Let’s look at the differences of growing a lawn using hydroseeding vs sod vs seed. Which is better for you?
“The grass on my neighbour’s lawn looks so much greener” – a thought that has crossed the mind of pretty much every homeowner despite their pride in looking after their property, and in all honesty, mine as well. When my neighbors’ lawns started to look better than mine, I almost felt choked with jealousy every time I laid my eyes on them, wishing that my humble yard looked as half as lush as theirs. But I had no idea where to start!
The thing is, like with all challenging tasks, the most important part is to actually get started, which in my opinion is by doing the research.
Hydroseeding vs Sod vs Seed
So, I spent hours reading about the various options on how to turn your backyard into a little Eden, after which I was rewarded by having a clear idea of how to go about transforming the grass. Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the best options you have for rejuvenating your lawn: seeding, hydroseeding, and sod.
Grass Lawn Seeding
Seeding is a straightforward way of getting yourself a healthy looking backyard. A bit of an old-school approach, but probably the best way to satisfy your pride and sense of accomplishment; it’s a true DIY activity. Bear in mind though, birds and pets can easily ruin the results of your hard work in no time, leaving you with nasty patches and uneven surface, so prepare to over-seed the damaged areas.
Price of Lawn Seeding
If budget is your main concern about the ways of improving the lawn, this is the least expensive way. The average price for a 5kg bag is around $60. To cover around 100 square meters of yard you need approximately 1kg of seeds. Add on the fertilizer, and the cost of delivery, and you’d be looking at less than $100 for a new lawn.Amazon product
Grass Seed Timing
Ideally, you want to start right before the peak season for grass growing. This will boost the growth and allow the roots to establish as quickly as possible.
Warm season grasses are best planted in late spring. The weather is mild enough and it leaves enough time for the grass to become established under optimum conditions, and thrive in hot weather later. Cool season grasses, on the contrary, prefer warm soil and should be planted in late summer or early autumn. Don’t leave it too late!
Unfortunately, time won’t be on your side in this game. It will take up to several months and a lot of patience for you to be able to finally see a fully-grown green yard. You might also have to spot-treat any patches that you don’t realise you’ve missed until it germinates.
Grass Seed Preparation
All ways of getting a new lawn are best achieved if you have bare soil to apply them to. I mean, you wouldn’t move into a property with previous tenants still living there, right? The plants don’t like that either! New constructions with clear ground is where you want to start the party.
Still have some grass left on the land? No worries, you can still get there. You want to get rid of the remains first, then let it rest for about a week, but keep watering the soil. “What for?” I hear you ask. Simple: there might still be weed seed germinating through the surface. By letting it grow, you’ll make sure you kill it all later with any non-residual herbicide and be left with a perfect seedless site, ready to be revived the way you want it.
If you’re lucky enough, simple tilling and levelling out the soil might be enough to start sowing, but if you don’t like to leave it to chance, do a pH test. I must admit, as a newbie I was surprised to find out pH level is not just crucial for my skin — it’s crucial to the soil too.
The target you want to hit here is a neutral pH7.
- Apply sulfur to the soil to lower the pH
- Apply limestone to increase the pH
- Apply gypsum to flush salts from the soil and break up clay
- Apply compost to improve soil health and structure and to be certain the seeds will germinate and thrive.
With seeding in particular, you should really choose your source carefully. What you want is 99.99% weed-free seed as a minimum, and as few weeds on the site as possible.
Don’t forget to equip the garden with a sprinkler system before seeding for an envy-inducing spread of grass!
Installation of a Grass Lawn
The key question is, how big is the area you want to cover? If it’s relatively small, hand sowing is more than doable and just as effective as getting a spreader, which you’ll want to use if the surface is large. Plus, the spreader gives you the most even coverage.
With hand sowing, the best tool to help you is a scale to help you calculate how much seed is needed for a particular area. I don’t mean weigh it for every square meter, strolling around the garden with scales in-hand; if you do it once, just try to remember how it feels in your hand and use it as a reference. It’s not rocket science, right?
Now, here’s how to use the grass seed spreader. First, set the appropriate rate for the seeds you’ve got (grams per square meter is the measurement). The process itself is divided in two: rolling over in one direction with half of the seeds, then in the opposite direction with the rest for even dispersion.
Last but not least, protect your lawn, your efforts, and your nerves by covering the newly planted seeds with organic matter — that’s compost for all you newbies. Get yourself a compost spreader if you’ve made your own compost, it makes the job of neatly dispersing it over your lawn a lot easier!
Install a fence and get yourself a scarecrow if you have frequent visitors in the form of birds, animals, or nosey children.
Walking over the freshly sown seeds or rolling them slightly will prevent them from being blown away by strong winds and ensure good contact with the soil.
Grass Seed Lawn Maintenance
Watering the lawn properly for the first time will give it a kick-start and determine the entire process or grass growing.
Water needs to go down up to 20cm below the surface, but you really need to balance it between soaking and drowning the seeds in puddles. To avoid that, rather than using the traditional stream, spray the soil with a mist. Do it in several goes to make sure it’s wet enough. I personally love sprayer wands, they give you a beautiful, even, soft water flower and they’re incredibly easy to hold.
Next thing you want to do is keep the ground moist for the first two weeks until the grass germinates. After that, the watering schedule depends purely on the grass, varying from no water needed to once-a-day watering.
Before you reach for the lawnmower to trim the edges, let the grass grow up to 10 cm and apply some fertilizer after the first mow.
Recommended: best self-propelled lawnmowers under $300!
What Is Hydroseeding?
Hydroseeding is considered to be the most convenient way to start a new yard by lots of homeowners, compared to regular seeding, which is fairly time-consuming and often tedious. It’s also about a third of the price by comparison to laying sod. This method of lawn establishment represents a low cost alternative to Instant Lawn, yet is far superior to conventional hand seeding. But we’ll get there later. First, let me answer the main question, what exactly is hydroseeding?
Hydroseeding is a process of spraying the bare soil with a mixture of grass seed, water and fertilizer. It is good for areas that are hard to mow, like banks and steep surfaces. The fastest way to do it would be to contact a contractor with proper equipment, however, you can also do it yourself. Going DIY will also save you some cash by comparison with the labor required for getting workmen in.
Price of Hydroseeding
Looking for a good middle-ground option and price/quality balance? Hydroseeding is the right choice for you.
I won’t list any prices here, as it’ll depend where you live, but you’ll be looking at paying either a fixed fee or hourly rate for landscape gardeners or similar contractors. Alternatively, if you buy the equipment you need yourself, you’ll be looking at getting a hose, a tank that is capable of attaching to the hose, and the required mixture, like fertilizer, mulch, and grass seed.
More details of this can be found in our “What Is Hydroseeding” article.
Winter through to late spring is usually the best time to conduct hydroseeding. There is enough water from rainfall to keep the ground or mulch moist enough for germination and to keep young plants healthy.
Expect to wait for about a month before you get the ball rolling or plan a picnic on your new lawn. That’s how long it will take for the roots to get established and the seeds to germinate.
Preparation for Hydroseeding
Once again, having an irrigation system in place is what you want before you begin, as you need to trench through the lawn to lay the pipe. A sprinkling system will help keep the lawn moist and prevent damage to newly planted grass.
Exterminate any remaining vegetation with Roundup or any similar product. Repeat after two weeks to be certain nothing will damage your future lawn from underneath. And obviously clear the site before cultivating the land. Remove any construction waste, stones and any debris larger than 4-5 cm in diameter.
Time allowing, conduct a soil test. Verify with the hydroseeding company or the label if you’re doing it yourself for the grass type that’s being used. Remember, you’re aiming at pH7;
- Limestone will increase pH
- Sulfur will bring pH down
- Use gypsum to get rid of salts and break up clay
- Add organic matter to improve the situation in general.
Proceed gradually, test after a few days and apply more if needed.
Finish the preparation process by raking the soil to help the penetration of roots and water movement.
Just a little tip before you run to fetch your rake: don’t overdo it. Loose nutrient-rich topsoil is the best seedbed, so don’t go deeper than 10cm.
A lawn roller will help you compact the ground lightly prior to seeding. You can buy lawn rollers from Amazon or hire professional ones from a local rental or gardening store.
Water the ground two days before you plan on hydroseeding, making sure it saturates into the soil up to 5-10 cm.
Before I share the recipe, let’s talk you through the ingredients of this cocktail. You will need water, seed, fertilizer, and mulch or cellulose fiber. While the first three are quite obvious, the reason you don’t want to skimp on mulch is not only for its nutritional value for the grass, but it also protects the seeds from overexposure to the sun or wind. Next, it’s party time.
Mix together the solution in an attachable tank. Attach the hose to the tank with the seeding solution, then spray the soil thoroughly. Keep an eye on the lawn as it grows and keep it moist, wet three times a day for the first week, then reduce the amount of water and let the fertilizer and the seed to do their job. Re-spray the solution on the spots where grass doesn’t seem to grow.
Recommended: What Is Hydroseeding and How to Do It Yourself
While sod saves you a lot of headache, hydroseeding/seeding is a typical example of “with big cost savings comes a trade-off”.
Add weeding, fertilizing, and watering to your “to do” list with this one. Just don’t swamp it. Keep your new seeds evenly moist for the first two months, and don’t let children or pets walk on the lawn during this time. You can mow your new hydroseeded lawn after four weeks after the installation for the first time, and then begin mowing as needed after that.
What Is Sod?
Or as I like to call it, “Instant Lawn”. The most attractive thing about this method is the instantaneous result, which makes it the number one option for most customers.
But you do need to consider the size of your lawn. Sod is ideal for small to medium size lawn owners. Pool owners and people with irregular-shaped lawns will really benefit here the most. Ready to go, rolled-up, pre-grown pallets of grass with roots and soil is all sod is, so all you’ve left to do is lay it down and apologize to your spine later. Grab your lemonade, ditch the flip-flops and enjoy walking barefoot on the plush green.
Price of Sod
If you don’t mind paying more, sod will give you beautiful grass in a fraction of the time.
What’s the catch you ask? Well, this shortcut to having a nice yard doesn’t come cheap, making it the most expensive option, so the only way to cut down the costs would be to install it yourself. Otherwise, consider hiring contractors to save you time and effort.
FYI, here are some numbers as an example: let’s again say that your garden is 100 sqm, and 1 sqm will cost you around $10. Laying sod on the whole area will set you back $1,000, plus the delivery and potentially installation costs.
Preparation for a Sod Lawn
As I’ve mentioned, the less distractions there are before your brand-new lawn is delivered to you, the better. Test the ground before taking any further steps.
Remember about the pH levels? That’s right, contact the local soil-testing lab and amend your soil to the ideal 6.5/7.0 with either lime, sulfur, compost or gypsum.
Remember, healthy soil = thriving grass. Kill the unwanted vegetation. Till the soil, keeping the surface loose so that roots can penetrate more easily. This is not the case for sandy or loamy soil, which shouldn’t need any amendments.
Install the irrigation system. Remove the debris and level the ground — long live the rake for this one. Apply a starter fertilizer containing phosphorus.
Ever laid out a rug? That’s what you’ll be doing with sod. The easiest way to start is along a straight line such as a walkway or a driveway. Keep the joints butted together without any space between them, but don’t let them overlap.
When it comes to irregular shapes like flower beds or trees, simply cut the sod with a special sod knife or other large knife. After all the joints are staggered in rows, soak the sod with plenty of water. To avoid air pockets and bumps on the surface, roll the sod to make it all smooth and neat.
Just because it can be essentially installed all year round (mild weather still preferable) and you won’t need to clock-watch before it’s grown, that doesn’t mean the job is over.
Be prepared to water it several times a day minimum to begin with, and remember that H20/hydration is the key to survival, especially during hot seasons, for both you and your lawn. If you really want to get to the root here, I’ll tell you why — it’s the roots themselves. With sod, they will be more developed compared to seeding and hydroseeding, and hence begging for moisture.
And there you have it
Now you’re all done and you should start seeing the results come through soon. Remember to spot-treat those patches if you decided to go with seed, but generally just keep everything moist and free from unwanted visitors like birds and cats. Soon, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors.