As a result of its growing popularity, the purchase price and operating cost of hydroseeding equipment has been reduced, creating a more cost-effective potential add-on service for maintenance contractors who want to strengthen relationships and grow sales.
Hydroseeding—a technique for spreading a liquid mixture of grass seed, fertilizer and hydro mulch—began with the interstate highway system. "All of a sudden, instead of the highways going over the hills and around them, they started to go through them," explains Ray Badger of Turbo Technologies. "They needed a way to seed the steep banks that were created."
Hydroseeding was discovered to be a remarkably effective way to grow grass, and the technique's popularity continued to expand. "The hydroseeding industry keeps growing," shares Larry Birch, vice president of sales for Bowie Industries. "Sales have grown, manufacturers have grown, and competition has grown. It has definitely proved to be a growing industry."
With the continuous growth and popularity hydroseeding has seen, purchasing and operating hydroseeding equipment has become more cost-effective. "The original machines cost over $100,000," says Badger. "As the machines have evolved, they've became smaller and more affordable." According to Badger, quality hydroseeding machines can now be purchased for under $10,000.
COMPARING HYDROSEEDING TO OTHER METHODS
Hydroseeding is just one of the options for applying grass. Another popular choice is sod. With sod, grass that has already developed is transplanted to the lawn. While sod can offer homeowners a lush lawn in as little as one day, it is very costly compared to hydroseeding and does not always guarantee the desired end result, according to Badger.
"At about 1/3 or 1/4 the cost, hydroseeding is much more affordable than sod," Badger adds. "Usually within four or five weeks you've actually got a healthier lawn with hydroseeding." With sod, grass grown on one soil is transplanted into another sampling of soil. The differences in soil may mean the sod doesn't take as well as it should, leading to the need for more water and care.
A less-risky but less-instant technique for growing grass is laying the seed and covering it with fertilizer and straw. This method is both time-consuming and labor-intensive. "You are involved in a multi-step operation when you use straw," explains Badger. "You have to broadcast and drill the seed, and then broadcast fertilizer followed by straw, creating a three-step process." Typically, the straw installations are done with a crew of five to six, doing what one person could do in half the time with hydroseeding.
In addition to the lengthy process involved when using the straw method, there are other disadvantages. "The drawback to the straw is the ravages of the wind and rain," says Birch. "It just doesn't hold as well as hydroseeding does. There is nothing to blow away when you hydroseed."
Cost-effectiveness and ease-of-placement when hydroseeding are great selling points on their own. An even more impressive advantage to hydroseeding is the fact that the seed's germination process begins before it even hits the ground. "When you are doing your seed, mulch and fertilizer all in one step, the seed is soaking in the water, which jumpstarts the germination process," says Badger. "The mulch layer does a great job of holding in the moisture and further aids the germination."
GETTING STARTED IN HYDROSEEDING
Getting started as a landscaper in hydroseeding is simple because most hydroseeding equipment is the same. Knowing your target audience will help in deciding the size of hydroseeding equipment you need. "You have to really look at who your target customer is," advises Birch. "Are you going to be doing residential, commercial or athletic complexes?"