If your lawn is looking more than a little lacklustre, maybe you’re considering starting from scratch with options such as new sod or hydroseeding. Both are popular options for new construction and homeowners who want to see results in a hurry. With sod or hydroseed you can quickly establish a beautiful lawn. In this article, I’ll compare sod vs hydroseed, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each approach in terms of cost, labor, time, and final results.
Let’s get started.
Should I Install Sod or Hydroseed My Lawn?
I’ll take an in-depth look and explain what you need to know (and what you should expect when installing sod vs hydroseed application in your yard.
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According to Nicole Forsyth, M.S., a certified horticulturist and member of our expert panel, “Hydroseeding is the process of combining a mixture called a ‘slurry’ (seed, mulch, fertilizer, soil amendments, and water), and there is usually a wood fiber (like paper mache) and a stabilizing emulsion to ‘glue’ it together and hold the seed in place.”
During the hydroseeding process, this seed slurry mixture is sprayed onto soil.
The amount of site prep required determines how long you’ll have to wait to hydroseed your yard.
How Long Will I Have to Wait for New Grass?
When you hydroseed, you should see at least some green grass within 7 to 10 days.
You’ll want to wait a few weeks for that grass to become established before mowing or walking on your new lawn.
When comparing hydroseed vs sod, you’ll have to wait longer to use your lawn when hydroseeding.
How Does the Price of Hydroseed Compare to Sod?
Hydroseed tends to be a lot more affordable than using sod, especially if you’re covering a large area. One reason for this is the fact that hydroseed doesn’t require the labor-intensive effort required to lay sod.
You’ll basically be paying for the seed, fertilizer, and the specialized equipment needed to do the application, but the application doesn’t take long at all.
Also, when you choose hydroseed you will be the one doing the work that a sod farm does as your grass grows (such as weeding, water management, and fertilizing). All of that costs time and money, and when your grass grows on-site it’s cheaper than paying someone else for doing that work.
While it’s true that hydroseed is more expensive than just using traditional grass seed, it’s a lot more affordable than sod.
If you’re interested in doing hydroseeding of your property, you should expect to pay between 9 cents to 15 cents per foot. The exact cost will depend on the type of grass you choose and the other features or services that are included.
Watering Your Yard After a Hydroseed Application
Remember that hydroseed must remain properly watered, just like any grass seed.
You will have to avoid walking on hydroseeded ground for at least a month. This is so the roots have the time needed to get established.
Walk on your soil too early, and your lawn will have footprints and your seedlings might die where you step.
Pre-emergent treatments and starter fertilizer applications are something I recommend prior to hydroseeding for best results. I use this starter fertilizer from Scott’s which includes a crabgrass preventer that does not inhibit the growth of new grass.
Some companies will include this type of product with their hydroseed application, so check to find out whether this will be included in the price charged by the landscape professional or company you choose.
Site Prep for Hydroseed
The surface of the soil that is going to have hydroseed applied should be raked to loosen it up. This is especially important with construction sites, as the soil in these areas tends to be severely compacted.
Compacted soil means that there isn’t enough space between the particles of soil and air, water, and nutrients will have difficulty making their way to the grass roots.
Generally speaking, a useful approach to fixing this problem can be to loosen the soil where possible by raking, and then tilling in decomposed organic matter. This could be a material such as peat moss or fertile compost.
If there is too much rock in the area to do this, an alternative could be to import new top soil and spread it, making sure it has a depth of a minimum of six inches.
Your contractor will also explain the necessity of dealing with any drainage problems in advance. This is a good time to level and grade your yard. This may involve sloping the grade so that it tilts away from the foundations of the house, as well as reducing or eliminating any severe slopes and filling in any low-lying spaces.
On construction sites ensure that you remove all building materials (such as brick, cement, and wood). Also get rid of all stones, rocks, stumps, and other kinds of debris that is larger in size than between two and three inches in diameter.
DIY vs Professional
It’s impossible for hydroseeding to be a DIY project. That’s because only professionals with a specially retrofitted truck are able to do it.
The contractor must do the initial seed planting stage at minimum, and you’ll take over watering and care of your new lawn, which can give homeowners who like to do projects some satisfaction.
One Little-Discussed Benefit of Hydroseeding
One of the advantages of hydroseeding is that if you want to, you can ask to blend a few or more different seed species.
This is an excellent opportunity if you want a unique lawn, or want grass that will thrive in the unique conditions of your property.
If you’re not sure what to choose for your lawn, check out these articles on my site which will help you choose the best grass for:
Another advantage to hydroseed vs sod: when you apply hydroseed you won’t have to worry about soil erosion during a heavy rain.
The best time of year for hydroseeding is usually the spring.
As you might already realize, sod is simply pre-grown grass, including roots, topsoil, and all other components you need for a beautiful lawn.
Sod arrives on a pallet, and it comes in rolled-up sections which you or a landscaping company will lay on bare soil.
Why Choose Sod Instead of Hydroseeding
One of the most attractive features of sod is the fact that it gives you a lovely, plush lawn in a day.
You should be aware, though, that you should wait a few weeks for the roots to secure it to your topsoil before walking on it. I recommend that you stay off of your new sod for about 10 to 14 days after installation.
But you can look at it and enjoy it during this time, which is a distinct advantage.
Water Requirements for New Sod
Any new lawn requires water, but new sod is especially vulnerable if you do not water it properly.
Once your sod is installed, keep it watered. In fact, you will probably need to water it two or even four times every day for at least three weeks.
This is essential for the roots to establish themselves. It will keep that expensive new lawn thriving.
How Much Does Sod Cost?
To buy sod and have it installed on your property you’ll pay a minimum of 40 cents per square foot.
Sod does best when installed during the cooler periods. I like early fall best, but spring or the fall will work well in most parts of the country.
Potential Downsides of Installing Sod instead of Hydroseeding
One disadvantage of installing sod vs hydroseed application is that you won’t be able to mix different kinds of grass seed to more precisely fit your own specific preferences or needs.
Most sod is a single type of grass. This makes your lawn look very uniform, but even on a small property most homeowners have a variety of growing conditions in terms of light, soil quality, and traffic).
With sod you’ll have to just stick with one type of grass.
If you have a small property, you might find that going with sod won’t cost you a significant amount more than it would to do hydroseed, but when you’re looking at a large yard or big section of property, hydroseeding will be a lot more cost effective.
Whether Sod or Hydroseed, Test Your Soil Beforehand
Whether sod or hydroseed, test your soil quality before moving forward.
This is because the quality of the existing bare soil will affect the ultimate health and beauty of your new lawn.
Check the pH of the soil to ensure that it is appropriate, and amend you soil with lime if needed.
The pH of your yard’s soil is significant for both sod and hydroseed applications. It impacts plant growth by influencing a number of soil factors, such as soil bacteria, availability of nutrients, nutrient leeching, and soil structure.
I like and recommend this soil test kit from Amazon. You’ll dig up soil from a few different parts of your yard, mix them together and mail it to a lab for analysis. In a few days you access your results online, and understand exactly what your soil is missing.
Maintaining Your New Lawn
After you have your new lawn, don’t start slacking when it comes to maintenance. It can be easy to see a big swath of green and stop caring for your lawn, but young lawns require consistent attention as they establish themselves.
You will end up with poor results if you don’t keep up necessary lawn care. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your lawn installation if you don’t take care of it after it’s established.
Both hydroseeding and sod installations are expensive, and if you are not meticulous with following instructions, you’ll have wasted all of your money.
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