation, and offered guarantees available with each purchase.
- Additional Benefits (20): We gave extra points to companies that provide a few additional services and benefits with their offered plans, such as organic treatments, pest control services, and a mobile app for digital communication and plan management.
- Customer Service (10): In this rating category, we awarded points to customer-focused lawn care service providers who offer weekend availability and easy communication through phones, online chats, and online resources.
- Availability (10): We also scored companies based on their overall availability, rewarding those that are nationally available over local companies only operating in select cities or ZIP codes.
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.