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Sod vs Hydroseed

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. As such, the pros and cons of sod vs hydroseed need to be considered as different circumstances are likely to result in different choices.

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
Quick glance at the pros and cons of sod vs hydroseed

Laying Sod

Sod is still the preferred choice for many homeowners who want their lawn to last for years to come. The main benefit of sod over hydroseeding is that it gives you an immediate lawn and that it doesn’t require any machinery.

It also has the advantage of not requiring little maintenance as there is no need to bother and wait for a seed to germinate. However, this can be seen as its downfall too, since it requires much more time and effort on your part to maintain a healthy lawn.

The advantages of seed over sod is a much-debated question. In practice, it is often a question of personal choice unless there are particular issues with terrain that makes seeding the better option.

When laying sod, it is important to place it on a well-prepared soil bed that has had starter fertilizer applied to it. In order to help to promote quick roots, moisten the soil shortly before laying the sod. Place the grass side up ensuring that the sides of each sod are pressed firmly together.

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

Even though sod is adult grass, most of its roots will have been taken when it was cut, so it must be watered on a regular basis. 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, which are prone to quick drying.

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 maybe a tacking agent in a tank of water  This liquid is sprayed over the prepared seedbed with a huge hose and nozzle, much like paint.

The hydroseeding process has been gaining in popularity over the last twenty years due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It is a highly successful method of seed application and is excellent in hilly locations prone to erosion as well as windy places where seed may be blown away. 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?

As to whether hydroseeding is 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 seed 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. The truth is, just as with dry seeding you need to monitor the seeded area and water attentively when needed, otherwise, the seed will fail to thrive.

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.

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.

Being able to give a definitive cost is difficult because there are so many variables at play from the type of grass through to the region. However, the difference, in terms of ratio, between the two, you would expect the installation of sod to be around twice the cost of hydroseeding. This is assuming that both are carried out commercially.  

Where it becomes more difficult is, in terms of hydroseeding, as it requires specialized equipment, you are always going to have to have this done commercially. However, with sod, you can very easily lay it yourself. If having sod laid commercially it is usually about a quarter of the total cost. This means that laying sod yourself is a cheaper option than hydroseeding.

In current terms, the average cost of laying sod commercially is around $1,600 for a 3000 sq ft lawn and hydroseeding is  $850 for 3000 sq ft. The cost of sod to lay yourself would be about $400. Obviously, grass type could increase the cost.

With dry seeding, the seed cost is likely to be less than the cost of sod. Again depending on type, variety, and mix it would cost on average about $300 for a 3000 sq ft 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 cost as this should stay the same.

InstallationDry SeedHydroseedLaying Sod
Commercially$1000 (1:2)$2000 (2:1)
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

Summary: Sod vs Hydroseed

In terms of laying sod vs hydroseed, it is safe to say that there are no real overall advantages of one over the other.

The two main areas which might dictate one method over another. The first of these is if there are time constraints to getting a fully grown lawn. In this situation installing sod is the obvious solution. The second is if there is difficult or rocky terrain. Here although you could sod it is more likely to be beneficial to seed the area, whether dry seeding or hydroseeding.

Beyond this it will ultimately come down to personal choice and perhaps cost. Which method is chosen is likely to depend on individual preference or circumstance.


[1] USEPA Region VII Technical Assistance: Evaluation of Hydroseed for the Re-establishment of Residential Lawns