Do you have a big, bare dirt field that needs covering, and you’re just dreading shelling out for sod or spending your weekend broadcasting seed? There’s a third option that may be right for you: hydroseeding.
- 1 What Exactly is Hydroseeding?
- 2 Hydroseeding Pros and Cons
- 2.1 Hydroseeding Pros
- 2.2 Hydroseeding Cons
- 2.2.1 Hydroseeding requires a lot more water
- 2.2.2 Hydroseeding needs bare dirt
- 2.2.3 You must follow the hydroseeding process to a tee, or you’ll have trouble
- 2.2.4 Hydroseeding is more expensive than broadcasting grass seed
- 2.2.5 Hydroseeding takes longer to see results than sod
- 2.2.6 Hydroseeding can have a negative environmental impact
- 3 What’s the Verdict—Should I Hydroseed My Lawn?
What Exactly is Hydroseeding?
Also known as hydro mulching and hydraulic mulch seeding, hydroseeding is a lawn sowing technique that uses a high-pressure hose to spray a slurry of grass seeds, mulch, water, fertilizer and/or green dye over bare dirt.
The fertilizer feeds the seeds in the short term and the mulch protects the seeds from the elements before becoming added nutrition, which helps the seeds get off to a better start. The green dye shows where the mixture has already been applied to keep the application even.
It sounds high tech, but highway departments have used this technique since the 1940s for erosion control. Since then, it’s been used for:
- Construction sites
- Earthen sound barriers besides highways
- Areas burned by wildfire (using a soil stabilizer to avoid introducing non-native plant species)
- Riverbanks to restore Riparian zones by seeding trees
Hydroseeding Pros and Cons
Hydroseeding is the easiest, most effective way to seed steep slopes
Seeding steep slopes has always been an arduous task. But with hydroseeding, you just spray the slope and the slurry sticks to the hill. You don’t have to walk across the slope or run any equipment over it.
Hydroseeding saves money on covering large spaces
The larger the space, the more expensive it is to broadcast seed and especially apply sod. It requires a lot of labour rolling out sod or a broadcast seeder, then even more while keeping the soil moist while the grass establishes. But with hydroseeding, the bigger your space, the more money you’re ultimately saving.
On the other hand, the smaller the space, the more money per square foot you’ll be spending.
Hydroseeding saves money compared to sod
Hydroseeding will also save you money compared to applying sod, especially in bigger spaces. You’ll still be paying for the ingredients (grass seed, fertilizer, mulch, etc), but you’re paying less for the labour in growing and installing the lawn. You will have to do more work after hydroseeding while the grass germinates and grows.
You can create your own mixture or blend of seeds, making your lawn more resilient
Nature abhors a monoculture. Your lawn will be more resilient overall if it’s planted with more than one grass variety. It’s like putting all of your eggs in one basket. If the weather conditions are exactly right, sure it works, but when the climate is unpredictable as it’s increasingly becoming, you’ll know something will survive if you have different varieties.
Plus, you can make a mix that will better fit your specific needs.
Hydroseeding requires a lot more water
Hydroseeding needs a ton of water for the actual hydroseeding process, then frequent waterings over the next month as the seeds germinate and grow.
If water is an issue, then I recommend selecting a grass species like buffalo grass that can thrive and survive droughts without extra watering. And maybe skip the hydroseeding.
Hydroseeding needs bare dirt
You can overseed existing grass, but if you’re going to use hydroseeding, you need to start with bare dirt. If the area you want to seed is already bare, great! But if you have existing grass, you’ll have to remove it, which can be labour intensive.
If the soil is compacted, which is so often the case with bare dirt and construction sites, then you’ll need to aerate the soil ahead of application. Tilling will help aerate the soil, and this is the perfect time to mix in organic matter like compost. If the soil is too rocky, then you may want to add new top soil.
You must follow the hydroseeding process to a tee, or you’ll have trouble
You need to follow the soil preparation instructions that your landscaper gives you, hydroseeding must take place before the seed variety’s growing season, and the seed can only stay in the hydroseeding equipment for an hour before it’s damaged. Hydroseeding can save labour on a large-scale, but you must follow all the instructions to a tee or you’ll have wasted your money.
If that sounds like a deal breaker and you’d prefer a more laissez-faire approach, then broadcasting seed may be a better approach for you. At least then, if it fails, you won’t have spent as much money on it.
Hydroseeding is more expensive than broadcasting grass seed
While hydroseeding saves money compared to sod, it is still more expensive than broadcasting grass seed. You have to hire a landscaper and hydroseeding equipment, and no, you can’t DIY it like you can with broadcasting. There’s more room for things to go wrong, for money to be wasted.
Hydroseeding takes longer to see results than sod
When you install sod, you have grass right away. You need to keep the sod moist for three to four weeks while the sod establishes itself, but you can see the grass.
Hydroseeding is like broadcasting seed. It’ll take time for the seeds to germinate, roots to grow, and grass blades to sprout up. You may be looking at dirt for a few weeks. However, growing grass from seed has the advantage of a better root system through the soil that will help it better survive stress. Sod roots tangle together in the top inches of the soil, resulting in more shallow roots.
If you can be patient, then growing from seed is the better option.
Hydroseeding can have a negative environmental impact
How much of an impact hydroseeding has on the environment depends on the ingredients used.
Dyes like Malachite green can harm local marine life and waterfowl, but manufacturers have started offering more environmentally friendly options.
Synthetic fertilizers also have a negative impact, especially when they’re able to leech into local water supplies. Some landscapers are substituting compost tea or vermicompost to impressive effect.
On the plus side, hydroseeding can take advantage of native grasses which require little to no pesticides, fertilizer, or irrigation, and some that don’t even need mowing. Native grasses grow deeper roots than non-native varieties, making them better for erosion-control and drought-tolerance.
The addition of mulch also helps to improve moisture retention, prevent seed dormancy, and encourage faster germination times.
What’s the Verdict—Should I Hydroseed My Lawn?
If you have a large field of bare dirt or a steep slope needing something to cover it, hydroseeding will save you time, hassle, and money.
If you have a small to mid-sized yard to reseed, then you’re better off with sod or broadcasting seed. With broadcasting seed, you can get similar benefits to hydroseeding, like grass seed mixtures and incorporating compost, without the cost.
Are you in between? Then you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons. Know what’s most important to you, what you won’t budge on, and what you’re willing to let slide, and you’ll figure out the best answer for you.