As a machine, hydroseeders are fairly intuitive to use but knowing the right way to spray takes some training.
Photo courtesy of FINN Corporation

It only requires a relatively simple piece of equipment, but hydroseeding – when done the right way – can create lush, green lawns for your clients.

“Basically, it’s a tank, engine and pump,” says Ron Ciolfi, eastern market development manager for FINN Corporation. Part of his job is to help train customers to use equipment like hydroseeders. Ciolfi says the training that goes into using the machine is fairly intuitive, so adding the service to your business can be simple.

At Turfmaker, James Lincoln, president, also says that learning the functions of the machine can be relatively easy.

“Many people learn to use their machines with no instruction,” he says. “That’s just a matter of pushing the right button and pulling, right? Something with more skill – it’s not terribly skillful … something you have to learn is to how to evenly spray the (slurry).”

Why spray?

An obvious reason to enlist the work of a hydroseeder is to get grass to grow, but Ciolfi says it could be related to law compliance. In some states, any earth that has been moved must be stabilized, which can be done with a hydroseeder.

“If a contractor has a large area that’s going to have a strip mall put in, they might need to stabilize the ground after they’re done clearing and grading… there might be an area that they need to stabilize during construction.” Stabilizing ensures the soil won’t move from the construction site to another location – like a neighbor’s yard or a body of water.

When used to stabilize an area, an organic solution made of recycled newspaper or woodchips is mixed into a slurry that Ciolfi describes as a “green oatmeal.” For stabilizing purposes, the slurry is made thick.

Room to grow.

When used to grow grass, things get a little more precise. First and foremost, Lincoln asks the right questions.

“What kind of work are you going to be doing? (They) tell me that (they are) going to be primarily be doing home lawns and landscape type stuff, or … going to be doing pipeline work or … going to be doing highway work,” Lincoln says. “And when we’re talking highway work or pipeline work or some kind of reclamation work, we’re talking about many, many acres. When we’re talking about home lawn and landscape, we’re typically talking anywhere from a tenth of an acre to a fifth of an acre to maybe an acre.”

For a residential lawn, Lincoln says a contractor doesn’t need a big machine, but for a large commercial project, a larger machine may come in handy. “You would not do the smaller jobs with a giant machine and there’s a lot of argument to say you wouldn’t do the giant jobs with a little machine,” he says.

Spray on.

Using the hydroseeder may be easy but there is a more in-depth method to determining the mixes and materials to use.

“It’s a tank with an engine and a pump and someone just needs to know a little bit about soil and how the machine works,” Ciolfi says. “It’s very easy put stuff in the tank to mix it up and engage the pump.”

Ciolfi recommends consulting your state’s local turf school recommendations when it comes to grass seed selection, but generally he says he would typically spray around 2,200 to 2,500 pounds of slurry per acre on a residential lawn.

Wood fibers or recycled newspaper fibers can be used as a mix for the slurry, and Ciolfi says sometimes a gluey substance will be included to ensure the mixture stays put.

The rate at which the slurry is applied determines how thick or thin the covering will be, and Lincoln says it also makes the difference when it comes to pricing.

A thin layer won’t use as much product, but it also could leave a sub-par application for your client. On the flip side, an application that is too thick could waste product and cost you more in the long run.

Determining rate.

“What I instruct new people to do that are not going to have any hands-on instruction is to first determine how much area you want this tank load to cover,” Lincoln says. “We know that we’ve put X number of pounds of mulch in the tank. We know that we’ve put this much seed in the tank and the amount of seed we put in the tank is governed by how much area we intend to cover because your seed rates are always based on so many pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.”

Lincoln suggests telling a new operator to measure 5,000 square feet of area to get an idea of what that much land looks like.

“Literally go after and measure all 5,000 square feet and then start spraying with a relatively fine nozzle and get the 5,000 square feet covered where you’re moving your fine spray nozzle fairly quickly,” he says.

Once the 5,000 square feet has been covered, he suggests going back to the tank to see how much mixture you have left.

“You’ll probably have some thin spots,” Lincoln says. “So go back and make the application as easy as possible so that you get an idea of how thick you need to spray.”