Is Hydroseeding Right for Your Business in 2018?
There are many different ways to create a lawn, but Dave Johnson, president of International Association of Hydroseeding Professionals (IAHP) and owner of Carolina HydroSeeding, Inc., appreciates hydroseeding for its versatility and economical value.
“Hydroseeding to me is a no-brainer when it comes to economically getting grass to establish” he says. “When compared to sod or traditional seeding in a residential or commercial area, on an interstate, airport or school, hydroseeding is the most economical choice.”
For landscaping professionals, hydroseeding is a process by which seed, water, fertilizer, fiber mulch and sometimes lime are blended together in a tank and applied onto a prepared lawn area through a spraying hose. Once sprayed, the wet fiber mulch creates a bond to the soil and provides the seeds with a water-retaining blanketing coat while protecting it from sunlight, wind and erosion. As the grass seeds begin to germinate, the fiber mulch will slowly decompose adding nutrients to the soil.
Here are considerations to make if you want to offer hydroseeding as a service:
Although hydroseeding is more costly than seed and straw, Randall Richards, owner of CEN TEX Hydroseed, Inc., says, “you’re applying the seed and mulch at the same level. As a result, once it germinates, you’re going to see a more even, established lawn.”
Johnson also mentions that because the hydroseeding mulch acts as a sponge to help retain moisture, it gives the seed a better chance for germination and reduces the amount of water needed for establishment. And if you put biostimulants in the soil, you’ll get faster germination and a much healthier lawn quicker, as opposed to broadcast seed and straw, says Rob Yoakum, director of IAHP.
“The grass seed has availability to a lot more nutrients and growth enhancers above and beyond normal fertilizers,” he says. “It’s quicker.”
Plus, after testing your soil, if you realize you need to adjust its nutrients or pH balance, hydroseeding is a great option to save you steps, says Yoakum, because it allows you to add whatever you need into the hydroseeding mix.
Many clients desire a finished look immediately and are willing to pay the extra money it takes to lay sod. And because hydroseeding takes a few weeks before you see results, Todd Brown, the general manager of Fockele Garden Company in Gainesville, Ga, says many clients might not want to wait and also take the risk of the seed not coming up right.
Brown says that if your client wants the best of both worlds, he sees many commercial jobs planting sod in the primary area to get the familiar refined look immediately and seeding being done in the secondary areas, where the instant visual effect isn’t as important, but it allows them to save money.
Because it’s applied with a long-range spray from a hose, Yoakum says hydroseeding saves a great deal of time for contractors and landscapers who might be used to a drill seeder or a broadcast seeder, which require running the length of the planting site.
“You can park the hydroseeder on the street, and the hose reaches 200 feet and can spray 30 feet,” he says. “It’s great for large lawns, and it’s very quick too. The labor savings are huge.&
Plus, with drill seeding or broadcast seed and straw, Yoakum says you would spend a lot of time prepping a good seed bed by pulverizing the soil so that it is rid of lumps. But this isn’t as critical with hydroseeding because it coats everything.
Phil Walters, owner of Piedmont Landscape in Atlanta, says in his southeastern area, the required soil temperature for the primarily used warm-season Bermuda grass to germinate isn’t warm enough until after spring. And if you put the seed down before the seed is fully germinated and grown in after mid-August, he says nighttime temperatures will be too cold. Because the seed takes 8 to 10 weeks to fully establish, you have a relatively short window of 3 to 3 _ months to seed. He says the northern area primarily uses fescue grass, which also has short windows throughout the year — usually from March through May and September through November.
You can sod year-round, says Walters, and although the roots might not get fully established until spring, you won’t have the erosion issues you would have with un-germinated seeding.
Yoakum says there can be some environmental concerns when it comes to some methods. With seed and straw, the wind can blow the straw creating many small particulates in the air. Also, because sod sometimes isn’t installed correctly or because straw or erosion-control blankets can tent, the soil can easily wash downstream during a rainstorm, causing pollution. However, with some forms of hydroseeding, the soil is bonded and remains intact, Yoakum says.
“That’s the first thing that alerts an inspector is someone complaining about soil or dirt in the street,” Yoakum says. “With hydroseeding that includes tackifiers, it’s not as much of a worry. You’re basically coating every surface.”
Johnson says these erosion-controlling attributes make it especially beneficial for hillsides. “If a storm comes through, the soil is strongly attached and the water runs over it,” he says.
If you’re thinking of offering hydroseeding as a service, but are unsure if you can make the financial investment of buying a hydroseeder, Yoakum recommends renting one. Then, you can wait and see if you will experience enough customer demand to make it a full-time service. “You don’t have to be an expert, and you don’t have to be certified,” Yoakum says. “We have quite a few landscapers out there who are part-time hydroseeders.”