Turning a yard into a lush, grass-covered landscape can take a long time, whether you’re planting seed or laying out sod.
With hydroseeding, that time can be cut dramatically, says Justin Bellas, co-owner of Bellas Landscaping in Bloomington, Illinois.
“It keeps that soil warm in cooler temperatures, keeps it moist, so your germination’s quite a bit quicker,” he says. “The downtime is so much less. It’s a fraction of how long if you just have regular seeding down.”
Hydroseeding is a process of mixing paper and wood mulches, along with seed and fertilizer. It’s made into a slurry, which is then shot across the area where you want to plant grass.
“The nice thing about it is it’s similar to papier mâché,” Bellas says. “Once it dries, it firms up across the soil.”
The dried slurry then forms a protective layer over the soil as the seeds begin to germinate and grow into the ground.
“It’s actually a water-saving resource,” says Pat Morstad, owner of Precision Landscape & Irrigation in Henning, Minnesota. He says instead of watering five times a day to establish new seed, the area only has to be watered two to three times a day.
“You’re almost creating a micro-environment – a miniature greenhouse effect of the moisture and heat combined together,” he says.
The perfect mix.
Because contractors create the slurry themselves, Bellas says it allows you to create the mixture you want.
“For different applications, it requires a different amount of paper to wood,” he says. “A standard would be 70 percent paper and 30 percent wood. ... Some people would require 100 percent paper, depending on the job. Some might require 50/50.”
“What we’ve been able to do is add a blend that will allow us to not only cover sunny areas, but also cover some of the shaded areas,” Morstad says. “You come in and you’re going to have grass or turf that is customized to your specific site in that area, versus bringing in bluegrass that would be brought into a full sun area or partially shaded or fully shaded area and it’s not going to do well.”
Hold the slope.
Because of its ability to germinate quickly and hold the soil together as the grass grows, hydroseeding can be a good technology to prevent erosion, if you do it correctly.
“There are products out there that I don’t feel are as good,” Morstad says. “Products that work really good for erosion, some that work decent and some just don’t work at all.”
Bellas says scientists and engineers are now coming up with more hydroseeding products that you can put down in late fall.
“It’s not going to grow, but seed it anyway because products can hold it for six months, even through winter,” he says. “It helps keep the hill in place.”
“We’ve implemented hydroseeding within our program because we truly feel it is the best way to establish turf,” Morstad says. He says bringing in sod will give homeowners instant gratification, but laying out a lawn will always bring the risk of potential turf or soil diseases.
“Creating that new, custom-grown environment that really, in long-term health, is going to give a much better product down the road,” he says.
Bellas agrees, adding that sometimes sod will look really good the first day it goes out, then get worse for a while before recuperating and coming back after a month.
“The nice thing about hydroseed is that seed is able to grow really deep and just like any seed, it’s going to be a much thicker, better yard long term than even a sodded yard will,” he says.
On the right foot.
To start adding hydroseeding as a service, Bellas suggests watching videos on YouTube to get a good idea.
“You can learn so much by watching a five-minute video on what it does,” he says. “Even today, we do this all the time and we’re still learning.”
Morstad says setting up a good company system will make it run smoothly for the crews doing the hydroseeding.
“The issue with hydroseeding is if you mix it incorrectly, if your machine is ready for six bags and you add eight, you can actually clog your hose and clog your whole machine,” Bellas says. This will result in a day wasted as you clean it out.
This shouldn’t happen a lot, Bellas says, because dealers and distributors will help you specify the exact amount of supplies you need.
“We tell them what we have and they say we need this much of this and this much of that,” he says. “There’s a good way and a wrong way to do things, but either way grass will grow.”
At the end of the day, the biggest issue he sees with hydroseeding is the thoughts of the end user.
“Overall, it’s a much healthier yard, but it’s not magic,” he says.