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Sod vs Hydroseed: What are the Differences and Which is The Right Solution For Your Lawn

Keith Hardy - Bio Photo
Keith Hardy
Senior Editor

Keith has been involved in the gardening and landscaping industry for the past 21 years. From a jobbing gardener to running his own landscaping services....

Last Updated on November 15, 2022

  • The time to a fully established lawn is considerably shorter when laying sod which can provide you with an instant lawn.
  • Laying sod is simple and can be done yourself. Hydroseeding requires specialized equipment to mix and distribute the slurry.
  • Hydroseeding provides you with greater flexibility in terms of choosing and mixing grass varieties.
  • The hydroseeding process is considerably less expensive per square foot than the cost of laying sod.
  • Where the topography of the ground is challenging laying sod can be very difficult. Hydroseeding can be used on practically any terrain and prevent soil erosion.

The two most common ways of reinvigorating or putting down a new lawn are to lay sod or overseed it, with hydroseeding being an increasingly popular and efficient way of seeding. However, individual circumstances are likely to result in different choices, so it is essential to assess the pros and cons of sod vs hydroseed on a case-by-case basis.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to both laying sod and hydroseeding. Each has a place and sod is still predominant when comparing the two. This is slowly changing. As more people have become aware of hydroseeding as an alternative to sod and traditional seeding, its growth has exploded. There are a number of reasons for this not least in terms of the cost of hydroseeding vs sod to the flexibility of the hydroseed process. 

This isn’t to say that sod installation is not in many cases still the best option. Below we will look at the types of circumstances where you would choose sod over hydroseeding and vice versa.

Quick Evaluation Chart: Sod vs Hydroseed

HydroseedLaying Sod
Quickest to full lawn2-3 monthsImmediate
Rocky uneven terrain
Flat even ground✓ (Best)
Year-round plantingspring, fallwinter, spring, summer, fall
Cost (commercially done)ratio per $1$2 (2:1)
Monitoring after layingrequiredless so
Weed control[1]herbicides often required
Full Usability2 months3 weeks
DIYx
Quick glance at the pros and cons of sod vs hydroseed

Laying Sod

Sod is still the preferred choice for many homeowners who want a lush lawn without the wait. The fact that sod gives you an instantly green lawn, without any special equipment required, is the main benefit of sod over hydroseeding. 

It also has the advantage of requiring less follow-up maintenance as there is no need to bother and wait for a seed to germinate and the increase in time for the lawn to become established.

Sod is also very straightforward and quick to put down. Provided the area that you are going to grass has a well-prepared soil bed it can be done by most homeowners themselves.

In order to help to promote quick roots, moisten the soil shortly before laying the sod. Place the sods grass side up, pressing the sides of each piece firmly together.

When the sod is laid there should be no gaps between the pieces. It doesn’t matter if this causes a patchwork effect; the most important element is having the sod fit firmly at the edges.

Once laid, the sod must be watered on a regular basis because most of its roots will have been taken when it was cut for sale. Soak it well after planting and water it at least once a day for a couple of weeks. Pay special care to the borders around roads and walkways, these are prone to quick drying.

Within one to two weeks, it will be able to take foot traffic and after a month settled in and showing healthy growth.

What Is Hydroseeding and Is It More Effective than Dry Seeding? 

Sod vs Hydroseed

Hydroseeding is the process of combining seed, fiber mulch, fertilizer, and tacking agent with water in a mixing tank. The resultant slurry mixture is broadcast via a hose over the prepared seedbed.

Hydroseeding has gained in popularity over the last twenty to thirty years due to its flexibility, control, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. It is a highly effective method of seed application and is excellent in hilly locations or areas prone to soil erosion. It has an advantage over dry seeding in that the hydroseeding mixture prevents the seed from being blown away or disturbed.

It is also quick and effective in flat, sheltered terrain. Because of this, there are now many companies offering hydroseeding services, so finding a reliable company should be easy.

Is Hydroseeding Superior to Dry Seeding?

Much is contingent on circumstances. If you are hydroseeding you are almost certainly going to be using a contractor. This will cost more than if you were to dry seed yourself, although dry seeding is a considerably longer process.

With hydroseeding, because the hydroseed mixture has been combined with water, it will have absorbed a considerable amount of moisture at the time it is applied to the soil. The mulch traps this moisture on the seed, giving it a head start. Generally, areas that have been hydroseeded should germinate faster than dry seeding.

However, if dry seeding is carried out on well-prepared soil and watered, in terms of both germination and establishment, there is no difference between dry seeding and hydroseeding over the long term.

One of the problems with hydroseeding is that people falsely assume that after the hydroseeding process the job is done and the grass will flourish and produce a healthy lawn. It will, but just as with dry seeding, you need to monitor the seeded area. It will still require lots of water and adherence to the follow-up program in order to ensure the lush green grass lawn you expect.

Hydroseeding is yet another viable alternative for seed application. As previously said, it has benefits in specific instances, but it is not a miracle. It, like dry seeding, still needs proper aftercare.

Topography and Soil Erosion

Two areas that hydroseeding shines is its ability to be applied to difficult terrain steep slopes and help deal with soil erosion. The process was actually developed in the 1940s to grass highway central reservations and embankments. 

The ease with which the slurry can be distributed via pressurized hose means it has often been employed as a way of revegetating old mining and quarry areas. In addition, the variety and complexities of mulch that is available make it an effective way of dealing with soil erosion, especially after forest fires.

Cost of Hydroseeding in Relation to Laying Sod

We have touched on the fact that hydroseeding should be cheaper than laying in sod. The question though is the difference in cost is a contributing factor to the choice.

Giving a definitive cost is difficult because there are so many variables at play, from the type of grass to the climatic region. However, the difference, in terms of the ratio between the two, is around two to one, with hydroseeding being the less expensive option. This is assuming that both are carried out commercially.

Doing It Yourself

Where it becomes more difficult is that hydroseeding requires specialized hydroseeding equipment, although you can hire hydroseeders, generally, most people are going to have to have this done commercially.

However, with sod, you can very easily lay it yourself. If you have sod laid commercially it usually accounts for between a quarter and half of the total cost. In this scenario, laying sod yourself can end up being the cheaper option.

In current terms, the average cost of laying sod commercially is around $1,600 for a 3000 sq ft lawn . If you take out the labor costs the cost of sod to lay yourself would be about $400-$800. Obviously, the grass type dependent.

With hydroseeding, the cost is likely to be less than the cost of sod. Again depending on the type, variety, and mix it would cost on average about $0.25 per square foot, or around $420 for a 3,000ft sq lawn.

Clearly, prices fluctuate and in the current economic climate are likely to rise soon. What is more important than the ballpark figures is the ratio between the difference in the cost as this should stay the same.

InstallationDry SeedHydroseedLaying Sod
Commercially$1000 (1:2)$2000 (2:1)
DIY$200$500
The table uses the hydroseed cost as its base with the other cost shown relative to it, so for ever $1 that hydroseed costs laying sod will cost $2

Gardening Latest Opinion: Evaluating Laying Sod to Hydroseeding

Between the contributors here at Gardening Latest over the years, we have put down a considerable number of lawns. While both sod and dry seeding remain the predominant ways of establishing a lawn there is no doubt there has been a surge in the popularity of hydroseeding. 

Today, for residential purposes, unless there is a need to establish a lawn in a very short period, we would now shy away from laying sod and instead hydroseed.

  • More flexible in terms of choosing and combining grass species
  • More cost-effective than sod, although more expensive than traditional grass seed
  • Less labor intensive
  • The hydroseed process provides even distribution of that develops into beautiful lawns
  • Can be applied over topographically difficult terrain 

The same applies for commercial properties, hydroseeding is a fast and effective way of putting down a lawn or grass area. It is particularly useful for local government projects and environmentally sound solution to re-establish vegetration.

If we were laying out a sports field, in this situation we would use specialized sod. Here the pre-grown grass on the sod has been bred to withstand impact foot traffic and limited timeframes dictate that grass seed would just not be able to establish itself quickly enough. Its root zone will need to migrate to its new setting but curated fertilization programs ensure that this happens. 

Notes:

[1] USEPA Region VII Technical Assistance: Evaluation of Hydroseed for the Re-establishment of Residential Lawns: https://semspub.epa.gov/work/07/30022931.pdf

Keith Hardy - Bio Photo
Keith HardySenior Editor

Keith has been involved in the gardening and landscaping industry for the past 21 years. From a jobbing gardener to running his own landscaping services. He is now dedicated to bringing you the latest in gardening news. Read more

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