I've been watching this thread since Corby told me about www.lawnsite.com.
I'd like to make a few comments before this subject fades into oblivion.
I've seen a lot of points of view presented here. Some I agree with, some I don't, but I'd like to point out that within the hydroseeding industry, there are actually two processes.
For about the last decade, hydroseeding is pretty much been defined as the application of 1,500 pounds of mulch per acre. Since "Lawn Tek" brought up www.hydroseeding.com,
I'd like to comment that Turbo Turf makes a plastic recirculation type machine that's barely capable of exceeding that.
Admittedly, there are some high-end plastic machines that are actually capable of exceeding 1,500 pounds of mulch per acre, and are even capable of shooting "wood mulch." But you aren't going to get much more than a toy for $3,995.00. It will take long time to load, and will require an incredibly soupy mixture to pump through enough hose to reach into most back yards.
I have part-time competitor with a 150 gallon Turbo Turf machine and a 150 gallon nurse tank on his trailer. About a year after he started his business, he told me it's performance had declined to the point where he could barely shoot 35 pounds of mulch in his 150 gallon machine when he does a back-yard.
I've run tests in our clay soil here in Phoenix. In dry soil, I can put about 160 to 170 gallons of water on 1,000 s'f before puddling occurs. As far as I'm concerned, that's shooting colored water.
More recently, I just happened to be driving by one day and saw this guy shooting a job. I pulled over a few houses down to watch. A kid was on the end of the hose, while my competitor was breaking-up a 40 pound bale of jet-mulch into small-pieces into a plastic tub sitting between the two tanks. I hate to admit this but I laughed my --- off because it was a bit windy and almost as much of the mulch was blowing down the street as was going into the plastic tub.
I can't imagine trying to make a living with something that takes that much effort to load. He can't possibly get very much s/f done in a day. After withnessing that, I'd have to call his equipment a Turbo-toy. This guy has a hydroseeding hobby. If he wants to have an actual business, he really needs to upgrade his equipment.
You bet I bad mouth his equipment. In 1999 I got a lot of publicity. I also got 6 new cometitors. Four of these guys had Turbo Turf Machines. But he's the only one of them that's still around. I'm convinced it's only because he honors his call-backs. But why the heck should you have to have call-backs? Know what? My call-back-ratio here in Phoenix AZ (one of the hottest, dryest places in the Country), has been less than 1 out of 100 for more almost 8 years now.
I have some advice to anyone thinking about getting into the hydroseeding business with one of these kinds of machines. Make them demo it before you buy. And if they say it will shoot wood fiber mulch, make them prove it. Don't let them arrive with the tank full. You need to watch them load it.
I can cycle my 300 gallon Finn machine every 20 minutes with 3 - 50 pound bales of wood fiber mulch. That's as much as 1,200 pounds of mulch on the ground in an 8 hour day - with a 300 gallon machine. Try that with a 300 gallon Turbo Toy - it ain't going to happen.
Doubt what I'm saying? Ask Corby. He has a Turbo Turf machine. I'm certain that he'd love to tell you how much he regrets wasting his money on something that limits his ability to make a decent living. I call these plastic machines toys, but he has a less generous description for them...
And since Corby brought it up, there are two "trade organizations" that serve the hydroseeding industry. The International Erosion Control Association, http://www.ieca.org/,
kind of includes us. It's absolutely worth the trip to their annual trade show if it's within driving distance.
But the Hydro Turf Planter's Association, http://www.htpa.org
is flat-out all about improving the professionalism in the Hydroseeding industry. And dues are cheap. It only costs $100 a year. If you own a hydroseeding machine, Join. If you are thinking about buying a hydroseeding machine, join before you buy one.
They even have a "public" discussion forum, http://www.htpa.org/public/index.html
with a Hydro Turf Business Section where people interested in getting into our industry can ask questions of HTPA members before they join the organization.
It started in Texas, but about a decade ago, the term Hydro-Mulching came into use. It has came to represent the application of more than 1,500 pounds of mulch (usually wood fiber mulch) per 1,000 s/f.
There are a lot of us in this industry who want people to know that un-like hydroseeding, "Hydro-Mulching" works every time.
Eleven years ago, when I started, I was influenced by an Ad I saw for Sanders Hydroseeding in Santa Ana Ca. It said "good enough just isn't..." "The finest materials, properly applied, with no skimping..." That's what I wanted to do.
In my early years, I was also influenced by Mr. James Lincoln. And that was long before he invented tha Turfmaker machine, http://www.turfmaker.com/.
He's been preaching "Sod Quality Results" through a thick application of "wood fiber mulch" for longer than I can even remember.
It's unfortunate that a lot of people who visit his web site think he's just "bashing the competition." I look at it a little differently. I just think he figures that if he doesn't tell the truth about those "damned plastic machines' that are sleazing the industry (attribute that to me, not him) no-one else will. At least that's what I think.
Please, don't take this as a Turfmaker endorsement. There are a lot of good "mechanically agitated machines" on the market. Aqua Mulcher, Bowie, Finn, Kincaid, Turfmaker are all good machines. EZ Lawn and Reinco also make "mechanically agitated" machines. Any of them would be good choices.
I don't own a Turfmaker. I don't even think it has a big enough engine. And I've told Mr. Lincoln that. On the other hand, I got rid of a 500 gallon Bowie because I didn't think it had a big enough engine either. The 33 hp motor on my 800 gallon bowie can pump 50 pounds of wood mulch through 300 ft of hose with as little as 80 gallons of water. But it sucked the guts out of 4 trucks in the last 10 years. That's why it's sitting in my back yard. I don't need an 800 gallon machine for the 2 to 5 residential size lawns a day that I do.
Truth is, I don't think my new 300 gallon Finn has big enough engine either. I'd rather it have a 425 gallon tank like the Turfmaker or Kincaid machines. And after 11 years getting to used to Bowie's "positive displacement pump," the Finn's "centrifical pump" definately has a "learning curve" that I don't like much either... (If I had it to do over again I'd ask Bowie to custom build a machine for me - I found out too late they would...)
But the 360 gallon "nurse tank" on the trailer gives me the ability shoot and fill at the same time. Effectively, I can get a hell of a lot more bales of mulch on the ground in a day than a guy with a much bigger machine that has to take the time to wait for his hydroseeder to fill-up after each load.
I shoot 2 to 5 residential size lawns a day. I want to be able to use the least amount of water I can get away with, to put a thick layer of slurry on the ground - as fast as I can. (The thickness of the mulch has a lot to do with the evenness of germination.) But time is money. It often comes down to how many bales of mulch you can get on the ground by the end of the day... It's not about the size of the machine, it's about how many bales of mulch you can get on the ground by the end of the day.
And by the way, I have an aversion to employees... Workmens Comp., Payroll Taxes? Teaching employees how to become your competitors? I don't need it. I'd rather have an electric hose reel... (And you'd be surprised how easy it is to talk customers into helping me keep the hoses out from under my feet...)
For many years I bought into about half of what Mr. Lincoln said. I used to use a very thick application of recycled newsprint mulch. I discovered the thickness of the mulch had a lot to do with the evenness of the germination very early on... But truthfully, I was afraid of the "clogs" that often happen with "wood" mulch, so I avoided it.
When I joined the HTPA (about a year after it was formed), those guys convinced me I was using way too much seed. When I tried wood mulch I discovered that less than half the seed I'd been using resulted in better lawns. Turns out, applications of paper mulch thicker than 2,000 pounds per acre can "smother seed."
And OK, I admit I had to cut the fitting off of the end of the hose and use a fire hydrant to blow the clog out more than once, but I learned how to work with wood mulch. I don't have those kinds of problems any more.
To be "politically correct," there are some parts of the Country where less than 1,500 pounds per acre might be acceptable. But I know people in the Pacific NorthWest - and the NorthEast who would tell you that anything less than 2,000 pounds per acre "might result in a decent lawn," but if you want a sure thing...
My normal application rate is about 3,000 pounds per acre of 70% wood / 30% paper mulch. (OK, I still like a little paper in the mulch.) Very often, I'll drop two bales of wood to one bale of paper. But I can guantee you one thing, if you want a sure thing, you'd better be using 2,000 pounds of mulch per acre or more... And you just can't do that with a plastic toy...