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Does Hydroseeding Really Work? – What Might Cause It to Fail?

Hydroseeding is a hydraulic method/process for the application of seed, fertilizer, and mulch by a spraying or broadcasting machine.  

As a process hydroseeding is a fast and efficient way to seed or sometimes overseed a lawn. Although the process has been in use for over thirty years, for many gardeners and homeowners it is a relatively new concept and the question does hydroseeding works is a common one.

Does Hydroseeding Really Work?

does hydroseeding really work

Hydroseeding is a very effective and efficient way of seeding or sometimes overseeding a lawn. The process should result in an even and complete distribution of seed over the target area. The resulting grass growth is usually strong leading to a healthy and good looking lawn

However, as with any overseeding application, the best results will depend largely on the preparation and more specifically on aftercare. 

Hydroseeding is generally a commercial process because of the equipment that is required to mix the application and apply it to the soil. As such, any good contractor should ensure that the ground is prepared properly prior to application. 

It is of course not impossible to build your own application machine and create your own seed, compost/fertilizer and mulch mix. In this case, it is important to make sure that the ground is properly prepared before you start the seed application.

This usually means that the ground is properly aerated, and decompacted as well as properly scarified, if overseeding. Creating the correct soil environment for the seed goes a long way to achieving a healthy thriving lawn.

Why Hydroseeding Didn’t Work?

There are a number of reasons as to why hydroseeding didn’t work in specific instances. The main reason tends to be aftercare but other problems can sometimes arise such as correct mix or seed choice or poor preparation when using hydroseeding for overseeding.

How Long Can Hydroseed Go without Water?

Any newly seeded lawn needs water to ensure the seeds germinate and the new growth thrives. Although, with hydroseeding, the seeds have absorbed water in the mix, once down and the ground drys out they will need watering. This could be as little as a day or two depending on climate conditions.

There is a misnomer that with hydroseeding that once the seed has been applied it will take care of itself and develop into a beautiful lawn. While it is true that you won’t immediately have to water the area as you would with traditional seeding or overseeding as the seed will have absorbed water in the mix, you still need to treat it as you would a traditional seeded or overseeded lawn. 

This means that you need to carefully observe the area while it germinates ensuring the ground remains moist but not saturated. Depending on climatic conditions, this could mean watering twice a day in the first week or ten days after the hydroseed application.[1]

Can Hydroseed Be Overwatered?

Hydroseed is a process, not a seed type. Once down the same rules to any seeding or overseeding apply. In this case, just as seeds need water to thrive, too much water can drown them.

Although less likely to be washed away as with ordinary seeding or overseeding applications any seed distributed through hydroseeding needs to be carefully monitored and prevailing weather conditions reacted to. 

With overwatering, the most damaging aspect is that the grass seed may literally be drowned, causing it to decay or damage its roots. This will lead to bare areas as the seed fails to take.

As a general rule, the ground should be moist, not soaking and not dry. This is why, when conducting any hydroseeding, seeding or overseeding project, the area that has been seeded needs constant observation for the first week or two. 

Hydroseeding – Sunlight, Seed Choice and Climate

The beauty of hydroseeding is the efficiency of the process. It is a very effective way of getting even and complete coverage of your target area very quickly. That being said it doesn’t mean that the basics can be ignored. One of the key components of successful hydroseeding is the correct seed choice and mix for your specific climatic conditions.

Different grass seeds thrive in different climatic conditions. Cool-season grasses don’t grow as well in hot arid conditions while warm-season grasses usually require plenty of direct sunlight. Problems can occur when large parts of the ground to be seeded is heavily shaded. Generally, grass seed needs around three to four hours of direct sunlight to thrive. 

If shade prevents this then you have to choose a seed that will perform better with a limited amount of sunlight. In addition, you may need to cut back the branches that are causing the shade to allow more sunlight to get through.

Can You Hydroseed Over an Existing Lawn?

Another area in which hydroseeding can fail is when using the process to overseed. Hydroseeding works best when you are looking to grow a completely new lawn. This doesn’t mean you can’t use it for overseeding. in fact it can be an excellent method for overseeding but if you do it is essential to make sure the existing lawn is properly prepared.  

When hydroseeding is used on an existing lawn the ground should be properly aerated and thoroughly scarified. In essence, you have to prepare it as if you were manually overseeding. 

By aerating you allow oxygen and nutrients to reach the roots by removing compacted soil from the root zone. The scarification process removes the thatch from the lawn. It can actually leave the lawn looking quite bare but it will allow the seeds to make contact with the soil  Both of these processes help the establishment of fresh turfgrass seedlings after hydroseeding. 

Summary: Does Hydroseeding Really Work?

It is important to understand that hydroseeding is the process of applying seeds, fertilizer, and mulch to the soil. It is, in essence, the mechanization of the traditional process, and as such the same preparation and aftercare regimes need to be applied to make sure that it works and produces the results that you desire.

As with any seeding or overseeding application, the success or failure of hydroseeding will depend largely on the preparation and aftercare.

Hydroseeding, as a process is a very effective and efficient way of seeding or overseeding a lawn. If adequate preparation and aftercare are practiced it is usually a very successful process, However, as with any organic process, hydroseeding can be affected by environmental factors that are not under the control of the contractor. These environmental factors however, would be the same as if you were seeding or overseeding in a conventional way.

Is hydroseeding it better than traditional seeding or overseeding methods? It is certainly a very efficient way to seed and overseed a lawn. It is though a trade-off between effort and price.  Hydroseeding is going to be much more expensive than overseeding yourself. Using either method, if the area is prepare properly and if you ensure the correct watering regime after application, should result in a beautiful lawn.

Notes:

[1] Journal of Forest Science: Effect of hydroseeding on grass yield and water use efficiency on forest road artificial soil slopes. Water requirement of treatments p161