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HYDRO seeding ?'s

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by meets1, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,855

    Looking at the industry as there is really no one in my area that does / offers this service.

    Alot of seeding and sodding are the primary ways of obtaining a lawn in my area.

    Are there issues with hydro seeding such as wood fibers, mulch, paper etc?

    I have checked machines and there are different ways of mixing - is one better than the other and why?

    Price - I know where seeding and sodding are at but what about hydro seeding - in the middle of the other two.

    Mostly be looking at residential/small commercial jobs - what size machine and why?

    I am assuming there is the same amount of prep work required as in seeding/sodding vs hydro seeding.

    One questions that keeps coming to my mind is with seeding, we drill it - work it in the ground. Sod - lay on top and alot of water - hydro seeding is blown on, not worked into the ground - is this a concern?

    Anything else would be great.
  2. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Meets1, those were really good questions. My compliments.

    I will give you my two cents worth and I am sure some others will jump in. Hydro Seeding has been growing at about 15% a year and can be a good addition to your business. With no one in your area doing it you have a good chance to set yourself up as the person they think of when it comes to hydro seeding.

    You asked about mulches, let me talk about that first and I will go very basic and work up since I am sure some of the guys who read this are new to it. Mulch comes, as you said in several varieties. Paper mulch is common and it is made from recycled newspaper with a green dye and anti foaming agent. The material and packaging look a lot like blown in insulation other than being green. It works good. Wood is another common type and it is made from wood by products and is stringy. It looks a little like green cotton candy and will have strings up to 1 1/8 th inch long. There are also blends of the two that may be 50-50 or 80-20 or 90-10 (the bigger number being wood fibers). There are a few new products with cotton and straw materials but I would suggest not rushing into those)

    Paper and wood mulches both work good. Paper forms a thin paper mache surface when it is sprayed on and does a good job of sealing in the moisture. You do need to be careful not to put it on too heavy or it can crust and keep the grass from growing. Wood works more like miniaturized straw. Because it is stringy it will form a tiny mesh. The just of all this is paper works great at keeping the soil most but wood mulches do a little better at keeping the soil cool because they can let air pass through easier.

    One thing a contractor should look at is their location. In the north Heat is not such a problem and paper works great year round. If you were in Arizona you might prefer wood year round. I would suggest in your area paper in the spring and fall and 50-50 in the summer. (some contractors consider 50-50 the best of both worlds.)

    One more thing before I move on. Paper is cheaper than wood and wood must be applied much heavier. Wood is also much more difficult to use. 50-50 is not too hard to use, can be done with a medium application and won't crust. My point in this is if you can grow a sod quality lawn for 2 cents a square foot with paper or 4-5 cents a foot with wood using material that is overkill is wasting potential profit and making the job take longer since you need to apply more. You need to find the material that gets you a great lawn in a reasonable time with few problems.

    Yes, there are basically two types of machines, jet and mechanically agitated. Both work well. For 100 percent wood mechanically agitated units will handle them better. Both will usually handle 50-50 or 70-30. You can do a little thicker slurry with a mechanical unit but both types will mix a pretty good slurry. There are some pluses both ways. Jet machines are easier to clean up and sometimes easier for one man to run. I unit with a centrifugal pump is a little easier to run for one guy than one with a gear pump. A unit with 1 1/4" hose is easier for one man to run than one with 1 1/2" hose which gets heavy but will spray faster.

    Pricing. The price for hydro seeding is usually a little more than the cost of dry seeding and about one third the price of sod. The cost to hydroseed can be less if you figure labor in and hydro seeding is a far better way of seeding than dry seeding and actually there are some advantages over sod but of course sod is instant gratification. Most guys doing residential hydroseeding are getting around 8 to 12 cents a square foot.

    Size of machine. I would suggest no smaller than 300 gallon. I have seen guys start with smaller machines and do ok but 300 or larger would be my suggestion. For the jobs you are talking about that would work fine. You also need to look at where you are. If you are a smaller operation and need to invest your money wisely 300 would be great. If you have crews running all over the place and trying to figure where to get the best return on the wads of cash sitting around go for a 500 or 750.

    Yes, the prep work is the same, particularly for residential and commercial. Hydro seeding started out as a way to grow grass on steep slopes with no prep and little dirt and can grow grass about anywhere but that is not what you want for someone's front lawn.

    No, blowing it on the surface is not a problem. Actually you can blast it into the soil if you want, just you will start to have problems growing grass because you can blast it too deep. Usually bare spots are a sign someone is blowing it in too deep.

    My thoughts may raise more questions than they answer but if you want me to cover anything in more detail just let me know.

    PS. If you get into it I would recommend a membership in the hydro seeding association as the best $ 100 dollar investment you will ever make and a decision you would never regret.
  3. KanAg

    KanAg LawnSite Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 18

    As I have just been doing this in the last year I have had a steep learning curve finding what worked best for me. With a jet machine, which is the most economical way to get into this. I spray 100% paper on a well prep'd area if the owner pays for that service, if not I simply over spray the site. Wth that being said as long as you spray your material down at on prep'd ground in sweeping motion out from 15-30ft distance in front of you, depending on several variables, it makes good contact with soil. On sites not prep'd I over spray more directly (10ft) and down more to drive the mix into the exsisting grass. Both do well, with over spraying taking a little longer to come up. I for years did slit seeding with blown straw before starting to hydroseed and will never go back to it. Different people will say different things but again just for me, a 500gal machine I think is the way to start (I could be in error but 500gal machines out sell the other sizes).

    Last year I had to spray my 18ft trailer bed with 2,4,D because after spilling seed, mulch and fert on it over time it began to grow very thick areas of grass (no dirt, just bare wood decking).:)
  4. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,855

    Alright - awesome info. Now with the different methods of jet/mechanical - in your opinions - what is better? Just thinking - this may be a solo operation, maybe if need be I could add a guy to help if the money is there of course.

    Also what type of machine or manufacture do you guys suggest? I have a little info over the net but nothing really compares these machines like comparing a chevy to a ford type of thing.

    I have also seen the gooseneck trailer and the bumper trailer - does this depend on gallon size or a preference?

  5. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Most all the hydroseeding units on the market are good right now. You won't go wrong whatever you choose.

    Smaller units tend to be a straight trailer or pull type on a bumper hitch. Larger ones are either truck mounted or goosenecks. A 1200 gallon machine for example is going to weigh about 7 tons and can have a lot of tongue weight. A gooseneck can be a good way to go with something that hefty.
  6. KanAg

    KanAg LawnSite Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 18

    Some of the mech units are very very spendy. With different companys offering cheaper but in no way cheap mech units. The mech unit do spray much heavy applications, BFM's, and sprigging which is the direction I am headed right now. But unless you have a market for these things it may not be the right choice for the money. I think Turfmaker or Kincaid are the best deals in mech units right now.

    Jet units spray thinner lighter materials ........one of the units I own is a Turbo Turf jet machine and I used it heavily last year and have already shot 4 loads this year with it. Now of course you can spray thicker applications with a jet machine by building it up. I have made many nice yards with it. I bought mine fairly reasonably and used. I made my money back really before I ever actually owned it as I had already sold close to 2ac in jobs. I plan on using my jet machine for a long time to come....just purchased some upgrades to get the performance I want and need out of it (older machine).
  7. hilltopldscp

    hilltopldscp LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    First, if there's no one in your area doing it, and landscaping companies are staying busy laying sod, then I would jump on the chance to be the first to have one. We bought a Turfmaker 550 last year(late winter) and have been extremely pleased with the machine and its capabilities. Even during the winter this year, we kept it busy with erosion control jobs using rye seed. We went with the 550 because most of the jobs we do are relatively small, but the 550 can still handle larger jobs, it just takes more time. We are setting up right now to spray two new soccer fields, which is over 70,000 square feet. Pricing depends mainly on type of seed, fertilizer, and water availability. Good Luck
  8. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    I think HillTop brought up a good point about water. I don't find the type of seeds I use to make much difference in my pricing unless I am doing wildflowers. I do look hard at the water availability in pricing my jobs. Most customers don't mind you using their water if you need to refill but I like to make sure it is OK and possibly to look at alternatives such as lakes and streams when quoting a price. Sometimes if you talk about it with your customer they can be very helpful. I have had a number of customers who talked to their next door neighbor and got permission for me to use both water supplies which really sped up the filling (I would not suggest that but the customers did). We did our local High School Soccer, Football and Baseball fields at the same time and they arranged for us to fill at the fire station just a one minute drive away using the city's fire hose so that helped a lot.

    People want a nice lawn and want to make your job as easy as possible so talking to them about your needs can sometimes really help.
  9. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,855

    Interesting info from you guys. I know if was mentioned above but overall I am hearing 500 gallon would be good, jets are decent but if money is well spent to go mech? and now what brand is considered the best or the top three units out there.
  10. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Duplicate post, see the next one.

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