Hydroseeding and sodding are two of the most common options to establish a new lawn. Both methods require you to prepare the lawn site before planting/installation and irrigate regularly afterward. However, that’s about as far as the similarities go, as hydroseed differs from sod in several ways.
Hydraulic mulch seeding means spreading of a seed mix (grass seed, mulch, water, soil amendments, and fertilizer nutrients) using a pressure hose. Sodding involves the use of pre-cut rolls of live grass sourced from mature lawns and includes the grassroots and the topsoil layer bound to these roots.
What is hydroseeding a lawn?
Hydroseeding (also known as hydraulic mulch seeding) is a grass seed planting method whereby a moist grass seed mix is broadcast over a lawn using a pressure hose. The seed mix typically contains grass seed, mulch material, water, soil amendments, and fertilizer nutrients.
The grass seed mix is called a slurry and is usually mixed inside a hydroseeder tank for uniform mixing. Hydroseeding is a great lawn seeding option for hard-to-access lawn areas or sloppy landscapes.
Is sod good for your lawn?
Sodding is the process of installing grass sod over a lawn. Sod simply refers to pre-cut rolls of live grass sourced from already mature grass lawns and meant to be transplanted to other areas. Sod rolls include the grassroots and the topsoil layer bound to these roots.
Sod is suitable for lawns since it establishes faster and forms a dense ground cover for proper erosion control. Also, since sod takes root much faster, sodded lawns are better at crowding out weeds.
Sod vs. Hydroseed: differences
Sodding and hydroseeding are both methods of seeding grass lawns. However, broadcasting hydroseed is different from laying sod pieces. Furthermore, the results vary depending on which of these two seeding methods you choose.
Sod and hydroseed differ in composition, planting processes, maintenance requirements, timeline to the establishment, labor requirements, weed resistance, and other factors we’ll break down.
Here’s a Summary Table of Hydroseeding vs. Sod
|Hydroseeding (Spray-on Grass Seed)||Sodding (Sod Pallets)|
|Hydroseed slurry can contain different grass seed varieties for a blended-lawn||Sod pallets are typically sold as a single type of grass species|
|Takes long to germinate (4-5 weeks) and for the new grass to establish in the soil (4-10 months)||Establishes rather quickly post-installation (2-3 weeks)|
|More vulnerable to weeds due to the slow rate of establishment||Crowds out weeds due to the rapid rate of establishment|
|Initial hydroseeding costs are relatively low||Initial sodding costs are relatively higher than initial hydroseeding costs|
|Hydroseeded lawns have higher maintenance requirements||Sodded turfs have minimal maintenance requirements|
Sod comprises a solid mass of mature grass and soil, whereas hydroseed is a semi-liquid mix (slurry) of grass seeds, mulch, water, soil amendments, and fertilizer.
The machinery required
Different equipment is needed for hydroseeding and sodding. You need a hydroseeder tank and a retrofitted truck/high-pressure hose to make and broadcast hydroseed.
Comparatively, you can lay sod mats by hand or use a skid steer to spread large sod rolls over large lawn areas. Additionally, you can use a lawn roller after sod installation to ensure the sod rolls are evenly laid out.
A sodded lawn is better equipped to survive negligence as it takes root faster. Newly laid sod doesn’t require as much water and fertilizer as a newly hydroseeded lawn. Also, you don’t need to apply herbicide to newly-sodded turfs as you would with young grass grown from hydroseed since sod chokes out weeds.
Sodding doesn’t leave any room for gardeners to establish a blended lawn. On the other hand, with hydroseeding, you can easily mix different grass seed species for a blended lawn. Blended lawns have various advantages over lawns with only one type of grass species.
For instance, if you plant sod of a grass type that prefers full sunlight but has poor shade tolerance on a lawn that receives direct sunlight but has some shaded areas, you’ll likely end up with bare patches on the shaded section.
On the contrary, planting a hydroseed blend containing this same grass seed and another shade-tolerant grass seed on a lawn will result in a fully grass-covered lawn. That’s due to the sun-loving grass spreading aggressively over the exposed lawn sections and the shade-tolerant variety spreading more towards the shaded portion of the lawn.
Timeline to establishment
After laying new sod pieces on your bare lawn, it doesn’t take long to root, and you can walk on the lawn as soon as 2-3 weeks post-installation. And in terms of aesthetics, a sodded lawn boasts a lush green color as soon as you’re done laying the sod rolls.
Comparatively, grass seed planted from a hydroseed mix takes about 4-5 weeks to germinate and 10-12 weeks for the new grass seedlings to take root and develop into mature turf grass that can withstand foot traffic. A hydroseeded lawn might take anywhere between 4-12 months to fill in and form a beautiful lush green turf that enhances your curb appeal.
Note: Sod provides immediate ground cover, stopping erosion in its tracks. Meanwhile, you can’t effectively stop ongoing erosion caused by windy or rainy weather with hydroseeding until the new grass is fully established.
Hydroseeding a lawn is more laborious than laying grass sod. Laying down sod rolls using a skid steer makes the process less labor-intensive, and the regular watering and mowing post-installation shouldn’t take up too much effort either.
On the contrary, hydroseeding is a labor-intensive process. You need to prep the lawn before broadcasting the slurry to provide optimal seed germination and seedling root development conditions. And after seeding, you still need to maintain the proper soil conditions, such as moisture and nutrient levels, to boost germination and seedling development.
Since sod comes as live, mature grass, sodded turfs are better equipped to outcompete weeds looking to sprout on the lawn. The grassroots on the sod rolls grow deeper into the lawn within a short time, enabling the sodded turf to grow denser and shade out or suppress grass seed in the soil looking to germinate.
Hydroseeded turfs, on the other hand, grow and fill in slowly, giving weed seeds/seedlings enough time and sunlight exposure to germinate and spread out. By the time grass planted from hydroseed develops roots that are deep enough, the weeds will have already gained access to most of the soil nutrients necessary to sustain their growth and survival.
Sod can be installed all year round if it’s a cool-season grass species. The same goes for warm-season sod in the southern states, where winters are mild. That’s because sod roots quickly form a healthy turf that’s less vulnerable to seasonal environmental conditions.
Comparatively, hydroseeding should only be done at certain times of the year, preferably from March-October. The best time for hydroseeding largely depends on whether you’re planting a cool-season or warm-season grass species. Hydroseeding at the wrong time of the year can lead to germination failure, seedling death, or increased vulnerability to weeds and diseases in the new grass plants.
DIY vs. professionals
You’ll get better results if you leave hydroseeding to gardening professionals. While there are hydroseed products that you can attach to your garden hose and broadcast the slurry by yourself, there are other aspects of hydroseeding that might cause germination failure if undertaken by DIY novices.
For instance, proper site preparation including core aeration and addition of new topsoil might require a landscaping professional. Additionally, if you’re planning to overseed a very large lawn, you’ll have to call expert landscaping services with a retrofitted truck.
Comparatively, sodding is a more DIY-friendly process. You’ll most likely end up with a plush lawn if you can evenly lay the sod pallets and water the lawn regularly post-installation. The only time you may need to call in the pros is when you’re laying out large sod pallets over a large lawn area and need a skid steer to make the job a bit faster.
Hydroseeding Pros and Cons
|Initial costs of material and labor are lower than sodding costs||Long-term maintenance costs may exceed the cost of maintaining sodded lawns|
|You can create/buy a hydroseed blend of different types of grass seed for a mixed lawn||Has high maintenance requirements|
|Improves lawn soil due to the mulch, fertilizer, and pH amendments in the slurry||A hydroseed lawn takes a long to establish. some species can take up to a year.|
Sodding Pros and Cons
|It’s DIY-friendly for gardening novices||Offers little to no room for grass turf cross-breeding|
|Sod can be installed all year round||Sod pallets and installation prices are high|
|Has minimal maintenance requirements||Sod requires regular watering during the first 3 weeks as it establishes deeper roots|
|A sodded lawn establishes quickly (2-3 weeks)|
Is hydroseeding better than sod?
The better choice between hydroseed and sod depends on your preferences or requirements as a gardener. If you wish for a lawn that looks good and is usable in the shortest time possible, sodding is the better option. However, if you’d like a blended grass lawn, you can achieve this with a hydroseed mix containing more than one type of grass seed.
Hydroseeding is also better than sod if you prefer an affordable means of establishing your grass lawn. Hydroseed products cost less than sod pallets. Professional hydroseeding services also cost less than professional sod installation services.
What’s cheaper hydroseeding or sod?
Generally, sodding projects cost more than spray-on grass seed projects by up to 70%. The cost difference can be attributed to the fact that sod pieces come as fully grown grass, whereas hydroseeded lawns have to be grown from scratch.
On average, Americans cough up $10,000 to purchase an acre of sod pallets. On the other hand, similar coverage of hydroseed supplies and a licensed hydroseed contractor’s wages add up to $2500-$5000.
Remember, though; that the lower maintenance requirements may offset the higher costs of sodding:
- Sodded lawns are more weed resistant, so you save on herbicide costs.
- Newly-installed sod only requires regular watering for the first three weeks post-installation to help it establish extensive roots in the soil. Afterward, you can water infrequently and save on water bills.
Note: Comparatively, hydroseeded lawns take longer to establish and require regular watering during this period, potentially running up your utility expenses.
- Sod pieces don’t leave any bare patches on the lawn when installed carefully. You won’t have to spend on lawn repair. In comparison, you’ll have to spend on extra hydroseed to cover bare patches on a lawn that was previously hydroseeded, but the broadcasting wasn’t even.
- University of California- Integrated Pest Management Program: Hydroseeding
- Aaron Patton- Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Establishing a Lawn from Sod