Hydroseeding Services in Maryland, DC, and Virgina
Hydroseeding is the process of creating a slurry of mixed seed, fiber mulch, fertilizer and water together and then spraying it onto exposed soil surfaces using a high-pressure hose or gun. This process is often used to establish a new lawn or new vegetative areas where traditional seeding techniques would be less effective or where sod is cost prohibitive. Commercial Hydroseeding Services are commonly used in landscape construction to stabilize large areas of open soil, hold slopes and prevent erosion and runoff during the building process.
Hydroseeding: What Is It and Does It Work?
You’ve probably seen hydroseeding applied dozens of times but never given it much thought. That is, until you’re faced with building a great, long-lasting lawn or covering an area that needs to be reclaimed after a construction project. You might also think about hydroseeding if you’ve suffered soil erosion after a washout or some natural devastation. Then you’ll be investigating your grassy options based on time and the optimal return on your investment. You’ll be pleased to know that hydroseeding will be your best value by a longshot.
You’re sure to be asking questions like, “what is hydroseeding? How does hydroseeding work? How much does it cost to hydroseed a lawn?” Most of all, you’re probably wondering, “Does my business need hydroseeding?” You’ll also be questioning how difficult the hydroseeding process is and where you can find a commercial landscape company that specializes in hydroseeding.
Think of the times you’ve gone past an area covered by a fresh blanket of darkish green mulch that’s starting to show bright green shoots. You know it’s the start of a lawn or grassy slope, but you don’t know how the landscapers accomplished that, never mind if it’s cost-effective, easy to achieve, time-saving or produces better vegetation. Hydroseeding gives all these advantages and more over expensive sod laying and inconsistently hand-broadcasting dry seeds.
Benefits of Hydroseeding
A few of the benefits of using hydroseeding services for your landscape project include:
- Faster growth than traditional seeding application
- Seed can be custom blended for unique site conditions (i.e. shade, poor soil conditions, etc.)
- More cost-effective than sod for large areas
- Seed distribution is more even than when using a broadcast application
- Greater germination rates than traditional “dry seeding” methods
Hydroseeding Is the Top Choice for Large Coverages
Hydroseeding is now the leading grass-growing choice for larger residential and commercial lawn coverages. It’s also the best treatment for public right-of-ways. The hydroseeding technique was first created during the Eisenhower years when America’s Interstate Highway system was being developed. Before then, roads went over and around hills following the natural terrain. The wide and fast Interstates required grading to be as straight and flat as possible so the highways could cut through hillsides and uneven terrain.
This road construction technique left many steep embankments and unstable slopes that had to be stabilized quickly and economically. Grass was the obvious solution, but hand-planting or sod-laying over large areas was simply not efficient. In stepped American ingenuity, and hydroseeding was invented. It proved highly effective and, in the last decade, the cost of hydroseeding has dropped to the point where it’s by far the most economical way to start a larger lawn or perform slope retention. It’s also the quickest way to grow grass and can give you the best finished product.
So what is hydroseeding and does it actually work? The process is straightforward, but like every professional operation, there are tricks and techniques. Hydroseeding is not something that most do-it-yourselfers take on. It requires specialized equipment and considerable training to properly hydroseed an area. However, when properly applied, a hydroseeded lawn will be durable, long-lasting and completely cost-effective.
Let’s look at the hydroseeding process, what materials and equipment are involved in the application process, the advantages of hydroseeding compared to sod and dry seeding and share a few tips on how to care for a newly hydroseeded area.
The Hydroseeding Mixture Process
Hydroseeding utilizes a combination of sterilized seed, organic compounds, fertilizer, moisture-retention polymers, tackifiers, dye and other additives mixed in water to produce a slurry or mulch. This mulch is contained in a truck-mounted tank and sprayed through a high-pressure hose. Hydroseeding forms a ground mat that’s perfectly suited for a grass-growing environment. It contains everything a seed needs to germinate—water, food, light penetration, temperature control and protection from erosion as well as predators like birds and insects.
The key to hydroseeding is the mulch. This provides moisture retention and protection for seeds. The core moisture retention material in mulch is organic matter made from paper or wood. It can also be a blend and depends on its application purpose. Factors that determine the mulch’s exact type and consistency can be:
- Species of grass seed
- Type of underlying soil
- Seasonal conditions
- Amount of sunlight exposure
- Degree of ground slope
- Potential for erosion
Hydroseed mulch’s thickness or consistency is controlled by the amount of water in the mixture. Dry mulch sticks to the ground better than wet and loose mulch. That’s important for sloped conditions, but a dry compound is harder to pressurize and spray over long distances. It’s easier to distribute wet mulch. However, a thin consistency supplies less seed protection and will run off faster. Getting the proper consistency for a perfect application is a skill that develops with experience.
This is why service providers use special mulch additives like moisture retention polymers and tackifiers. Polymers coat the seeds and encase them in a gel-like protection that preserves water and prevents seeds from drying out. Seeds that start to germinate and then go dry are tough to restore. Water is critical for seed development.
It’s also critical for the seeds to stay in one place so they can anchor roots, which is why the mulch mat is so helpful. Unfortunately, getting a mulch mat to stick to the ground and stay in place can be challenging. When the mulch mixture is fresh, it’s hard for the wet mass to stick to the soil, especially on an incline. Tackifiers are chemicals added to the hydroseed mixture that increase the surface tension and act as glue in the mulch. They’re commonly used on slopes but also are beneficial where natural water conditions like rain and runoff can wash out a new hydroseeding application.
Many Different Plant Species Can Be Hydroseeded
Almost any type of seed can be applied through hydroseeding. If it’s commercially available, it can be applied through hydroseeding. That includes seeds intended for:
- Ornamental grasses for front lawns
- Commercial and industrial landscaping vegetation
- Tough species for playgrounds and sports fields
- Grasses that do well in hot climates and shady woods
- Specialty seed mixtures for golf courses and public parks
- Wildflower blends for roadways and slope remediation
- Grasses for wildfire restoration and mine reclamation
- Seeds specially-suited for landfill sealing
A main component in hydroseeding mulch is fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer is added to the mixture to give the new seeds sufficient nutrients that may not be present in the ground, such as phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen. New seeds need a high amount of phosphorous to start root growth, followed by a balanced amount of nitrogen and potassium to promote leaf or vegetation health.
Other additives are also placed into hydroseed mixtures. One such additive might be growth hormones for specialty species that need extra help thriving during climate extremes. Because grass thrives in conditions that are more alkaline than acidic, dolomite lime with trace elements is added where natural soil pH levels need adjusting.
A professional hydroseeding company will conduct a soil test before application. Any adjustments necessary to allow seeds to adjust to soil conditions will be made before spraying. You’ll usually need to raise the pH level, which is easy to do. Reducing pH to create acidity is more difficult, but it’s something a professional hydroseeder will know.
You’ve probably noticed the distinct dark green appearance of freshly hydroseeded areas. That’s due to a dye put into the mix. Its sole purpose is so the applicator can see what areas are covered by the spraying process and not miss any bare spots. The reason the dye is green is for a natural, aesthetic look. Hydroseed dye is completely organic, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It does not stain and easily rinses off if accidentally spilled on structures or flatwork like walks and drives.
Hydroseeding equipment can be expensive. The equipment always consists of a holding/mixing tank and a pump with a spray nozzle. But it can be more complicated than that. For large applications, a hydroseeding company will have a large dedicated truck with a high-capacity tank and a complex pumping system that is computer controlled. Smaller hydroseeding jobs can be accomplished by a compact outfit that is trailer mounted and towed from site to site.
Mixing the hydroseed mulch is a critical step in the process. It’s done in the holding tank and is called agitation. There are two different types of agitation equipment. One is known as jet agitation. The other is mechanical or paddle agitation. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
- Jet agitation uses a centrifugal pump’s force to blow or circulate the mulch. It also uses the same pump’s force to pressurize the tank so the hydroseed mixture can be sprayed over the application area. Jet agitators are mostly used on smaller hydroseed machines where thinly consistent mixtures are common. Thick mulches tend to jam a jet agitator and cause flow interruptions.
- Mechanical agitation has two power stations. One is a motor that pressurizes the spray mechanism. The other operates mechanical paddles or stir sticks that mix the slurry in a slow but steady and even rate. Mechanical agitators are found on larger hydroseed outfits and work well with all types of mulch consistency.
Spray hoses and nozzles vary in size and design. The majority of hydroseeding applications are done by an operator who hand holds the sprayer and directs it in the desired direction. The operator also manually controls the rate of flow. Large hydroseeders can have cannon-like spray mechanisms, but they’re still directed by an operator using attached controls.
A tanks capacity depends on the particular hydroseeding equipment. Small capacity units may have tanks in the size of a fuel barrel while big commercial operations have tanks holding thousands of gallons of mixed hydroseed mulch. The distance of application also varies. Light-duty hydroseeders made for residential and light commercial work might only send spray across a typical yard while industrial systems can cover an entire hillside right from the road.
In grass seeding, you only have three options. One is to seed by hand. That’s commonly called manual broadcasting. It’s time-consuming and inefficient. The second is to lay sod, also known as turf or instant-lawn. It’s quick but very expensive, especially for large areas. Your third choice is to have your area hydroseeded. This method is exceptionally economical, particularly in large projects where bigger areas need seeding and there’s a budget to stay within.
Unless you want immediate gratification and need a complete lawn installed in one day as in using sod, the advantages of having your area hydroseeded far outweigh any disadvantages. Here are the main advantages to using hydroseeding vs. sod or hand-seeding.
- It’s Cost-Effective
The real return in hydroseeding is found in economies of scale. The larger your area, the better the deal is. Pricing is calculated by the square foot. Sod will cost many times more than hydroseeding for ground coverage, and it always remains at the same rate, no matter how big or small the job. Hydroseeding has far less labor involved. The costs go down as the area increases. Although hand-casting might sound cheaper, it takes more time than hydroseeding and is nowhere near as uniform in coverage.
- It Provides Uniform Coverage
A skilled hydroseed operator will apply an even coverage that results in a uniform finished product. There are no bare spots or clumps to deal with after the lawn has taken hold. You get perfect distribution with virtually no secondary work.
- It Lets the Grass Take Root Naturally
The seeds germinate and root right in their final location. This results in healthy plants from the start. Sod rolls start in one spot and are cut loose for replanting, leaving the roots damaged and stressed. Hydroseeded areas let the plants gradually take hold. “Taking hold” is the main problem with sod applications where the plants never bind to their new conditions and the investment is lost. Hand-cast seeds often fail to take hold as well due to being applied dry and rooting not being stimulated.
- It Takes Hold Quickly
The combination of sterile seeds mixed with nutrients and protected by a water-based mulch offers optimum growing conditions for new plants. Hydroseeded areas usually are rooted within a week to 10 days and are ready to cut within a month.
- It’s the Best Process for Erosion Control
Hand-cast seeds are notorious for clumping and washing away. Sod applications are ineffective on slopes and inclines where they fail to take hold. Once hydroseeding takes hold, the plants uniformly anchor a slope and give the best possible protection against erosion.
Hydroseeded Lawns Are Easy to Care For
Once a hydroseeded lawn has taken hold, it’s easy to care for. The uniform growth of a hydroseeded lawn requires little or no fill-ins and stays looking great with normal watering, fertilizing and mowing. Here are some tips on how to care for your new hydroseeded lawn:
- Avoid walking on hydroseed areas until ready to mow
- Allow the grass to grow about 3 inches high before the first cut
- Never cut more than the top 1/3 of the plant
- Water according to requirements but never let a new lawn dry out
- Avoid watering in the heat of the day
- Always use a sharp mower blade
- Leave the clippings on the lawn as a natural mulch and fertilizer
- Don’t add fertilizer until the grass has taken hold for at least one month
- Remove weeds manually rather than using herbicides
A properly applied and maintained hydroseeded lawn has a beautiful appearance that’s delivered at a fraction of a sod lawn’s cost. It’s more uniform than anything broadcasted dry seeds can deliver. With hydroseeding, your investment is worth it.
Complete Landscape Service highly recommends you choose the hydroseeding method for your landscape requirements. We specialized in commercial landscape projects in the Washington, DC area as well as including Maryland and Virginia.
Since we established Complete Landscape Service in 1979, we’ve watched the hydroseeding industry grow. We’re sold on the hydroseeding process, and we know you’ll be, too. Contact us today to request a quote on commercial landscaping services.
Learn more about our commercial landscape construction services:
- Commercial Plant Installation with Quality Plants
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- Grass Pavers and Reinforced Turf Paving
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- Dog Park Equipment and Surfacing
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